Saturday, December 24, 2011

* Away in a castle, no hay for his bed . . .

The Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California

The Baldacchino, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

Westminster Abbey, London


In having the King of Kings born in a stable, enter Jerusalem on a white ass, and be nailed to a cross wearing a crown of thorns, the  myth-makers of the Manger-Religion of the first century were consciously satirizing the very materialism and worldly glory which christian monarchists  have themselves  come to embody over two millenia, whether they preside under European Baldacchinos or Abbeys or American Crystal Cathedrals.

It is ironic that as the Manger-Religion has poisoned itself with the trappings of the very aristocratic power structures it sought to satirize and critique, the world has in the last hundred years divested itself of over 100 monarchies, leaving two or three as vestigial reminders of an Age gone by. That is not to say that secular tyrants have not rushed in to fill the void which the dwindling forces of  the Divine Right of Kings and primogeniture once occupied. From Mugabe to the fallen idols of the Arab Spring, Khadafy and Mubarak, such tyrants have managed to swindle the masses not with royal blood, but with royal rhetoric---and royal bullets.

Had the Manger-Religion remained it bucolic model and not become the grotesquely golden Holy Roman Empire and Anglican British Empire proselytizing behind the missionary mask as it slaughtered those who refused to submit to their powers, perhaps it would not have generated the egalitarian tide which has gradually risen to engulf the monarchies of the world.

Yes, the Manger-Religion, and its grotesque medieval outgrowths, have created a tension between the egalitarian revolution begun in Bethlehem and the monarchical monstrosities in Rome  and Britain which sought to smother that revolution.  From that tension a new “Purified”  religious- freedom revolution in America has devolved into another monstrosity, the monarchy of materialism itself.

And now, in the third millenia of 2012, we watch with caution as this egalitarian impulse, once symbolized in   the mythology of a  barnyard prince born  in  Bethlehem 2000 years ago and thrice perverted in Rome, Britain and America, works its way through an Arab Spring, in yet another religion which too may lose its egalitarian way to monarchical fantasies.

Paul D. M. Keane
M. Div. '80, Yale Divinity School

Christmas, 2011

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