Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Keeping Jesus Out of My Writing

At the 2016 Festival of Faith and Writing, Christian Wiman noted that Jesus is nary mentioned in poetry and prose. God, sure, but Jesus? Nope. Perhaps it is because Jesus is a difficult character to define with his wholly human, wholly divine crap. And his wholly indecipherable riddles for which he lays into his disciples for not understanding. What a self-righteous turd.

Or maybe, maybe, like me, other writers are afraid of being relegated to the religious section of the bookstore, under “Christianity.” I sure as hell don’t want that. Put me next to Karr or Rodriguez, not Wild at Heart.

Not many peruse the religious section. That’s what Christian bookstores are for. The religious section is for books that aren’t Christian (i.e. clean, evangelical, theological, anti-secular, etc.) enough to be stocked next to classics such as My Heart Christ’s Home or “culturally relevant” stories and devotionals such as Undaunted or Jesus Calling.

There’s nothing wrong with the classics. And I can’t speak for the “culturally relevant.” I don’t read that stuff. But it’s a limited audience. And if you don’t fit that limited audience, but do mention Jesus, you’re all the more limited, because few in secular-landia are interested in hearing about Jesus, even in passing. It’s a financially unstable place to be: in the public bookstore’s or library’s “Christianity” section. (Frankly, I don’t know where Nadia Bolz-Weber hangs out, but she’s done a kick-ass job. And if she’s not to be found in memoir, she’s doing a favor for the suffering Christian writer, proving, hell yes, we can write—and swear.)

Even so, Jesus doesn’t tend to be a flashy term in Christian-memoirists’ works. It’s God we’re talking about. Jesus is a footnote. Heck, my therapist, chose to say “the son of God” over “Jesus.” It’s safer. It’s back to that wholly human/wholly divine issue. What business do we have analyzing another human? It’s a little against the memoir rule book, actually. Speak for yourself, not others. And divinity is slippery. Claiming Jesus as divine shouts “I’M A CHRISTIAN.” Claiming God to be an asshole sighs, “yeah, I believe. Obviously. Now bug off.” The cranky choice is to believe in God. The daring, and dangerous, choice is to declare Jesus as someone of consequence outside of the schism between Judaism and Christianity.

I don’t say Jesus in my prayers. (Well, I don’t “say” anything in my prayers. I write my prayers.) I don’t think Jesus. I don’t feel towards Jesus. The heart with the seven daggers representing the Seven Sorrows of Mary evokes more emotion and reverence in me than the cross or crucifix. Jesus is too churchy, too Sunday School-esque: “Jesus loves me this I know.” “Jesus loves the little children.” Maybe if we sang about Jesus clearing the temple, I’d be a little more comfortable with his “humanity.” But sweet, merciful Jesus is a little bit creepy to me. Sweet Jesus, backed by God-who-grants-forgiveness-most-high, and somehow connected to who knows shit about the holy spirit. Merciful Jesus. Powerful God. All-seeing Spirit. I don’t like it.

Maybe I don’t like “merciful Jesus,” and thus Jesus in general, because I don’t want “tender mercies.” I want justice. “Justified by grace.” I don’t want justice by grace. I want harsh, real, human justice. Retribution. That’s why Jesus doesn’t work in my writing. There is hardly a place for even Nadia Bolz-Weber’s God, whose mercy is “a blunt instrument.” Yeah, so God and Jesus are one. Just not in my mind. In my mind, we have justice and grace. They don’t cooperate very well. So I nix one: goodbye, grace.

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