Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tag! -- You're It!

Multiple Choice Question: How many children did G-d have?

Possible Answers:

A. One. We know because of those signs in the endzones at football games: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son."

B. At least one. Consider:
Again the LORD said to Moses, "Now that you are going back to Egypt, be sure to perform before the king all the miracles which I have given you the power to do. But I will make the king stubborn, and he will not let the people go. Then you must tell him that I, the LORD, say, 'Israel is my first-born son. I told you to let my son go, so that he might worship me, but you refused. Now I am going to kill your firstborn son." (Exodus 4:21-23)

In scenario B, "Israel" is actually God's first son, and Jesus is... problematic. My suspicion here is that Christians will tend to suggest that Israel-as-son is just a metaphor. Jesus-as-son was the real thing. Similarly, Jews will tend to count the Israel-as-son metaphor as a kind of holy metaphor that even Jesus didn't manage to "repeat."

C. Many. In John 10: 34 Jesus answers accusations of blasphemy by quoting scripture:
Jesus answered, "It is written in your own Law that God said, 'You are gods.' We know that what the scripture says is true forever; and God called those people gods, the people to whom his message was given. As for me, the Father chose me and sent me into the world. How, then, can you say that I blaspheme because I said that I am the Son of God?

This one's tricky -- Jesus is quoting Psalms 82:5-6, and he gets away with it. That text reads:
How ignorant you are! How stupid! You are completely corrupt, and justice has disappeared from the world. 'You are gods,' I said; 'all of you are children of the Most High.'

D. None. You have to exist to have children, and God doesn't.


I think the answer is either A, B, or D. I'm leaning toward B. What about the possibility that both "Israel" and "Jesus" were metaphors for something else... something like "the magnetic chain of humanity" or the Holy Spirit? Maybe they weren't the only holy metaphors.

Anyone ever see the movie Fallen, with Denzel Washington, where evil leaps from one body to another -- never changing its essence, but only changing its physical form?

No, here's a better example: Anyone ever play Tag as a child? Ever get tagged as "it?" What if Tag is a metaphor for the manifestation of this "Holy Spirit" in the world? Always the same thing, but manifested differently and received differently... although: I wonder how differently it really is received. I remember being tagged "It." It felt kind of lonely. Everyone ran away from me and didn't want to become "It." I was like a madman while I was "It." Did it feel like that for you?

Now the mind-blower: "Yes, Casey, maybe Tag is a metaphor for the indescribable Holy-Magnetic-Chain-Thing in the world... I see what you're saying. Like, Abraham was tagged as 'it' and so was Buddha and Moses and Jesus and Mohammed and maybe even Chuang-Tzu and Socrates and maybe Joan of Arc and maybe Shakespeare or Martin Luther or MLK, Jr. Fine. Very clever. But what are we going to DO about it? How will we know who is 'it?' Who can be a trustworthy reporter in this situation? Who can we be sure knows what it feels like to be 'it?' "

Well... you played the game. Why don't you tell me.

Tomorrow: "On the Problem of Authority."


Jon Sealy said...

The wisdom of Gross Pointe Blank, where John Cusack struggles to order an omelet while Dan Ackroid has a gun pointed at him under the table: "I'm not interested in the semantics. I just want the protein."

Casey said...


brizbrizuri said...

B....Israel wasn't begat (or did I miss that one in the lists), so there is no problem with Jesus being his only begotten son.

Casey said...

Brizbrizuri... That's certainly one good interpretation. No quarrel from me. So you'd pick "A" as the correct answer, right?

If one did choose B, however, I think that could also be justified: to be a son means to have been begotten of a father -- at least by one interpretation. So Israel, too, must've been begotten. The word (son) implies the process (begetting).

Though, to be clear: "A" is clearly a reasonable interpretation -- most Christians would probably go with that one, right?