I have offered a few posts on Peter Rollins and his two books, How (Not) to Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal. Over the past couple of months I have offered a few videos of him reading a few of the parables to be found in his new work. His next book is due out this month. A glitch in the dust cover has delayed the release. However, I received an email noting the impending release of the new book, The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales.
The teaser from the email –
In Pete’s own words, this collection of original parables, “represents my own attempt to explore and testify to the impossible Event housed in faith. In that sense they are deeply personal and relative to my own life.”
These parables ask questions that often seem impossible to answer. But the questions themselves are worth living in and exploring, and offer a faith that is alive, fluid, and authentic.
Who knows, I might even give away a copy when it comes out. How is that for my own teaser?
Read on for a couple of the parables …
Christianity is illegal – is there enough evidence to convict you?
In a world where following Christ is decreed to be a subversive and illegal activity you have been accused of being a believer, arrested, and dragged before a court.
You have been under clandestine surveillance for some time now, and so the prosecution has been able to build up quite a case against you. They begin the trial by offering the judge dozens of photographs that show you attending church meetings, speaking at religious events, and participating in various prayer and worship services. After this, they present a selection of items that have been confiscated from your home: religious books that you own, worship CDs, and other Christian artifacts. Then they step up the pace by displaying your many poems, pieces of prose, and journal entries that you had lovingly written concerning your faith. Finally, in closing, the prosecution offers your Bible to the judge. This is a well-worn book with scribbles, notes, drawings, and underlings throughout, evidence, if it were needed, that you had read and re-read this sacred text many times.
Throughout the case you have been sitting silently in fear and trembling. You know deep in your heart that with the large body of evidence that has been amassed by the prosecution you face the possibility of long imprisonment or even execution. At various times throughout the proceedings you have lost all confidence and been on the verge of standing up and denying Christ. But while this thought has plagued your mind throughout the trial, you resist the temptation and remain focused.
Once the prosecution is finished presenting their case the judge proceeds to ask if you have anything to add, but you remain silent, resolute, terrified that if you open your mouth, even for a moment, you might deny the charges made against you. Like Christ, you remain silent before your accusers. In response you are led outside to wait as the judge ponders your case.
The hours pass slowly as you sit under guard in the foyer waiting to be summoned back. Eventually a young man in uniform appears and leads you into the courtroom so that you may hear the verdict and receive word of your punishment. Once you have been seated in the dock the judge, a harsh and unyielding man, enters the room, stands before you, looks deep into your eyes and begins to speak,
â??Of the charges that have been brought forward I find the accused not guilty.â?
â??Not guilty?â? your heart freezes. Then, in a split second, the fear and terror that had moments before threatened to strip your resolve are swallowed up by confusion and rage.
Despite the surroundings, you stand defiantly before the judge and demand that he give an account concerning why you are innocent of the charges in light of the evidence.
â??What evidence?â? he replies in shock.
â??What about the poems and prose that I wrote?â? you reply.
â??They simply show that you think of yourself as a poet, nothing more.â?
â??But what about the services I spoke at, the times I wept in church and the long, sleepless nights of prayer?â?
â??Evidence that you are a good speaker and actor, nothing more.â? Replied the judge, â??It is obvious that you deluded those around you, and perhaps at times you even deluded yourself, but this foolishness is not enough to convict you in a court of law.â?
â??But this is madness!â? you shout. â??It would seem that no evidence would convince you!â?
â??Not so,â? replies the judge as if informing you of a great, long-forgotten secret.
â??The court is indifferent towards your Bible reading and church attendance; it has no concern for worship with words and a pen. Continue to develop your theology, and use it to paint pictures of love. We have no interest in such armchair artists who spend their time creating images of a better world. We exist only for those who would lay down their brush, and their life, in a Christlike endeavor to create a better world. So, until you challenge this system and become a thorn in our side, until you die to yourself and offer your body to the flames, until then, my friend, you are no enemy of ours.â?
The Last Supper
It is evening, and you are gathered together with the other disciples in a small room for Passover. All the time you are watching Jesus, while he sits quietly in the shadows listening to the idle chatter, watching over those who sit around him, and, from time to time, telling stories about the kingdom of God.
As night descends, a meal of bread and wine is brought into the room. It is only at this moment that Jesus sits forward so that the shadows no longer cover his face. He quietly brings the conversation to an end by capturing each one with his intense gaze. Then he begins to speak:
â??My friends, take this bread, for it is my very body, broken for you.â?
Every eye is fixed on the bread that is laid on the table. While these words seem obscure and unintelligible, everyone picks up on their gravity.
Then Jesus carefully pours wine into the cup of each disciple until it overflows onto the table.
â??Take this wine and drink of it, for it is my very blood, shed for you.â?
With these words an ominous shadow seems to descend upon the room â?? a chilling darkness that makes everyone shudder uneasily. Jesus continues:
â??As you do this, remember me.â?
Most of the gathered disciples begin to slowly eat the bread and drink the wine, lost in their thoughts. You, however, cannot bring yourself to lift your hand at all, for his words have cut into your soul like a knife.
Jesus does not fail to notice your hesitation and approaches, lifting up your head with his hand so that your eyes are level with his. Your eyes meet for only a moment, but before you are able to turn away, you are caught up in a terrifying revelation. At that instant you experience the loneliness, the pain, and sorrow that Jesus is carrying. You see nails being driven through skin and bone; you hear the crowds jeering and the cries of pain as iron cuts against flesh. At that moment you see the sweat that flows from Jesus like blood, and experience the suffocation, madness, and pain that will soon envelop him. More than all of this, however, you feel a trace of the separation he will soon feel in his own being.
In that little room, which occupies no significant space in the universe, you have caught a glimpse of a divine vision that should never have been disclosed. Yet it is indelibly etched into the eyes of Christ for anyone brave enough to look.
You turn to leave â?? to run from that place. You long for death to wrap around you. But Jesus grips you with his gaze and smiles compassionately. Then he holds you tight in his arms like no one has held you before. He understands that the weight you now carry is so great that it would have been better had you never been born. After a few moments, he releases his embrace and lifts the wine that sits before you, whispering,
â??Take this wine, my dear friend, and drink it up, for it is my very blood, and it is shed for you.â?
All this makes you feel painfully uncomfortable, and so you shift in your chair and fumble in your pocket, all the time distracted by the silver that weights heavy in your pouch.
Commentary from Peter Rollins:
This reflection was on outworking of my first interaction with the enigmatic figure of Judas. Here I wanted to play with our tendency to identify with the favorable characters in the Bible. For instance, when reading about the self-righteous Pharisee and the humble tax collector, we find it all too easy to condemn the first and praise the second without asking whether our own actions are closer to the one we have rejected than the one we praise.
Judas is here a symbol of all our failures, and Christâ??s action to demonstrate his unconditional acceptance. Judas helps to remind us of Christâ??s message that he came for the sick rather than the healthy, and that he loves and accepts us as we are.