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February 18, 2007

Quote of the Day

By Ezra

I have no real comment on these two paragraphs, which are part of Salon's excerpts from Take This Bread, but they're really striking:

I was feeling my way toward a theology, beginning with what I had taken in my mouth and working out from there. I couldn't start by conceptualizing God as an abstract "Trinity" or trying to "prove" a divine existence philosophically. It was the materiality of Christianity that fascinated me, the compelling story of incarnation in its grungiest details, the promise that words and flesh were deeply, deeply connected. I reflected, for example, about [my daughter] Katie, and about what it was like to be both a mother and a mother's child. The entire process of human reproduction was, if I considered it for a minute, about as "intolerable" as the apostles said communion was. It sounded just as weird as the claim that God was in a piece of bread you could eat. And yet it was true.

I grew inside my mother, the way Katie grew inside me. I came out of her and ate her, just as Katie ate my body, literally, to live. I became my mother in ways that still felt, sometimes, as elemental and violent as the moment when I'd been pushed out from between her legs in a great rush of blood. And it was the same with my father: He had helped make me, in ways that were wildly mysterious and absolutely powerful. Like Jesus, he had gone inside somebody else's body and then become a part of me. The shape of my hands, the way I cleared my throat, the color of my eyes: My parents lived in me -- body and soul, DNA and spirit. That was like the bread becoming God becoming me, in ways seen and unseen.

February 18, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

there is a connectivity between everything.
i collect pieces of chondritic meteorites. they are the oldest objects on the earth, as far as i know...
the chondrules in them actually contain materiel that pre-date our sun and solar system, actually contain "parts" of an earlier nebulae.
some are dated at six billion years.
and when i look at them, i remember that we also contain the parts of an earlier nebulae as well.
....i also collect stromatolites...the earliest rocks on earth. they are 2.6 billion years old; comprised of blue-green algae that created the oxygen we breathe today.
amazingly, they are still "alive" and secrete lime, after billions of years.
i have tiger iron formations that are two and a half billion years old, and they still carry a magnetic charge....
the rocks are completely sentient. one only needs to live with them, to feel their presence...
and the same for those we love, near or far...
forever connected.
flowers, owls, fruits, leaves,meteorites, human beings,quartz, trees.......
it is a divine and ecstatic journey.
we are all encapsulated stardust.
One Breathing Soul

Posted by: jacqueline | Feb 18, 2007 10:19:45 PM

The idea that you can eat God always struck me as a really cool aspect of Catholic theology.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 18, 2007 10:29:49 PM

Woooohoooo. I'd say that the writer is in serious need of some psychiatric help - not for thinking about the connectedness of life but for the metaphors in which these thoughts are expressed.

As for eating (and drinking) GOD, (or DOG, thought to be the real god), that really is wacko. If that 'faith' were applied to a description of some aboriginal folk's belief, surely it would be described as 'very unusual' (to use a politically correct expression).

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Feb 18, 2007 10:41:26 PM

I always wished the Catholic church would switch to small scoops Neapolitan ice-cream, each delicious flavor representing part of the Holy Trilogy.

Posted by: alexb | Feb 18, 2007 10:42:15 PM

when we eat a vegetable, we eat the iron, manganese,phosphorus....the minerals that keep us alive are all part of the dust of stars that keep reshaping themselves.
everchanging forms of living things...
...with each bite of food and breath of oxygen, we inhale the whole Soul of the universe.
we are all stardust. truly!!
to me, it is beyond the grasp of intelligent design, art, magic, religion or science.
life is an unimaginable miracle!

Posted by: jacqueline | Feb 18, 2007 10:43:32 PM

I meant Trinity, of course. Or maybe Trilogy, referring to episodes 4 through 6 of Star Wars. Take your pick.

Posted by: alexb | Feb 18, 2007 10:46:17 PM

So she converted to Christianity or listened to The Wall a shitload of times?

Posted by: norbizness | Feb 18, 2007 10:52:14 PM

If you receive communion each week, it's hard to keep in mind what a very primal and mysterious act it's supposed to be. Thinking it through materialistically, from the ground up, as it were, is an interesting way to break through that.

the Holy Trilogy

Possibly Lord of the Rings? I know people who have had serious spiritual experiences with that one. Of course, some people have spiritual experiences with ice cream too.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 18, 2007 10:58:03 PM

jim....
i agree with you...
although one probably can find cannibalistic myths of gaining power and spirit through "eating" body parts,
the way the author chose her metaphors, reminded me of anthony hopkins, discussing his preference for fava beans and a good chianti, in "silence of the lambs"....!!!
...i didnt think that her choice of metaphors quite expressed the sense of the mystical and sacred that she was trying to convey in her description of creation, birth and spiritual rebirth...

Posted by: jacqueline | Feb 18, 2007 11:12:12 PM

There is a strong stream of Christianity that has always found the mystical to be located in the mundane. The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is the ultimate example of the sacred and profane sharing the same space, the same essence.

