BUDDY INSTALLMENT 39

 

Chapter 24

 

Patty shook her head in disgust when he walked past her desk, a gesture that boded ill for the day ahead. The assault began with Walter stomping into his cubicle red-faced in anger. He held the newspaper in one hand and pointed to it with the other. “Did you see the article about you in the paper?” he demanded.

 

He had caught Earl off guard. “No,” he replied. “I didn’t have a chance to read it. Can I see it?”

 

See it? I’ve got a good mind to shove it down your throat. It’s a tell-all article written by a pastor named Frank Wilson. Claims that you’ve gone off the deep end. That you are trying, without credentials of any sort, to create a cult. He says that you’re trying to create a feminine God, like the goddess religions of the ancient world. Can’t you even stay loyal to your own sex? What are you, a bleeding fag?” Walter quieted down after that outburst. Doubtless, he was thinking of the legal ramifications of what he’d just said.

 

Listen, Earl,” he continued in a more moderate tone, attempting to exude the impression that he was the quiet voice of reason, “every employee in this company has an obligation to represent their employer to the community to the best of his ability. You’ve just blown it out of the water.” He gave up on being the voice of reason; his rant rose by several decibels. “I won’t stand for an effing Guru in this building. I’d toss you out into the street right now if I didn’t think you’d come back with a lawsuit. So I’ll hear you out. But be quick about it. The sight of you turns my stomach.”

 

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Walter. You take the word of a stranger over one of your beloved employees.”

 

Don’t get uppity with me, Cook. This guy holds a doctorate in theology. You’re nothing but a pissant. I’ve read your articles. Frankly, I didn’t get most of it, so at least I haven’t been sucked in myself. But I thought something was strange, you bucking the system like that.”

 

In the first place, Walter, I have no interest in creating a following, much less a cult. I simply have an idea that I want to get off my chest. That accusation is baseless. So is the accusation that my thinking is in any way connected with an exclusively feminine God, as he is trying to imply, and most certainly has nothing in common with the ancient Egyptian God called Isis. The God I worship is the same as the One all Christians worship, a Holy Trinity, of which two of the members, the Father and the Son, are fully masculine. I am only suggesting that the third Member of this Trinity is functionally a female, as in Mother. I see the Godhead as a Holy Family. Even if I’m wrong, which I don’t think I am, there’s nothing outrageous in that belief. Besides, I have a lot of Scriptural backup.”

 

Don’t try to snow me, Cook. It won’t work. I’ll give you two weeks to get Wilson to retract his statement and exonerate you. If not, out the door you go. In case you think I can’t do that, I know your strengths and weaknesses as an engineer. I may not be able to kick you out on the grounds we’ve been talking about, but I can give you some jobs that’ll make you weep. Then I’ll kick you out for lack of performance. And I’ve got that fiasco with the filling machine to back me up. How’d you like to see that little video in court?” He stalked out of the office.

 

Earl sat in front of his desk and rested his head on top of his remaining elbow. The now-familiar desolation of spirit was returning. No wonder Wilson hadn’t been pestering him lately. He’d simply decided to destroy him. Without this job they would be left without the excellent medical plan this company offered. He’d just begun to think that now, with Joyce’s visits to the hospital for her legs being nearly over, he could maybe get an upgrade on his prosthetic arm. That was certainly out the door now, thank you Mister Wilson. He began to think ahead to how they would survive the future.

 

When he returned home he decided not to bother Joyce yet with the day’s catastrophic event.

 

You look tired, Earl. I’ll fix you an early dinner.” He didn’t have much to say at the table, so she took the cue and delved back into the topic of reactionary thinking within the Church.

 

Earl, I didn’t finish last night,” she began. “I want to give you the best part. Or the worst, whichever way you want to look at it.”

 

Go ahead,” he replied somewhat indifferently.

 

The seventeenth century was pretty bad for knee-jerk reactionary attitudes in defense of the faith. In 1617 the Roman Catholic Church formalized its position with regard to the cosmos by declaring the earth-centered Ptolemaic system to be the correct one as opposed to its Copernican rival. That cleared the way for Galileo’s Inquisition trial in 1632. Although Galileo himself did a great deal to get himself into hot water with the church, his violation of the Ptolemaic order led to the censure of his work, never mind that he was actually right.

 

Part of Galileo’s problem with the church was his attitude, which evoked a reactionary response from the church elite. Another part of the problem came from his status in church: despite his devout Christianity, he was but a lay person and therefore presumptuous in the extreme for daring to interpret Scripture.”

 

What did he have to say about the Bible, Joyce? I didn’t know that he was a Christian.”

 

Most people don’t. They just assumed that since he was pitting science against the Church, he wasn’t a religious person. The fact is that he was a devout Christian. Our schools prefer to cast him as a champion of science against religion, and they’ve been pretty successful at it. Anyway, he had an encounter with the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, who had the misguided notion that the Bible was the source of the Ptolemaic, or geocentric, view of the solar system. If she was right, then Galileo’s heliocentric view would constitute a heretical stance. But she wasn’t right, as Galileo pointed out in a letter to her. That’s what got him in trouble – not what he wrote to her, but his audacity, as a member of the Great Unwashed Masses of laypeople, to write it. The sufficiency of his knowledge of God to interpret the Bible on his own was considered to be presumptuous in the extreme.

 

Earl shook his head. “The Catholic Church itself was presumption in the extreme to deny people knowledge of the Word, and to do so in the name of God.”

