Gospel Salad – excerpt from an in-progress novel I call ‘If Rome Never Fell’

“Mr. Parker, has anyone checked out King Jesus Loves His Mustard Greens?”
“Yes Beth, I’m sorry, it’s out.”
“How about Spicy Kale and the Kingdom of God?” Parker shakes his head solemnly. “It was a long shot. Okay, I’ve seen it a hundred times, but, what about Gospel Salad?”
“Yep. That’s a good one.” Parker stands from where he was seated in the bend of a horseshoe shaped set of tables, in the rotund church library. The ceiling was twenty feet up, and the shelves climbed that high, handmade ladders on hammer wrought rails encircling and keeping guard. “When the cucumber-
“Mary the mother of King Jesus.”
“Sings The Ballad of Garlic Oil it makes me laugh every time, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. And that’s a lot.” Parker has selected the thin case that holds the film, specifically designed to resemble the sleeve of a slim old pamphlet style book. The bottom shelf was children’s education and entertainment, right behind his seat, down low, almost hidden.
“That’s a serious song.”
“Really? It’s all about how garlic isn’t really good though, I thought it was ironic. Because garlic is delicious.”
“No it isn’t Parker. Garlic in certain things helps make those things delicious. But no one eats garlic alone. It isn’t good on its own. That’s what the song is about. How God makes decisions to put things that don’t taste good into other things because all in all it makes everything more delicious. But if you ate a handful of garlic all on its own, before you had ever had it in a soup, you might leave it out of every recipe forever on afterward.”
“Well said little Beth. You’ve learned me a thing this morning.”
“Thanks,” she offered casually, the young girl, no older than thirteen, behind a flip of shiny dirty blond hair and gone.

What are we feeding to these kids, Parker thought.

To Pieces

There is more to the present than a gift.
Wrapped in red gold green paper.
It sits.
Everything.
The whole universe.
As long so you don’t know what is in it. It is everything.
The greatest gift there ever was.
Only as long as you don’t know what it is.
What’s under the tree isn’t Christmas.
There isn’t a tree alive big enough.
They were all cut to the ground years ago.
No one ever leaves a present wrapped too long.
Which is why all the great gifts are gone.

It’s hard to wrap a song.
Or a poem. Or a thought.
Or both of them. They’re odd.
Loose in the corners and dense in the center
and the tape just won’t stay on.
I appreciate the thought.
But was hoping for something to tear open.
Or even at least a pressed paper box.
I know that’s asking a lot.
But this is a particular season.
When no one needs a reason.
To ask for more than you’ve got.
Not just any present moment.
Something store-bought.
Wrapped tight.
Ready to be torn.

For on this day maybe two thousand years ago a child was born.
Torn up wrapping paper on the floor.

And soon, that baby grew.

And said we will have earned the kingdom
eternal life
redemption
the very hereafter
everything
the very moment
we can discern a gift
without having to see
it torn open.

Well fed martyrs #oldjournals

Turn. Change. Transfigure. The trinity of our people.
Our people, used loosely, for we have never come together as one.
Failed, where ants and honeybees succeed,
at creating and sustaining efficient colonies.

Community. Congregation. Culture. Concentrated into cults.
Letting children light their candles.
Thinking drinking symbolic blood makes a better person.
Group-think denial-grace came at no cost,
when it earned its chief revelator a cross.

Transformed torture devices into symbolic vestiges of sacrifices
we, as a people, are not yet prepared to make. Flimsy. False. Fake.
Even if we were to nail up a martyr or two, our crosses would probably break.

We’re different. We’ve changed. We’re transfigured.
Also, as a whole, people have gotten bigger.
We might need to upgrade to an anchored metal frame
to sustain the weight of such well fed martyrs.

Modern Christianity – Old Journals

Can the livestock lie down with the wolf?
A lamb of short cut wool. Nude colored
and halved black hoof tapping shoals noisily in the dark.
Stalked by the wolf black as night, red in tooth
a blood matted mouth, grinning. A greeting
only to the innocent glowing white lamb,
friend to friend.

How can it be? The lamb remained a lamb bald and weak,
small and sleek. Or has the world worked hard hungry hands
over the offering? The grass fed sacrifice, reshaped dense,
sharpened bones into slicked back horns,
tiny trembling feet raised cloven hammers,
pounding ground and snorting dust and air.
Our innocent lamb now works and bleats to inspire fear. Pure no longer.
Tough and mean, still convinced beneath a thick skull it appears to be meek.