Christians worship a guy who probably got diarrhea, had unfortunate erections like every other teenage boy and who was perfectly capable of stumbling and scraping his knee. If he didn't bathe, he started to smell. His hair was just as prone to greasiness as any of us, and I don't really want to contemplate the state of his breath. His teeth were probably crooked, and maybe he squinted.

I'm a transubstantiationist when it comes to the bread and wine of the Eucharist: I believe that they literally become the body and blood of Jesus (further thoughts on this within the larger context of symbology can be found at my blog here).
I know it's weird, but this belief and the other weird ones I mentioned about the physical person of Jesus help me to not become another Christian asshole.

Posted by: Stephen | Feb 19, 2007 12:13:11 AM

One of my favorite aspects of taking communion, is the sense of continuity/syncronicity it brings. Like Stephen, I see it as literaly, ingesting a physical representation/manifestation of my God.

I have always found the notion of cannabalism interesting. The notion that by eating the flesh of the dead, one takes on attributes of the deceased. Many cannibalistic cultures, ate the flesh of their loved ones, not just slain enemies. Indeed, it was considered a sacrement, an honor, to be invited to partake.

It is also interesting how this notion, trickles through the eons, all the way to the present. Consider, cannibalism has been around, since proto-humans. Yet it also play an important role, even a sacred one, in much of modern society.

To me, the Eucharist is nearly transcendental. The ontinuity of life, feeding on life. Bringing a physical manifestation of my God, into my own body. It is nearly as dizzying, as the heart of worship and praise. As the worship leader for my church, I get the joy of standing before many people, giving everything they have to praise our God. Communion is not better, or worse, just different. It is a way of acknowledging that my God is in me, a part of me - as I am a part of my God. It is also very introspective by nature.

I understand that this seems strange to most people. But I consider it most of all, to be an act of sacred worship and respect. Just as many cultures before us, felt about eating their deceased family members.

Posted by: DuWayne | Feb 19, 2007 2:28:45 AM

Non-transubstantiationist take crackers (not even the good Matzo ones) and grape juice at communion. To my knowledge there was no Welch's at the Last Supper.

Posted by: host | Feb 19, 2007 3:53:37 AM

Religion, and particularly Christianity in it's various forms, has always the "ridicule du jour" with the libs and for one reason; it is one of the most powerful roadblocks to their agenda.

So, let's be fair and ridicule the Mulsims. C'mon, doesn't Shar'ia law seem funny when you have honor killings for being raped? Yeah, tha's a knee-slapper. And stoning to death for adultery without a trial?
Oh, and how 'bout the buddhists who believe they are reincarnated over and over! Can anyone say "Groundhog Day"?
No, it's the Christians, and it's a spiteful hate. Not because most give a shit about them, but because you can't get your way.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 19, 2007 7:58:05 AM

Fred - Huh?

Posted by: LowLife | Feb 19, 2007 8:02:57 AM

the Holy Trilogy

Possibly Lord of the Rings?

Ahem, no:
'Look, there's only one return, okay, and it ain't "of the King," it's of the Jedi.'

I suppose I should have something profound to say about what Ezra quoted above, but I don't, other than to point out that the writer someone who obviously has put a lot of thought into the issue of the Incarnation. There is one thing that the Muslims and the Christians agreed on, and it's the assertion frquently made by Muslims that the idea of an infinite God becoming human does not make any sense whatsoever. The Christian response is not only to agree with that statement, but then to add, "and that's what so amazing about the fact it happened."

Posted by: Constantine | Feb 19, 2007 8:10:56 AM

stephen and duwayne...

the concept of taking the bread and the wine as part of your rite and ceremony, i have always thought were symbolically, very beautiful..knowing that i dont understand and experience it in the same way that you do....i honor it, and find it a deeply moving concept.
the metaphor that i found strange in the original writing was not the taking of bread or wine. it was the metaphor of being "eaten" by her unborn child.
i feel that in all things of flesh and spirit, there is an indivisible quality. each time we take something into our bodies, whether it is air or food or liquid, it is a holy act...we experience a renewal and rebirth with every breath and piece of food.
to my way of perceiving, food is not just "given" by G-d, in the interconnectivity of all things, G-d "is" the food... just as the air we take in.
my comment was an entirely subjective one.
....when she referred to her unborn baby as "eating" her to stay alive, for me it seemed a ghoulish metaphor to use... almost with a parasitic connotation..not at all the way i experienced the miracle of a growing a human being.
to me, "eating" away at something, feels to me, that they are diminishing you...it sounds necrotizing.. to me, the thought of being "eaten" away, implies a depletion....and that would not be a way that i would ever describe pregnancy.
to my way of thinking, the term, being "pregnant" with new life implies anything but depletion and an eating away of something.
being "pregnant", to me, was a fulness, an expansion...muscles thicken, skin expands,the body takes on larger form...i felt it was an expansion, not a diminishing.
and though the fetus, is growing "through" the flesh and spirit of the mother and all that has come before it, i found the process far more miraculous and holy, than to think my child was eating me alive...(all the while, knowing all of the mundane and earthly things that were happening to me in my pregnancy!)
...i agree, stephen, the flesh and the spirit, the sacred and the mundane are indivisibly connected in all patterns of life.
...it is not a phrase i think of in supporting and growing life.
to me, the word "pregnant" with life, is almost the exact opposite of being "eaten" up by something.
...and duwayne, i agree...in mythologies and symbology of cannibalistic cultures and also in other ceremonial rites for the killing of animals and for animal parts that are prayed over and eaten, there is the concept of transmission of those great qualities of strength, courage . etc. that is a part of the gift of the animal that is received through transmission.

