Jason Miller: The Rendition of Christ
The Rendition of Christ:
Winning the Battle for their Souls
By Jason Miller
America as the beacon of human rights and dignity is but a dream yet to be realized. While the dream has lain dormant, amoral opportunists have busily unleashed their nightmare on billions of human beings. And all the while they have trumpeted the many virtues of the United States as a Christian nation.
There are many admirable aspects to our country, but these are often over-shadowed by the actions of the Machiavellian, ruthless, and avaricious individuals who have long dominated the social, economic, religious, and political institutions comprising the power structure United States of America. While a nation is an abstraction encompassing many aspects and dynamics (i.e. its people, culture, government, resources, etc.) that are in a constant state of flux, there are at least four elements of the United States which have remained relatively consistent throughout much of its history:
1. A wealthy White patriarchy has monopolized most of the power and wealth.
2. An economic system resting on the pillars of greed and self-interest has driven the United States to enslave a race of human beings, commit genocide against another, and to commit virtually innumerable crimes against humanity in the pursuit of growth and profit.
3. Disseminating powerful propagandistic messages through a corporate-owned media and a public school system designed from the top down to produce obedient consumers and workers, the ruling elite in the United States has convinced generations of citizens that their nation is a moral icon and that American Exceptionalism justifies the slaughter of millions of innocents.
4. Many in the United States assert that the United States is a Christian nation. “Christianizing” the “heathen” Native Americans and the Filipino “savages” provided a rationalization for annihilating millions of human beings.
Self-righteous hypocrisy and the banner of Christianity have been staples of the ruling elite in the United States as they have led their followers on a 200 year spree of economic and geographic expansion at the expense of those unfortunate enough to stand in their way. Exemplifying their latest crusade, in October 2003, newly appointed undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. General William Boykin emphatically proclaimed that fundamentalist Muslims hated the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and roots are Judeo-Christian…and the enemy is a guy named Satan”
Given that the psyche of most Americans has been battered with the notion that our country was founded by Christians intending to form a Christian nation, and that many of those besieged psyches have acquiesced and accepted this assertion as dogmatic truth, perhaps an analysis of the founder of Christianity would be instructive.
Jesus Christ. Was he deity, man, or myth? The answer to that question depends on one’s point of view. Christians embrace him as the son of God and a member of the Holy Trinity. Followers of Islam consider him to be a prophet and holy man who performed miracles, but do not believe in his divinity. Some of us in the “pagan” realm simply view him as an inspirational moral leader. Others doubt that Christ even existed.
Whether he was god, exceptional human or legend, almost all of our knowledge about Jesus Christ is derived from the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And these three books of the Bible do reveal a story of a remarkable being.
Jesus was a radical agitator and social outcast who challenged the establishment of his day. A carpenter by trade, Christ would have been considered one of the working poor. As is common knowledge, he defied the Sanhedrin’s insistence on strict adherence to religious law to the extent that they eventually saw to his crucifixion.
In his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus was stigmatized as a bastard and shunned as the son of an adulteress. Joseph is believed to have adopted him, but that apparently did little to alleviate the situation. Jesus eventually embraced a new “family” in the sect that followed John the Baptist. Jewish leaders, whose power was largely dependent upon their Roman occupiers, came to view John as a serious threat as he preached loyalty to God over Caesar. Jesus’ equally tenacious commitment to placing the will of God above that of a political leader ultimately led him to martyrdom too. Both men represented serious threats to the social order and it was virtually inevitable that the ruling class would kill them.
Aside from the fact that he claimed to be the Messiah and seriously threatened their authority, the Pharisees feared and hated Jesus because he developed such a mass following throughout much of Galilee during his three year ministry. He won hearts and minds with his messages of redemption and compassion. Whether it was through the placebo effect, alleviation of psychosomatic illnesses, or true divine intervention, Jesus performed many miraculous cures and exorcisms. Encouraging his considerable throng of followers to follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law and asserting corruption in the Temples, Jesus demonstrated that he was an anarchist capable of initiating a successful rebellion against the status quo.
Excepting his martyrdom, perhaps his crowning achievement as a spiritual leader was the Sermon on the Mount. As he spoke, he shocked his listeners with the Beatitudes in which he defined the blessed in ways that defied orthodoxy. According to Christ and his Beatitudes, the blessed and the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Heaven include mourners, the hungry, the persecuted, the merciful, the meek, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.
Note that his criteria for blessedness did not encompass the aspects of humanity which Americans have been programmed to worship, including winning; accumulating wealth; attaining power; being thin, youthful and beautiful; succeeding; heterosexuality; regular attendance of church; being Caucasian; and patriotism.
