I remember some years ago, in the heat of a political campaign, former Michigan Congresswoman Martha Griffiths, speaking of an opponent who was a Unitarian, famously observed, “The last time the name Jesus Christ was heard in my opponent’s church was when the janitor fell down the basement stairs.”
For some reason, that name, revered by Christians throughout the world, seems to have some palliative effect on life’s inevitable misfortunes for a great many people.
I recall my pal Mike Devine, of sainted memory, telling about an episode at Franklin Hills or Knollwood during an invitational tournament at which he was the guest of a Jewish lawyer. One of their opponents, also a gentleman of Jewish tradition, had a habit of greeting every poorly executed shot or missed putt with the expletive “Jesus Christ!.”
Mike, whose pixie-esque sense of humor permitted him a measure of candor not available to most of us, sidled up to the fellow and said, “I don’t think Jesus is going to help you very much. He’s my guy. Why don’t you say “Holy Moses?”
Phillipians 2:10 says:
…For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Perhaps it is just a universal human trait to appeal to the divine whenever life’s daily disasters serve up a dose of disappointment or a dish of dissatisfaction.
In any case, in a world full of flippant JC’s and OMG’s, it is a rare thing to think or talk about the Man from whose birth all of our days are counted and whose simple lessons about the human condition sparked a civilization that harnessed the atom and went to the moon.
But that’s what Polly and I did tonight. Our parish is hosting a thing called ALPHA, described as a series of interactive sessions to discuss the Christian faith in an informal, fun and friendly environment. We went, had dinner, watched a video and shared amiable conversation, hearty laughter, and personal insights with two other couples at our table.
The video featured a British lawyer who told of his personal journey of faith. In a very lawyerlike way, he proved that there really was a man named Jesus Christ who really did live in Israel two thousand years ago; that he really claimed to be the Son of the Creator of the universe, and that his followers claimed that he rose from the dead, which no one has ever proved didn’t actually happen.
It was a sufficient dose of Christianity to launch a spirited discussion around our table about belief, marriage, children, grandchildren, and whether indeed the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket.
I couldn’t help but think that the two or three hundred people in that room are the vanguard of a religious remnant, clinging to a belief system scorned by the secular world around us, and watching each subsequent generation slip away from the moorings of faith that have held our generations hard to the tiller of the ship of state.
In the last analysis, religion is all about dying and death. Belief in a life hereafter has been the bulwark of western civilization. Judgment Day is the visualization of human conscience. Saint Peter at the pearly gates is the allegory of our moral compass.
Pope Francis is coming to the United States. Our President will pay him the dubious respect of seating him at table with a roomful of theological dissenters, sexual adventurers, and pontifical naysayers.
Jesus Christ washed the feet of sinners and silently suffered the spit of his tormenters. Francis will do the same. The ridicule, shame, disgrace and blood of martyrs have always been the seeds of Christianity.
Secularists may mock us, ISIS may behead us, but Jesus Christ will be with us until the end of time. Christianity will rise again. And again. And again.