It’s holy week for the Roman Christian world, a world that I am inescapably linked to. Afterall, am I not a Christian? I was raised in a Christian household (give or take a few Kolobs). I am surrounded on all sides by Christians. My art music is church music, my high art is Christian art. My president is sworn in on a bible, my 1st amendment only neatly fits Protestantism. I take Christmas off work, not Hannukah or Dijwali. My worldview is linear, not cyclical. My atheists deny the existence of the God the Father, perhaps Jahweh, but not Śiva or Torngasoak. I am inescapably a Christian.
This is not to say I believe in Abraham’s God or that I literally believe Jesus of Nazareth is my personal savior. Nor do I think anyone must believe in this “Christ” or else face damnation. When you recite John 3:16 to me what I hear is “God had such a blood lust that he killed his only begotten son (who might actually just be God) that whoso belongs to the club will be forgiven for breaking rules that God made up in the first place.” Christianity as such does not constitute my personal theological or cosmological beliefs.
But Jesus is my savior the way Santa Clause is my gift giver. Truth doesn’t play into the equation, association and tradition does. Jesus died for my sins not because he literally died, because I literally have any sins, or because I literally asked him to. Jesus died for my sins because I was born into a world that had been saying some variation on that for 2000 years, and where most people around me still believe just that claim on some level. This is all to say, that when Everything is Dianetics endeavors to do a series of Holy Week blog posts, it doesn’t come from an evangelizing place. It doesn’t even come from a believing space. Rather, it comes simply from an acknowledgement that Holy Week is mine and my people’s and demands that I heed its call. I must therefore sermonize on Holy Week in my own particular idiom.
When I feel the call to practice my Christianity (which, to emphasize, is not the same as “to believe” my Christianity) these days I don’t generally skew towards my parents practice, Mormonism, but instead the Episcopalians. Frankly, the Episcopalians put on a better show; there’s stained glass, a professional choir, and the Book of Common Prayer. This liturgy connects them in both time and space to all other Anglicans, and the Roman Catholic tradition before them. This is my religion even though neither my parents nor I were raised in it. It’s Anglo-Americanness is ubiquitous and all consuming. But even in their traditional forms I also find a group that is powerfully progressive in their ethics and their morals. The Episcopalians have a better track record on queer issues than most, they’re environmentally conscious, socially aware, and just generally politically left. It’s a wonderful contradictory fusing of tradition and innovation, both fully present throughout their Sunday services.
This takes me to today, Palm Sunday. St. John’s Episcopal Church along with the other mainline protestant churches that share a block in Boulder Colorado started this Palm Sunday with a joint ecumenical celebration complete with a donkey triumphantly proceeding across palm fronds we all placed in the street. Here, and in the service, I was once again struck by contradiction, this time as represented by Jesus. Here was the King of the Cosmos, riding on a lowly donkey. He was a political dissident, a revolutionary, but also the King of the Jews. He defied Rome, and now Rome is his home. He was something of a rockstar and also a moral exemplar. Finally, as the church fathers figured, he was both fully divine and fully human. Contradiction upon contradiction is what entered Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday.
I think there’s power in lived contradiction. It’s a common and pronounced theme of the fantastic. Spock is unique among his peers as being both Vulcan and Human. This is something he faces throughout the show, a struggle, but in that struggle vitality. Can he be both wholly rational and wholly passionate at once? I also think of contemporary stories of vampires, and werewolves. They’re no longer the one dimensional villains of the 19th century. They now are forced to face and reckon with their duel nature of monster and man. They become deeper, more profound, and perhaps more dangerous through this dichotomous being. In the fantastic stories of Jesus Christ we see all this same existential duality. Perhaps his powers in the stories, and his staying power in our cultural imagination, is derived from the divine and fantastic contradiction. That’s a Christianity that jives well both Universally and personally.
Tales of the Fantastic are bold reminders of contradictory existence. Indeed, contradiction is present throughout all level of mundane life if we’re prepared to see them. So my Dianetical challenge for this Palm Sunday is to live a fantastic life. See those contradictions and let them in, celebrate them, fight with them, maybe crucify them, bring them back again, worship them. I don’t mean this in a yin and yang way. Balance is for squares. Aim for a radical, explosive, contradictory, and powerful life. Live as a great oxymoron. One worthy of a grand parade…led by an ass.