It has come to my attention…that I better start to talk more about Christ. Especially an experience I might name “my christ.”
.: Christ in YOU?!! You’re no god! You can’t even remember what day of the week it is.
.: That’s not how it works. “He walks with me…”
My brain is a swirl. My life a turmoil.
.: It’s not about “deserving.”
.: Approaching the Christ Archetype, the Pattern or Predisposition, the Perfected human. Imago Dei.
Before I am prepared to talk personally about what is happening in my life, about my sense of the presence of Christ in myself, I need to offer a glimpse of the framework out of which my thinking comes.
My theory is that there is a “social-Christ-event” within humanity at least every hundred years. The person who is central to the event is born in ordinary circumstances, a carpenter’s son, or the daughter of a petty merchant. Growing up, she passes for normal, because she is normal, while at the same time being precocious, prescient, with normal abilities in extra measure.
Children like this are all around us, and the adults they grow into. They are celebrated in the literature of all cultures. (I think Marion Anderson was such a person.) Another such person, Roland Hayes, touched me as a youth, with his album, “The Life of Christ,” especially the songs “Prepare Me One Body” and “Little Boy, How Old Are You?” This last song talks about one of these precocious children, about whom the culture marvels, but does not treat as alien.
I think the “social-Christ-event” comes occasionally to a community which includes one of these normally-gifted people. (I’m using the awkward phrasing “social-Christ-event” because I’m groping for ways to talk about this, and because I think I’m going to want to talk about “personal-christ-events” later on.)
I’m guessing these social-Christ-events tend to happen among soldiers in wartime and among first responders, and among mothers of families in difficult circumstances. Situations of adversity that demand all a person has to offer, and more.
The social-Christ-events that arise out of these situations are extreme, certainly, but they are also a natural flowering of the human spirit. It is part of what we humans do, along with thievery and singing. Recently, on the radio, I heard about an event that comes close to being a social-Christ-event, a story of bravery and self-sacrifice in Iraq. It involved an officer cutting the wires of an electric fence so that his men could escape from a situation where they were under fire.
If these events happen regularly, as I believe they do, the special thing about the social-Christ-event that happened in Galilee, is what later happened to Saul/Paul. I believe that on the road to Damascus, Saul/Paul saw Christ, in himself, in his own experience. He had been preoccupied with a social-Christ-event that had gained local notoriety, and he had an opinion about it, which was suddenly changed 180 degrees.
In the old language: “God spoke to him.” We Quakers would say: “he had an experience of ongoing-revelation.” In my understanding, it is because of who Saul/Paul was, in himself, that he could recognize that the Jesus-Christ-event he had been preoccupied with was an example of Christ. He could see the Christ in Jesus because of the Christ in himself.
Again, a normal human occurrence. Many of us have been touched,
enlarged into something bigger than we thought we were
by the example of a splendid human being.
I hold, with C. G. Jung, that the discovery of “Christ among us” was latent in Jewish culture. It was also latent in Greek culture of the time, and much of the Middle East was ripe with this possibility.
An important part of the Jewish contribution, as best I understand it, was personalizing the divine. All established cultures have ways of representing the transcendent and transpersonal aspects of the human experience to the members of their culture, and these different ways of talking about the super-human, the Divine, all work pretty well, and all point in the same direction, in terms of “how humans should act.” Jewish culture looked at the transcendent-transpersonal and said, “we understand these experiences within ourselves and in our shared lives as the actions of a being. A being like ourselves and unlike us, as well.” Like many groups in the area at the time, Jewish culture made a covenant with the divine as they understood it, entered into a relationship with it, as if it were an entity rather than an impersonal, non-specific, beneficent pattern. This approach worked well for them. Members of the culture grew ready to see the divine manifest in human form, perhaps as a messiah, a God-filled person, a savior who would free them from their burdens.
So, the culture shared by many in the Middle East predisposed them to re-cognize the Divine in human form. Saul/Paul was fixated on this issue, and had an epiphany. The power of the Jesus-Christ brought Saul/Paul’s own Christ into awareness, and into action in the world. What impresses me is not that Christ had happened in Jesus, or in Saul/Paul, but that this re-cognition of the Divine then spread throughout many parts of the Middle East, and came to be the meta-story of what we now call “western civilization.”
What impresses me is that the re-cognition of “Christ” touched so many people through the centuries, shaping their lives. I believe this is because it is a good way of understanding the universal human experience.
I believe there are other good ways of understanding the human experience that do not personalize the Divine (Taoism, for instance), that do not make the transcendent-transpersonal into a being. But I have come to believe that, despite its evils and excesses, Christianity has something very important to offer to the human experience. And the core of that, in my experience, is “the Christ within,”
the imago Dei we carry within ourselves, that can speak to us, and guide us, if we open ourselves to it.
Whatever Is Gaia Up To?!!
Of course, the spread of Christianity across populations of many indigenous religions was only one example of a shift in humanity that happened about that time. The spread of Buddhism and of Islam mark, with Christianity, a period in human social development. Was the human race somehow developmentally ready to “take a step?” I don’t have an answer to this, but I think it is important to marvel at the question, to open ourselves to the possibility that there is a global dynamic at work, taking different forms, but with an underlying coherence. Certainly we saw a similar planet-wide human development earlier with the development and spread of literacy. Again, this in-built tendency of humans to write expressed itself in different ways on different parts of the globe. Here, also, there seems to have been a ‘readiness’ in the population. One writer and one expression of Christ are marvelous things, but the real power comes when this cultural form spreads through a population and becomes something “we” can do.