And the wolf, a beast howling hunger up at a full round moon,
a predator pitifully calling on company gurgled out a vertical throat,
outpouring pain and a gut wrench of sorrow. A friend with a voice also,
conscious of harmony, listening with sympathy, at songs sung lonelily.
Sweet, uplifting tones when times are good, and behavior tame, otherwise,
there is an ape in place of our angel, whose fists lay down lessons of pain,
obedience, trembling submission only to wait a little while,
and then call student come crawl deep beneath covers and cuddle. Embraced.
In the same soft arms that were just hard, tense, hands formed of fists,
capable now of good thorough petting.

The mythological hunter, once roaming and stalking in tight-knit droves,
has been reshaped into a pet, brown eyes for Man. Batting and staring.
Hungry to please, begging for scraps, sharing the fleas.

And the lamb is grown into a ram, lunging before a hyper dog’s raised ears,
wildly smiling while the sheep rears. Both give and take. Equally tease.
Playing games and ignoring the other’s presence with ease.

But when those ancient voices speak up now in an animal’s mindset,
it has become the wolf who lies down to the lamb on its hind legs.

Poor Jesus

To the Christian churches of America, I do not recognize the legitimacy of your denominations, but I like your Christ. A man who was raised in one of the most heavily indoctrinated and legally binding cultures ever to exist. What you eat and how you killed it, when you work, when you rest, how you dress, even edits to anatomy, at an early enough age so as to not make edits to memory as well. The laws of the land literally carved into stone. But a legal system changes good into obedient. Bad becomes the measurement of consequences. And without someone chasing around popping hands when they reach for an extra cookie, there won’t be one.

The world could not care less if you eat an extra cookie. Extra cookies are not always healthy. Over time, poor health and a sugary expectation of appetite form their own form of punishment. Eventually murder stops happening because the very action creates a blueprint for how to handle the culprit. There is no thief who does not safeguard against being robbed. They know what they did was wrong. How it invites every other member of their society to take advantage over their loose views of property ownership. I can not imagine the desperation in the thief’s prayer that what all they stole will stay stolen. Paying for things with that currency is the most surefire manner of having a bunch of stuff you will never get to own. No one wants that. They just believe they can get away with it. And that if they get away with it, no harm was done.

That is where legalism gets us.
Moral outsourcing and apologetic justice.

But Christ bypassed all that. Boulders etched in reminders of common decency. A millennia since spent inventing punishments and consequences and new paddles to slap tears onto blank faces. Christ said love your neighbors as you love yourself. But love is a many misused word in our time. So, because I am the unabashedly heretical, blasphemous, sacrilegious for the sake of curiosity sort, I’m going to edit that sentiment. Consider your neighbors as you consider yourself.

Maybe we all fall short of love. But consideration, we might still be capable of. Can we write all the laws needed to govern cookie access? Do we teach mantras like one per person? Do we say, well if you want more, you need to participate, lace up those apron strings and learn to bake. This is what legalism does to us. This is the pillar old Judaism was scratched into. And these are the conditions of the culture Christ woke up within and declared himself the embodiment of. And he said that if you consider your neighbor as you consider yourself, you will take two cookies off the counter. You will have had to morally process that your desire, will more often than not, be present in your neighbor. Good desires. Bad desires. Why do we waste time delegating these subjectivities. It isn’t cost effective, and it cripples moral thinking.

I was raised in a legalistic society. In a lawbound church organization. Educated in a rule-based bureaucratic government-funded form of daycare. And yet this name, this man, the rugged moral individualism toting philosopher, found me here. Were you not listening? Or do you just not actually believe? He didn’t want faith to be a reaction. For all beliefs to be attributed to obedience. And we went ahead and shaped everything in his name exactly the opposite.

I say this all the time, sometimes humorously, this time not so much. Poor Jesus. I feel so sorry for that man. He had thirty three years to describe denominational church structures and candle lighting and the what color stole against what color robe. He didn’t. He said love your neighbors as you love yourself. And love God above all else. I guess for modern people though love is more of a pastime. A romantic holiday, or shape of candy, or cut flowers or glassy looking stones. So I’m going to put my soul on the line and really edit the phrasing of one of my favorite philosophers.

Consider your neighbors, same as you would consider yourselves. And consider your source above all else. Consider all things.

Jesus was literate, bright, capable of writing on paper as well as carving stone. The fact that he didn’t take time to do more of it is a great sign. There is no more potent scripture that came before or afterward, than all the words Christ did not take time to write.