My religious background has given me an appreciation for the “prophetic function” in which “outliers” in a culture have the gift of seeing what others cannot see and being so brazen as to announce it. Reiterating what I’ve said before, I think that in our present day this “prophetic function” often appears from the “outliers” who are artists, musicians, and writers. Religion does not offer us this “prophetic function” in most cases as it is so often a tool of the culture, having imbibed of the essence of the culture and became a purveyor of its values. I stumbled across the following wisdom from novelist Tom Robbins on Facebook this morning, cutting right to the heart of so many of our country’s deep-seated issues: Have you risked disapproval? Have you ever risked economic security? Have you ever risked a belief?… Real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness. Real courage is risking one’s clichés…Curiosity, especially intellectual inquisitiveness, is what separates the truly alive from those who are merely going through the motions….Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet.
“Real courage is risking one’s cliches” really is a punch in the gut. We have no idea we are merely mired in a world of cliches until we find the courage to toy with the notion that maybe we are. And we always are more so than we wish to think. Poet Adrienne Rich once noted, “Until we know the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves.” This is true individually and collectively. Our country at this present historical moment has an opportunity to look at some of its most pernicious assumptions.
This is the best “sermon” I’ve read yet about Trump and his minions. Rebecca Solnit spares no punches and delivers a prophetic word, not just about Trump, but about our whole culture. As they say, “Read it and weep.” And weeping is in order as this is a very sad moment in our history and could get even sadder at any moment.
My use of words like “sermon” and “prophetic” bely my rage at the church culture of my origins. Yes, “me doeth protest too much.” I still think that “truth” can be found in spiritual traditions but very often spiritual traditions ossify and become merely “well-worn words and ready phrases that build walls against the wilderness.” That leaves it to artists, writers, and even comedians to “speak truth to power” and Ms. Solnit here “knocks it out of the park.”
I love Bill Maher and especially his emphasis of the “imaginary friend” of Christians. I completely get and understand his point. But I think there is a way in which Jesus must be our “imaginary friend” if He is to have any value to us, value other than mere rhetorical, dogmatic escapism. Here is a link to an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday in which Nicholas Kristof used his imagination to apply the teachings of Jesus to the darkness that currently abounds in Washington D.C. I don’t know anything about Kristof’s religious affiliation, and don’t care, but he took the teachings of Jesus and applied them to what is underway in our government and, in doing so, offered a prophetic word to a country that needs one.