Posted by: jacqueline | Feb 19, 2007 8:59:47 AM

I'm sure that there is a group of people who have a similar ecstasy about the "metaphors" of the Mac OSX user interface - it's all very mysterious and kind of hip, especially if you wear a black t-shirt and a good hat. The notion of a child eating her mother is a bit bizarre and maybe even a bit masochistic. You could just as easily view the mother as simply being a conduit for converting nutrition provided from other source, i.e., mom's the baker, not the bread. Well, folks do believe a lot of different things . . .

Posted by: georgia pig | Feb 19, 2007 9:21:13 AM

Fred J., as an atheist I don't mind Christians adopting the metaphors of their choice when it comes to the wonder of human reproduction. It's when they want to force those metaphors on others (aka "pro-life") that it clashes with the choices I and others want to make for ourselves on such matters.

Posted by: David W. | Feb 19, 2007 9:32:13 AM

It's when they want to force those metaphors on others (aka "pro-life") that it clashes with the choices I and others want to make for ourselves on such matters.

Really? Most all of our laws come from Judeo-Christian texts. You don't seem to mind the ones about killing, stealing, etc. Your argument is false. It's that they are "getting in your way" as you try to keep abortion legal and mainstream sexual perversion. Other than that, you wouldn't give a shit as you don't with other religions.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 19, 2007 9:48:34 AM

Are laws against killing, stealing, etc in Thailand based on Judeo-Christian texts? Or do Judeo-Christian texts contain laws against killing, stealing, etc because they are common, necessary laws for any society?

Posted by: Julian Elson | Feb 19, 2007 10:53:54 AM

There's really very little, if anything, unique in the christian religion. The ritual cannabalism of the eucharist is found many places in ancient and more modern religions. The scapegoating of one figure to "save" the masses is another aspect repeated over and over again. The names changes but the acts, rituals and principles are the same.

That someone finds something so mystical in christianity is, well, what it's designed for.

Somehow I think norbizness tagged the best.

Why religionists love to cloak the real world processes that are awe inspiring and wondrous is beyond me. The cycle of life itself is amazing. I don't need to surround it with floating beings and apocryphal writings to make it more intense.

Maybe that's just me.

Posted by: ice weasel | Feb 19, 2007 1:00:45 PM

Fred,

You true and utter moron. Those of us who are opposed to the so-called Christian Right jamming their bizarre and know nothing version of Christianity down our throats -- you know Christianity that seems unfamiliar with the Gospels and devoid of anything that Christ reportedly taught -- feel quite similarly about other totalitarian religious impulses such as Wahabiism. We don't have to deal with this much, as there is not a lot of Islamic power in the U.S. Unfortunately this is not true of the primitive version of Christianity adopted by so many on the right. Most of us are pretty clear that we do not want laws imposed upon us by zealots who believe they know the truth, based upon what was written by men in archaic texts centuries ago, texts which have then been altered repeatedly in translations and edited to include or omit things based on the ideological/theological preferences of the time. We actually revere the Constitution of the Unite States and the rights of people embodied therein. We don't need no stinkin' religious texts.

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Feb 19, 2007 2:44:30 PM

Sir,

Just the simple fact that we are taking the Christians seriously means that they have the numbers. That, be definition, means that their views are not fringy, but fairly mainstream.

This is a representative democracy. Christians also have a say....and a vote. And that's really the problem you have with them.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 19, 2007 3:54:39 PM

I have no problem with anyone having his/her vote or say. But there are limitations on the rights of the many, even where they are a majority. That is the genius of the Constitution, which protects the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority. Religious extremists, whether of the Christian, Islamic, Jewish or Hindu varieties, do not accept pluralism because they believe themselves to be in possession of the revealed truth. This is a dangerous mindset and one that has cost many millions of lives over the course of milennia.

Moreover, even if millions of people believe something, e.g. the world is 6,000 years old or man and dinosaurs coexisted, does not make it true. Indulging superstition and honoring it as reality is a troubling path for a modern nation to choose.

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Feb 19, 2007 4:14:39 PM

Religious extremists, whether of the Christian, Islamic, Jewish or Hindu varieties, do not accept pluralism because they believe themselves to be in possession of the revealed truth.

And this is different than the wacked left who substitute environmentalism and humanism for religion in what way?

It seems you like democracy until you don't get your way, then it's somehow suppression. I would like to remind you that religious freedom is also protected in the contstitution.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 19, 2007 7:37:57 PM

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