 

Don’t get too carried away, Earl. It’s the human condition, not the Catholic Church. The problem began when Constantine made Christianity the state religion. Secular power is a hugely corrupting influence. Look at what it did to the Jewish Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus. Look what it’s doing right now in the name of science. The Catholic Church, as a matter of fact, acknowledges her errors in the past. At least she’s apologetic about it. But because the Church insisted upon clinging to the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic notion of heavenly perfection, it allowed a monstrous theological error to creep into its notion of God. At the time when reactionary attitudes were rampant there emerged some Christian scholars who insisted that God himself was of a Ptolemaic order of perfection. I’ve already told you about them and their denial of passion within the Godhead.”

 

That, she continued, “and the superlatives of perfection with which they endowed God. That may be true, of course, but it shouldn’t go so far that it makes God alien to us and crowds out the truly important qualities of God that allow us to relate to him in love. I think, Joyce, that it is perfectly proper to humble oneself before God. But I also think that one can go to excessive lengths in this. An excess of humility reeks of self-concern, rendering it false and useless. Worship involving perfectionism represents adoration less than mere groveling. As for my own relationship with God, I would prefer to participate in a loving Wife that as a dog who can only communicate via whines, wags and a slobbering tongue. The perfectionists’ God is remote from us and by nature very different. That makes Him alien to us. That kind of entity plays right into the hands of secular society, which, according to the numerous movies dealing with that genre, considers anything beyond humanity to be a threat from outer space bent on swiping its resources, taking over the bodies of humans or eating them.”

 

Earl laughed. “That’s good. You’re getting colorful.”

 

Thanks. To continue. In opposition to the medieval perfectionists, Scripture paints a far more beautiful picture of God, depicting His majestic glory as His willingness to give up the majesty of greatness and power in favor of a love of great fullness and depth. The Gospels appear to support this view, depicting Jesus Christ (as God) as a Being full of the attributes of love as we know it, including passion. Examples that come to mind include His weeping over Jerusalem and Lazarus and His ordeal in the garden of Gethsemane.

 

We know from Jesus’ post-resurrection walk with the mourners on the road to Emmaus as described in Luke Chapter 24 that Jesus was not above the feelings with which we were endowed. Can anyone deny the affectionate, intimate, compassionate warmth of Jesus in the following statement?

 

“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

 

In sharp contrast with the perfectionists’ construction of God, Scripture is replete with passages like the one presented above that amply display God’s passion, both positive and negative, and His yearning for a close relationship with mankind, the masterpiece of His creation. Consider, for a famous example, Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane according to Luke 22:39-46:

 

“And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, And said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”

 

No matter how you slice it, you just can’t take the passion out of Christ. Therefore Christ, as God, directly contradicts the perfectionists’ presentation.

 

Where is all this heading? Unfortunately, a reactionary attitude is firming up among those churches that are holding steadfast. And they’re looking for a Ptolemaic idealism in their theology, even to the extent of embracing the perfectionists’ remote, alien and basically indifferent God. The notion of gender-driven passion within the Godhead will not sit well with this mindset. So don’t be too surprised to face opposition to your ideas. As a matter of fact, you’d do well to think of it like stepping on a hornets’ nest.”

 

Gender is the big bugaboo, isn’t it? Somehow sex has acquired the baggage of impurity. I think that’s how the Catholic Church got wrapped around the axle of Mariology.”

 

Oh,” Joyce responded. “You were going to tell me about that.”

 

I will, because it’s an important element of reactionary thinking, now that we’re on the subject. But before I do, I want you to know that I’m not at all at odds with much that has to do with Mariology, because I think of it as an attempt to get around the numerous problems, logical, moral and emotional, associated with a belief in an all-male Godhead. The Protestant Churches don’t even address the issue, preferring to bask in their ignorance and claiming that it’s a mystery beyond us. Baloney. The Catholic Church associates Wisdom with Mary, which complements my own association of Wisdom with the Holy Spirit, as I strongly feel that Scripture intended Mary to be a human type of the Holy Spirit, just as Abraham’s son Isaac and Jacob’s son Joseph, among a host of other human Old Testament figures, were types of Jesus Christ. Perhaps that is what many theologians within the Roman Catholic Church have been aiming for all along. If so, and it is reasonable to expect that it is indeed the case, I find myself highly sympathetic to its Mariology, although I think that the Catholic Church often goes too far in attempting to attribute to Mary what properly belongs to the Holy Spirit.

 

 

But there’s one facet of Mariology that I can’t go along with, because I can’t see any way to interpret Matthew 13 that doesn’t directly contradict it. Jesus had half-brothers and sisters, one of whom was the James whose writing is included in the New Testament. In opposition to that, many Catholics, theologians included, insist on Mary’s perpetual virginity. It’s a purity issue with them, implying that sex itself is unclean. That attitude is in itself a perversion. But we’re all infected with it. The mere discussion of sexuality hovers on the boundary of good taste among committed Christians. But to attempt to associate sex with God Himself – – – !” He made a gesture of horror.

 

In the first place,” he continued, “the insertion of the notion of gender into our perception of the Trinity does not necessarily have to evoke corresponding thoughts of sexual paraphernalia and activities involving such. How can we know what that even means in the spiritual realm? What we can perceive is the relatively benign thought of gender as ‘complementary other’ which serves to provide a mutual comfort, a harmonious relationship and a creative force. A functional description as this should evoke nothing but noble thoughts.

 

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