Go Out and Try Again

We get the Atlantic at home, and gracing the latest cover is a patriotic Doonsebury (Zonker?) figure with the headline The Boomer’s Last Chance: They Ruined Everything, But Can Still Be the Greatest Generation.”  (October 2010)

Far be it from me to insult any boomer (whew: I was born in ’69–safe by five years), so it’s not that headline I’m after.

I’m interested in Doonsebury.

The strip has been around for 40 years now.

I like it.

The whole article about Gary Trudeau is worth reading.  But  the highlighted comics featuring Joanie Caucus caught my eye.  Like the one here beginning with the husband politely offering, “Hi!  Can I help?” to his wife washing the kid in the tub.  (Not of course that this clip resonates at all with any sorts of conversations we have in our household).

Poor guy.  Hardly even got an “E” for effort.

But I do like that line the wife shoots back, “Go out and try again.”

I read that cartoon just an hour or so before I read this excerpt from the periodical Context.  It’s taken from Dorothy L. Sayers:

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were the first at the cradle and last at the cross.  They had never known a man like this Man–there has never been such another.  A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made such jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The woman, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!'; who rebuked without condescension; who took their questions an arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious.

There are a lot of directions a person could go with this quote, but here’s where I want to steer things:

There are those who reject Christianity for some awfully valid reasons.

But then there are those who reject Christianity based on assumptions of what we are about, and what some of us are about are awfully contrarian to what some might think that we are about.

If you take a close look at Jesus, you find out that he was anything but meek and mild (with all due respect for John Wesley).  And he was just as not like the contrasting caricature, pumped with an invigoratingly large dose of testosterone.

He was actually neither.

If you read Luke, you find out that the guy was always at parties–and as I like to point out, he didn’t turn the water into kool-aid, but rather wine…and really fine wine, thank you very much (in fact, some have wondered if the accusation that Jesus was a drunkard and a glutton [Luke 7:33-34] stuck because, well, he did like to drink and he did like to eat!).

And as that text in Luke mentions, Jesus did have a habit of hanging out with sinners; some real doozies, too.

And he got testy.

He talked about money than he did about prayer, even.  Some argue that in Luke, Jesus makes the case that just as the poor need to be redeemed from their poverty, so too do the rich need to be redeemed from their wealth.

Certainly Jesus spoke more about feeding the hungry and helping the poor than he did about anything concerning sex.

And he taught women.  In public, even.  In fact, women were the first preachers, announcing to the men that Jesus is risen.

When I teach people about God, I like to begin by teaching them about Jesus.

I do, because if Christians claim that Jesus is the Christ, then we are claiming that Jesus is God.

And if we are claiming that, then we are saying that whatever Jesus is up to, God is up to.

And if we are claiming that this Jesus is our God, then we are stating that this God’s agenda is also ours.

It makes a difference, you see, who or what you identify as God.

A really big difference.

Some argue that any religious commitment makes God into a glorified view of ourselves.  Ludwig Feuerbach put it this way: “God is man writ large.”

That would be frightening indeed, and we have ample evidence of what that looks like on the ground.

But Jesus?  He preached tough stuff.  Stuff that smacks of operating always from the perspective of the oppressed, not the privileged.  Stuff that radically calls into question whether what we trust unthinkingly deserves it (see for example WhatWouldJesusDrive.org [“because transportation is a moral issue”]). Stuff that challenges the artificial boundaries we set up about who is in and who is out (overcoming death tends to reset our notions of boundrydom).

So I’m reading Sayers, and I’m thinking that although she was wanting to make an appropriate feminist point (she wrote this in ’72), what she’s also doing is making a point that we can’t be too fast in assuming that Jesus is owned by those who consider him to be synonymous with the agenda of the US, with hate for people of other faiths, with power understood hierarchically, let alone with our understanding of power.

Instead, Jesus redefines what it means to be God, and what it means to be human.

“Go back and try again,” says Joanie Caucus.

I think Jesus says that too.

What do you think?