Saturday, September 12, 2009

George Fox: Christ, but not to rule over them

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” (Col. 3:15):
The world would have a Christ, but not to rule over them; the nature of the world is above Christ in man until Christ hath subdued that nature in man.
George Fox, from "Mind The Heavenly Treasure," a collection of devotions.

"The world would have a Christ, but not to rule over them." Isn't this the heart of our troubles: that we want Jesus, "but not to rule over us?" Isn't that the problem in the Society of Friends--that many want the beautiful aesthetic of Jesus, the love, the joy, the peace, the forgiveness, but within the context of a Jesus molded to our liking, so that we can control him? Isn't that at the core of our endless debating and overthinking about the resurrection, the Virgin birth, the divinity of Christ? That we want to reduce him a to great sage, put him on the level with other great sages, on a level with us? We're drawn to him ... there's an irrestible magnetism that reaches out across the ages and pulls us in towards him ...but we resist the imlications of this power. We kick against the pricks.

It's very few, however, who will diss Jesus openly, very few who are not on some level, in awe of him. We'll attack Paul without a second thought, as we will the institution of the church, but when it comes to Jesus, we treat him gently. Even Hitler was in awe of him--or at least afraid of his followers. Instead, like us, he attacked Paul: "that Jew" as he called him, the one who turned the "Aryan warrior" Jesus into something else. Aren't we still doing that? Attacking Paul or the Church for making Jesus into something uncomfortable to us instead of confronting the idea that Jesus himself may be uncomfortable to us?

We are, as Ben Witherington put it, a Jesus-haunted culture.

We "would have a Christ." We love the idea of Christ, and if not Jesus himself, then his surrogates-Fox, Woolman, Francis of Assisi. So many Quakers would, ironically, want to start the faith at Fox, as if Fox were not explicitly living out the words of Jesus ... or want to start with a Jesus as man, Jesus stripped of the difficulties, the miracles, the grandeur, the majesty.
We would have a Christ but not to rule over us.

What if we, wildly, radically, impossibly, behaved as if --"as if"--isn't that what faith is?-- the whole story were true and not pick out the parts that allow us superiority? Of course, people don't rise from the dead and ascend to heaven after walking for a time on the earth. Of course, virgins don't give birth. There's nothing radical or remarkable in asserting that these things can't be true. It's completely ordinary to reject them. The extraordinary move is to recognize that they might be real because that is to recognize that the world and the universe as we know them might be more miraculous--and multidimensional and sacred and incomprehensible -- than it seems. Doing that involves a paradigm shift.

What if we would have a Christ to rule over us?

Then, Fox says, we would have peace in our hearts. And from that peace in our hearts would flow peace within the Society of Friends. Do you agree with this?

No comments: