DB Hamill writes of his realization that his exclusive focus on Jesus as Hamill’s friend and invisible companion was less than helpful to his spiritual growth.
The phenomenon of thinking about Jesus as an invisible friend, of the sort that lots of children have in their youth, is not terribly common experience in the Episcopal Church, but it is so within Pentecostal circles. Perhaps it’s more common because within Pentecostal churches there’s more of an experiential and emotional aspect to faith. (Not something that I personally find compelling, but I’m odd that way.) Perhaps it’s common in the American South because of it’s deep Baptist roots and the Baptist thread of ideas around solo, not sola scriptura. (Solo, as I mean it, is that it is the job of the individual believer, guided by scripture, to determine the truth of God.)
Whatever the root cause, the idea of the individual experience of God taking precedence over the communal or common, a special American charism apparently, must underlie the idea of Jesus as personal God and guide. Good Buddy Jesus. Precious Moments Jesus. “He walks with me and He talks with me” Jesus.
Hamill describes his own experience in rather therapeutic terms, and as growing out of his own psychological needs, but I think you can properly broaden the causes. The idea of personal Jesus is so endemic in American religious thought that there must be more than one constellation of cause.
At any rate Hamill describes the thinking that has led him to a “breakup with Jesus”:
“The man who took the romance out of my relationship with Jesus was a theologian called James Alison and he pointed out that, if the witnesses are to be believed, Jesus had some quite specific concerns about the ongoing relationship that his disciples would have with him. The same Jesus who gave himself again to his disciple after they had contributed to the process by which he was killed, this same Jesus was concerned (prior to his death) that he be remembered precisely for and in his death. This is my body broken for you. This is my blood shed for you. Do this to remember me! The Jesus of Christian faith is not an invisible psychological aid. The experience of resurrection is this: living he confronts us with his death. He wants us to know him as a man who poured himself out for the world and also as a man who was broken by the world. This death is the culmination of the person and it is this that determines whatever kind of ‘relationship’ we might have with him.
I guess if there is a sense now that I have a ‘relationship’ with Jesus (and the term relationship certainly sticks in my throat) it is in the sense that I know Jesus now as my ‘victim’ – my divine victim. What I need is something like a ‘liturgical’ relationship with Jesus rather than a romantic one. I need to be constantly addressed by the drama of God’s encounter with the world as it culminates in the great revelatory victory of the cross of Christ. As I am addressed by this drama I learn to respond to it, to act a part within it. After all in spite of it I still find myself constantly drawn into a world process which produces new victims and I am constantly drawn to deny my complicity in this process. Unless I am liturgically confronted by the forgiveness of my divine victim, Jesus, I will never be truly human nor truly participate in God’s life for which I was created. My hope is that eucharistic liturgy is the Spirit’s way of casting out romantic narcissism and making disciples.”
Read the full article here.
H/T to Ben Myers
If you’re looking for something to meditate upon this Lent, this would be an excellent line to follow.
My sermon from Sunday discussed, from the idea of the Hen of God, the idea of Jesus as ur-victim. I’ll post it later this morning, he writes hopefully…