Besides the Beatitudes, Jesus Christ gave us several other gems of moral wisdom. His “turn the other cheek” metaphor inspired the powerful non-violent spiritual leadership of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The Golden Rule has acted as a cornerstone of civilized behavior. And Christ’s hyperbole concerning rich men, camels and eyes of needles has served as a largely unheeded warning about greed and the accumulation of excessive wealth.
Were Jesus Christ incarnate today and living in America, what would he think of a nation inhabited by many who claim to be followers of the spiritual movement he founded? And how would the ruling elite of the United States receive him?
Imagine this scenario:
Jesus Christ returns to Earth as he was portrayed in the Gospels at the height of his ministry. Geographically, his manifestation occurs in a blighted urban core in a large American city. Despite his humanity, he is endowed with omniscience and omnipotence. But he will not use them to change the course of humankind. He is here to act as a mortal agent of change.
Jesus’ initial reaction to the knowledge flooding his mind and the assault to his senses is a catatonic state. Horror at the rapacious and avaricious nature of the United States’ social order overwhelms his consciousness.
Shaking off the initial shock, he succumbs to a wave of uncontrollable nausea. Thoughts of institutionalized racism, the wealth chasm, and the military industrial complex evoke a burst of primal and toxic hatred. He retches violently.
Having purged his loathing, Jesus sits back and rests quietly on a soiled mattress someone had dragged into the garbage strewn alley where he finds himself.
Surrounded by broken bottles, hypodermic needles, and used prophylactics containing their repulsive spent payloads, Christ falls into a deep state of reflection which is unhindered by the scurrying sounds of rats and roaches. As he contemplates the many horrific atrocities committed in his name, a resident of the alley brushes past him in a drunken stupor, urinates in his pants and promptly passes out.
A country claiming to practice his spirituality spends $600 billion a year on its behemoth murder machine while over two million of its own people live on the street and eat from dumpsters. Rage surges through Jesus’ being. He grabs a chunk of broken brick, hurls it with abandon, and shatters what is left of a broken window. The thought that his ministry and martyrdom had spawned such inhumanity infuriated him.
Regaining his calm and composure, Jesus resumes his contemplation.
What is this abomination called Capitalism? Permeating nearly every facet of the United States (including his churches), exploiting human beings and the Earth, demanding perpetual war, and ensuring the comfort of a few through the suffering of the many, Capitalism is a cancer that reduces its blind adherents to empty, soulless shells.
Greed is good? Had his flock truly strayed so far that they enshrined selfishness, mean-spiritedness, ruthless competitive instincts, and avarice as virtues? What chance would his message of compassion and peace have competing with the clever propaganda and allure of immediate gratification purveyed by the likes of Fox, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and Rush Limbaugh?
Grief-stricken, he cries in despair for the Native Americans, Black Americans, and the tens of millions of victims of the imperialist United States foreign policy in Latin America, Africa, the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq, and Palestine. He smiles briefly at the thought of Judea and Galilee and feels a twinge of home-sickness. Joy and nostalgia are short-lived as thoughts of Palestinian suffering at the hands of the merciless Israeli government quickly intrude on his nostalgic reminiscence.
It perplexes him that the United States has not lived up to the rich promise spawned by the American Revolution that broke the shackles of tyranny against tremendous odds. Early Americans had created a phenomenal instrument with which to govern a nation when they wrote the Constitution. They even included a mechanism to amend its inherent flaws (i.e. the legalization of slavery). But despite the valiant struggle of many poor, working class, and minority Americans, the de facto tyranny of wealthy elitists has endured.
Jesus concludes that many Americans were amongst the blessed he had enumerated in the Sermon on the Mount and that many Americans would enter his Kingdom. Yet he agonizes over those millions who had succumbed to the propaganda and sold their souls for the hollow rewards offered by the “American Way”. Torment consumes him as he realizes that conspicuous consumption, aggressive militarism, overt and covert racism, abject inhumanity, torture, theft of land and resources, corruption, “win at all cost”, survival of the fittest, and pathological self-absorption are the hallmarks of the social and political systems of the United States. Jesus marvels that so many people would fall prey to such obvious spiritual cancers.
Limping severely, a one-armed man with a very bad prosthesis, matted gray hair, and a badly tattered Army jacket flops himself onto the mattress next to Jesus. He smells of alcohol and stale urine. Vacant eyes transfixed on the alley wall before him, he mutters unintelligibly as he pulls a rancid-smelling piece of meat from his pocket and begins gingerly munching with the remaining stumps of his severely decayed teeth.
Christ feels overwhelmed with compassion and embraces the man. There is little response, but he does feel a slight shudder. This coupled with the fact that the man does not reject the embrace satisfies Jesus that at some level of his being, the hapless itinerant welcomes human contact and kindness. Jesus realizes that this man had answered America’s call to “fight for his country” in Vietnam. Abandoned by the government he had served, this lost soul had been condemned to suffer a living hell of homelessness, untreated PTSD, and substance abuse.
