1/04/2011 | Share this article:By Carl S ~
When I was a monk at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemane monastery (Trappist) in Kentucky, in the 1950s, one of the rules strictly observed was silence. You didn't speak except to a superior, all other communication was done with sign language. The silence was to create an atmosphere of contemplation, penance, and prayer; a "communion with God". In this silent ambiance, we read scripture as beliefs to not just absorb, but to understand, by dwelling on passages, especially those dealing with the teachings and character of Jesus. There was nothing shallow or half-hearted in our dedication.
Let’s begin by acknowledging that no one really knows who wrote those gospels (a few, a committee?). Let's see what "portrait of Jesus” they created, for isn’t it really the “idea” of Jesus that Christians love?
The Jesus of the bible is an apologist for God. He preaches not the vengeful, angry, destructive god of Jewish scriptures, but a "new testament" God, one who's had a change of heart. This heavenly Father is personally involved with the well-being of each and every one of his children, despite all evidence to the contrary, which evidence Jesus, being God's apologist, tries to explain away. Jesus speaks of a father-God who provides daily bread, and who will not give his child a stone if he asks for bread; a father who rejoices at the return of an ungrateful, wastrel son to his household, with a festive banquet; an all-merciful, all-forgiving of all debt father. The message describes a close, loving relationship, even as the reader is commanded to be, "perfect, even as your heavenly father is perfect." This is the God of Christianity written into the texts and to be believed in without doubt.
One would conclude, based on the teachings of Jesus, that in the most distressing of circumstances, the father would be there immediately. Ironically, the text says that the reality was quite to the contrary, for, as the son pleads for deliverance from an impending, agonizing and prolonged death, he is answered with . . . silence. There's no one there. Jesus is abandoned to his fate, without even a whisper of consolation, "forsaken," according to Matthew 27:46 (although his mother is there as he dies). It makes one wonder if the father was only a wishful-thinking product of Jesus' imagination, if the constant references by Jesus to "thy will" stem from Jesus’ own imaginings of what the "will" is, but of which he has no real knowledge. One might conclude that the Jesus portrayed by the Gospel writers is a figure living in a hopeful but delusional state. These considerations stem directly from the texts. Notice, also, that Jesus prays throughout the Gospels, without ever mentioning any answers.
The story of Jesus' persistence, in believing that the god he preached was real, is repeated constantly by those who believe as he did, and with just as much intractability. There are many Gethsemanes in this world, even at this minute, where mothers pray to an absent god that their children not suffer and die. But, the children suffer and die anyway, about 24,000 each day, in Africa alone. Heartbreakingly, tragically, these deaths are preventable. Clearly, we humans are the true fathers, and there are no others.