X: I’ve been looking at your blogs recently…
Me: Yeah, I mean wow! An actual reader! How nice to meet you….
X: I said I’d been reading them,s not that I liked them…
Me: Oh well, I might have guessed. Not even a little?
X: Well, yes, a little……sometimes…..
Me: What is it you don’t like then?
X: Well, they’re a bit samey……..
M: I thought they were remarkably varied in form and content.
X: In fact, the form is a dead give away that points to a fault in the content….
M: I’m sure you’re going to tell me what it is…
X: The usual format is that you start off with some current situation, moral or political, from the news or some other source and you explore it a bit, to define some issue of concern. You’re quite good at that…
M: Some praise anyway….
X: But then when it comes to the crux of the matter you mention some action or teaching of Jesus, which turns out to be decisive.
M: I don’t see what’s wrong with that…
X: Don’t you see, the questions may change from blog to blog but the answer’s always Jesus.
M: I mean, I am a believer you know, I suppose it shows …
X: It’s like a story I heard about a minister. He’s talking to children and he asks them, “What is grows on a tree, is round like a ball, and is coloured orange?” There’s a dead silence. No child has an answer. The minister tries again. Again he gets no answer. FInally he pleads, “Come on chIldren, grows on a tree, round, coloured orange, of course you know what it is!” At last a small boy speaks up, “Sorry, I think it’s an orange, but I know the right answer is Jesus.”
M: Yes, yes, very funny, but hardly a description of my blogs…
X: No? Maybe you should read them more often. You often use the language of good and bad. Indeed goodness is one of your central ideas. You want to define what is good in particular situations and to explore how it might work. The thing I like is that you want to be practical..
M: I certainly try to be….
X: But then you spoil it all by going preachy and telling us that goodness is what Jesus did or said.
M: What’s wrong with that ? After all, even an atheist or agnostic, as I suppose you to be, must recognise the importance of Jesus’ life and teaching as a historical influence on the whole world; and especially his emphasis on practice rather than theory.
X: Quite so. I wasn’t criticising you from a general perspective, as you seem to think, but from Jesus’ point of view……
Me: From Jesus’ point of view!
X: Yes. Jesus never said that he had some special access to goodness. A lot of what he said is taken from his own Jewish tradition. He expected his hearers to know something about goodness- his stories and witty sayings relied on people to make their own judgements. When he asked who was neighbour to the man who fell among thieves, he knew he’d get the right reply. He recognised that the good way might have got perverted by religious experts, so he worked hard to expose their nonsense, and get back to what people knew in their hearts; for example, that it was right to heal on the Sabbath. But he certainly didn’t put himself forward as the only revelation of God’s goodness.
Me: But a revelation none the less!
X: As one revelation in a world of revelations, in which the birds of the air and the flowers of the field could be witnesses to God’s care. Jesus lived in a democracy of revelation, telling them that the goodness of God was amongst them. That’s why religious power brokers killed him. So when someone with your views called him “Good Master” he gave a curt reply, ” Why do you call me good? No-one is good except God alone!”
Me: Still, the Christian tradition, which may come from Jesus himself, calls him the Son of God!
X: He thought of himself as God’s child because he knew that all people could be the same. He wasn’t there to stand between people and God, but rather to deny that anything or anybody should stand between God and people. God was making his goodness available to people, so what need was there for any intermediary? That’s the way he lived.
Me: And died. And rose again. And sends the spirit that enables people to be children of God. He cannot be separated from his teaching, nor can he be separated from the God he called father.
X: But it’s only the spirit he sent if it leads you into truths he never spoke; and he’s only the Son if he introduces you to the father….
Me: So he is a sort of intermediary….
X: But once he introduces you there’s no more need for him to hold your hand, or for you to clutch his. You have to get on with it, in the democracy of revelation, knowing that your neighbour, or even yourself, may be able to do greater things than Jesus, as I think he said….
Me: These are provocative thoughts, I’ll need to think about them. Perhaps we can talk again, Mr. eh Mr….?