Suddenly Jesus had an epiphany. Despite being one of the wealthiest societies in human history, the United States has a homeless population of about two million. As a fisher of men, he would troll America’s cities, reaping a bountiful harvest of loyal followers from amongst the homeless and other disenfranchised groups. And he would start with the human derelict he had just embraced.
Jesus begins laying out his strategy to his first disciple. As Christ talks, the despondent man’s vacant expression is replaced by a crooked smile and a look of enthusiasm. He feasts upon a small loaf of fresh bread from Christ’s goatskin bag and listens to Jesus’ message of hope and redemption. Jesus talks for several hours. His willing adherent absorbs his words like a desiccated sponge.
Jesus speaks of his vision to cast out his net, gathering millions of loyal followers from amongst the homeless, poor, gays, minorities, the working class, and other people who felt powerless to stop the momentum of the corporatocracy in Washington. Reminding his disciple that the strength of his moral revolution will lie in the sheer number of participants, Jesus predicts that tens of millions will abandon working and shopping to join him in a triumphant non-violent march on Washington. Crippled by the loss of its cogs, the profit and war machine would finally grind to a halt.
Feeling mildly annoyed, Jesus pauses briefly to brush away a fly that had been persistently buzzing about his face.
Continuing his monologue, Jesus reveals that he plans to expose the true weakness of the iniquitous corporate militarists ruling the United States by awakening the millions of Americans it had psychologically enslaved. He would free those who had been deluded into giving their blood, sweat, tears, and children to expand a malevolent economic empire. He would lay the nightmare to rest and awaken the dream.
A sharp screech of tires gives Jesus and
his newly anointed apostle a jolt. Two powerfully built men
with close-cropped hair and serious expressions emerge from
an ominous-looking black SUV with heavily tinted windows.
With the quick precision of a trained assassin, one of the
“men in black” snaps the disciple’s neck. The other
snatches Jesus by his hair and hurls him into the back of
Awakening in a mental fog induced by heavy sedation, Jesus struggles to remember what had happened. Barely lucid, he slowly takes in his surroundings. He is in a small cell dimly illuminated by a lone flickering candle. It is chilly and the air is dank. Seated at a small table in front of him, a simple-looking man is glaring at him with deep contempt. Jesus notes a rotund male figure wearing a permanent snarl and a cruel looking woman with dark skin hovering nearby. He senses that wickedness and deceit are habitual with this trio.
Despite his significantly inferior intellect, it is obvious to Jesus that the two others maintain the pretense that the man at the table is their leader.
“I am George W. Bush. I am President of the United States and the leader of the free world. Our spies at the NSA were monitoring your conversation in the alley. We know of your terrorist plot to destroy freedom and democracy in America. I am declaring you an enemy combatant.”
Brimming with smug arrogance, Bush leans back in his chair and locks his fingers behind his head. He trains his gaze on Jesus with the air of one studying an insect and contemplating whether or not to squash such an inferior being.
Finally he returns his attention to the script laid before him. After several minutes of careful study, he gives Jesus, Cheney and Condoleezza a start by forcefully slamming his fist onto the rickety wooden table. Feeling triumphant because he is about to vanquish a tremendous threat to the established power structure, he begins speaking again,
“You are a threat to national security. Like that MLK bastard, your goal is to empower the poor, minorities, and the other groups we keep oppressed to protect our selfish interests. You would awaken the masses to our moral bankruptcy and to the foolish self-destructiveness of supporting us.
I cannot let that happen. My wealthy base has spent years selling Americans on the virtues of war, greed, free trade, free markets, tax cuts for the rich, cutting social programs, surrendering their rights for security, and mixing religion and government.
Millions of Americans need to remain indifferent to our wealth obtained by exploiting billions of people, the prison system we have used to replace slavery and Jim Crow, the millions we slaughter to feed the military industrial complex, and the torture of enemy combatants like you.
Many of my people believe that
I have a personal relationship with you and that your Father
guides me on a divine mission. They must continue believing
these atrocious lies.
We learned from the mistake of the Roman and the Jewish leaders. You will not get a second chance at martyrdom. I have decided to rendition you. You will simply disappear and die anonymously in a torture dungeon in Syria.”
Wearing a confident smirk, the self-satisfied little man fires a question at Jesus,
“Well, Jesus? What do you have to say?”
Shedding tears born of profound melancholy, Jesus responds,
“In the words of the inimitable Russian novelist, if God does not exist, then everything is permitted.”
Jesus then sighs heavily, looks heavenward, and makes a quiet appeal,
“Father, forgive them. Despite the fact that they know what they do. And Father. I beg you to have mercy on the souls of their many wretched victims.”
Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at email@example.com or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.