I’m going to linger on this subject of Jesus as our “imaginary friend” for a while. One reason is this brilliant op-ed in the NYT by Nicholas Kristof who used “literary license” to make the teachings of Jesus very relevant to the darkness that is prevailing now in Washington D.C. The preacher, or pastor, that I was familiar with in my past would discourse about Jesus in a very prosaic fashion though several of them did so in a way that was immensely valuable to me. But here, a journalist, approaching the matter from beyond the pale of theology and ecclesiastical decorum takes the teachings of Jesus and delivers a prophetic word to our country which is in desperate need of men and women who have the courage to stand up and speak “truth to power.” This prophetic voice is silent in most of Christendom and apparently the mute button has been hit by evangelical Christians. Please read this op-ed. It is so powerful and inspiring. I don’t know anything about the spirituality of Nicholas Kristof, and don’t really care, because what I like to call “the Spirit of God” was coursing through his veins when he wrote these words.
I don’t think Trump realized what this incident was revealing about himself. He felt that this hapless young man was making a statement which validated him but his affirmation of Trump only demonstrated his own emptiness and testified to the emptiness that Trump has brought to the table. Trump is an “empty suit” and so vividly exemplifies the “empty suit” of our capitalistic culture which is always trying to satisfy its inner void with “stuff” in a futile endeavor which can only end with further futility…and possible disaster. Meanwhile, many Christians are aiding and abetting this enterprise and therein demonstrating the meaninglessness of their own “cardboard cut out Jesus.”
This event brought to my mind a prophetic poem of T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Man” and here is the first stanza:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar.
I do think that the prophetic function in today’s world is rarely fulfilled by religion. Religion has become enculturated, “canned” or packaged and therefore not capable of bringing the breath of fresh air that is its responsibility.