John Dear cites Jeff Dietrich of the LA Catholic Worker whose new book, Broken and Shared, is a must read:
I believe the Gospels are the best story [myth] we have. They are the singular counter-narrative to our consumerist, war-mongering, media-saturated, technologized, dehumanized, death-oriented culture. The story of the gospels — the triumph of goodness and mercy over the powers of death and domination — cannot be proven; and we cannot accept the story on faith alone; but we love the story so much that we want it to be true. To will the story into existence by our own living testimony to its veracity, thus giving witness to our deepest hopes for humanity — that is what attracted me as a young person to the Catholic Worker.
It is simply a love of the story and the existential recognition that the ‘making of the story real’ is the best and perhaps only hope of humanity. What we do here at the Catholic Worker is so small and insignificant, this practice of the insubstantial, this act of living poverty, this hope against hope. But it is absolutely essential to the salvation of the world that we give witness to an alternative reality — that we say with our whole lives and our whole beings that there is another way to live, a more human and compassionate and meaningful way to live. I hope that I have lived my life conformed to this gospel ethic, shaped by this movement that continues to call young people to respond to a suffering world, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. (http://ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/what-we-can-learn-catholic-worker-life)
Living the Gospel is living myth, our story, as if it is true—there is an alternative to consumerist, technologized society. We can be more than what we are. We can live authentic lives here and now. Writing in the The Catholic Agitator, Alesia Stuchlik describes myth:
How are we to make sense of the world today? Look to the stories of myth. They are the road map that can teach us how to live in this world and maintain our humanity. Joseph Campbell spent over 40 years in the study of myths across cultures. He says in the Power of Myth series with Bill Moyers, “Humanity comes not from the machine, but from the heart.” Originally spoken in reference to the mythology of Star Wars, it still has relevance today. Campbell continues, “It shows the state as a machine and asks, ‘Is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity?’” Myths are not fairy tales, bedtime stories or folk tales. They are stories that touch on the human search through the ages for truth and comprehending the experience of life. In short, myths teach us to be human, for myths teach us about our spiritual potential and point us towards an understanding of being alive. However, myths today have slowly been pushed aside by information and a busy lifestyle. Without myths, there is no common ground on which to relate to each other, the earth, and ourselves.
We Christians live by myth; however, we are prone to turn the myths we live by into factual descriptions of reality which then believe to be true. The meta-myth that I think runs like Ariadne’s thread through the Bible is that we are always capable of being more than we are; we are capable of doing better than we are doing.
Look at Jeremiah who is being plotted against for uttering the prophetic word just like Jeff Dietrich and the LA Catholic Workers are being plotted against by being labeled domestic terrorists whom the government crushes by withdrawing have the basic constitutional right to habeas corpus:
Heed me, O LORD,
and listen to what my adversaries say.
Must good be repaid with evil
that they should dig a pit to take my life?
Remember that I stood before you
to speak in their behalf,
to turn away your wrath from them. (Jer. 18)
Is Jeremiah, whose life is being threatened, not bargaining with God like Moses and many of the Old Testament figures? Moses bargained. Job bargained. Jesus bargained, “Father, if it be possible,let this cup pass from me.” Wait a minute, “You cannot bargain with God. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, al-mighty. God is everything we are not (= God is an idol); therefore, how can we as unequals bargain with God?
Myth enters here. Our myth says that people have always bargained with God. We have to unpack the myth to see how what it means for us and how it helps us “live our humanity.” The God created by philosophical description and thought had to die, die completely, on the cross so we can become more than what we are. This is not any different from the wisdom of the Eastern Church: “God became human [and died completely on the cross] so that we might become divine.”
In Matthew 20, Jesus, having challenged the vicissitudes of empire and life lived amok, prepares his disciples for the ultimate outcome as he too is being plotted against:
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day.”
If we live the Gospel myth, if we truly believe that a better life is possible, if we act as if resurrection is here and now, the powers and principalities will plot against us. Living the myth gives us a vision of the drum rolls and trumpet blasts of resurrection and the musk smell of the grace that strengthens us for living the myth like Dietrich as if it is reality. We live the Gospel myth into reality.
Jesus is teaching us that service is the key to living the myth. The state that does not serve crushes us on the altar of greed-driven consumerism (=capitalism as its worst). As Jesus walks the camino to Jerusalem, he is also preparing his followers for living the myth. It is not about power and prestige; it IS about service. It is all about foot washing.
In Mark, the disciples themselves ask for the seats of honor. Matthew makes the sons of Zebedee look better by having their mother ask for the seats of honor. Jesus gives them a koan of sorts—leadership positions in his kin-dom have something to do with drinking the bitter dregs of nonviolent suffering leadership from the chalice the Father will give them. We all need to mull over this koan. Jesus then gives them the rest of the story:
“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
P.S. Living the myth into reality is real like the story of the Velveteen Rabbit but real nonetheless.
I dedicate this blog today to Dr. Eric Dickman, Professor of Religion at Young Harris College. Dr. Dickman’s Institute on Continuing Learning course, “The Language of Re legion,” was a study in Tillich, Bultmann, and Ricoeur. A deepened understanding of religion as myth is enriching my daily living of the Gospel myth I love.