I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Christian … October 4th, 2020

Our jaws dropped.

That was the frequent reaction from those of us who loved and listened to Jonathan Richard Cring. He said things we might have thought. Or said things we felt but had not put into words. Or said things that were too controversial to be said.

The funny thing was, when asked about that particular quality, he would pause, and then say, “Yeah, but when I think about the things Jesus said, I’m just a chicken-heart.”

This passage, taken from his 2007 book, Jesonian, illustrates the point. Both points, in fact.


Sometimes a word just gets worn out.

It has been squeezed into so many diverse jobs that it ceases to have any practical definition or application.

Such a word is “Christian.” I am a firm believer in the life, times and all the philosophies and claims of Jesus. But I have just come to the conclusion that Jesus would make a lousy Christian.

He was uncomfortable with ritual.

He hated judgmentalism.

Hypocrisy made him so mad that he became violent and whipped people.

He found it impossible to be dogmatic, saying, “Those that are not against us are for us.”

Let us think rationally. Christianity has committed too many atrocities and applauded too many fools to be taken seriously as either a word or a movement. Maybe when they first used the word in Antioch so many centuries ago, it was clever and pointed. Now, it is miserable and ambiguous.

Jesus dealt with an identical dilemma during his ministry—so many cults of Judaism existed that the only way he could separate himself from the platitudes of the day was to talk about the Kingdom of God. It was not only thematic; it became the headline banner for his ministry.

His philosophy was, “Call me a Nazarene. Call me a Galilean. Call me a healer. Call me a Kingdom teacher. Call me a wine-bibber, a glutton, a friend of sinners. Anything but a Jew.” And as atrocious as the word “Christian” has become, the phrase, “Judeo-Christian” incorporates an even greater, more insulting insipidity.

There is nothing wrong with being a Jew—unless you are supposed to be a Christian. And there is nothing wrong with being a Christian, except it has lost all its external meaning.

I can no longer look at the actions—or perhaps I should say inactions—of a stumbling religious system that parades itself as Christian and jump on the bandwagon. The term will never be pure again.

Facts are, we have abandoned many words in our society:

Prohibition

Nigger

Bull Moose

League of Nations

Segregation

Manifest Destiny

Indian

Slave

Midget

And “little woman”

Others that are soon to be abandoned in this humble author’s opinion:

The weaker sex

Time-out for kids

African-American

Asian-American

Or anything before American

Redneck

Pro-life and pro-choice

And “ideal body weight”

Jesus said, “By your words you are justified and by your words you are condemned.”

I do not feel justified anymore when I call myself a Christian. I feel condemned, cast into a pit with all the hackneyed representations of religious fervor or denominational deaths that wreak from the pit of meaninglessness.

There is a higher calling. I want to be spiritual enough to be a practical man. Do I need a name for that? I don’t know, but it sure isn’t “Christian”—and it is not Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic or any one of 350 other names. I do not want to become a demagogue on this issue—but the word just must go.

I knew Jesus before he was a Christian. What am I supposed to do with that information? Just look at the evolution the name of Jesus underwent in the history of Christian theology:

First, he was Jesus of Nazareth. Then the Son of Man. Then he was Jesus Christ. Then he was Jesus Christ Our Lord. A few more years pass and they add Savior to his title. Then, after Savior came King of Kings, followed by the Lamb of God, culminating in The Coming King.

Now, I may believe all those things about him, but they are not his name. His name is Jesus. He liked being Jesus, and throughout all my travels, I do believe that his name is still marketable. But the word “Christian” can evoke anything from apathy to rage.

Jesus doesn’t want to be a Christian. Dogmatic? I don’t know. But since he is not here right now, I thought someone should speak up for him.

Jesus does not want to hate homosexuals even if the majority of presumably moral people feel that way.

Jesus would not condone blacks and whites worshipping separately just because “they do it different.”

Jesus did not believe that women were supposed to be subject unto men.

Jesus did not believe in Children’s Church—he was constantly surrounded by the little tots at all times.

Jesus did not begin a praise and worship team—the egos would have destroyed his ministry.

Jesus did not preach against anything except the hypocrites who preached against everything.

Jesus would not steal money from widows to support his television ministry.

Jesus would not start a university to foster parochial thinking and provincial scruples.

Jesus would not advertise his upcoming crusade in the newspaper—where he would be walking on water.

Jesus did not bore his audience to tears with little anecdotes and meaningless homilies, leading to no change in people’s lives.

Jesus would not own a stained glass anything.

Jesus would not allow himself to be sucked up in the political fray.

Jesus would not condone a war as being “for the good of the people.”

Jesus would not allow women and children to be categorized as lesser citizens and objects for manipulation and control.

Jesus would not be comfortable just listening to organ music.

Jesus would suggest that choirs cease to sing if they must do it in a drone.

Jesus would not tolerate prejudice in the guise of racial pride.

Jesus would not be able to stomach theological discussion that did not lead to the relief of human conflict.

Jesus would refuse all titles extoling his goodness, just like he did with the young ruler.

Jesus would deflect all praise and bring focus on the faith of the people.

Jesus would chop up all the pulpits and make firewood to warm the homeless.

Jesus would ask us to give more of ourselves and our hearts, and less of our money and bonds.

Jesus…would refuse to be a Christian.

3 Things … June 4th, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4430)

That Tell You Something Good is About to Happen

1. People are working

 

2. Children are singing

 

3. Everybody can laugh at themselves

 

Sit Down Comedy … May 29th, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

Responsibility.

The ability to be responsible.

Sounds just a trifle old-fashioned. For after all, in this modern era, how can we determine the true height and depth of our ability? And likewise, what are we responsible for, given that our power is limited by the circumstances of the world around us?

Yet many years ago, when Darren and Karen (with rhyming names), after twelve years of marriage, suddenly found themselves on the verge of a divorce because Darren was spotted at a motel twenty miles away, with the high school choral teacher…

Well, literally the whole affair set our village ablaze with controversy, disagreement, judgments and opinions.

Karen was greatly wounded by the sexual misconduct of her assumed loving husband, but was also warned by the local minister that divorce was a “horrible sin in the eyes of God,” and that their two children could be damaged beyond repair if there wasn’t some way to bring about reclamation to their relationship.

Darren was embarrassed—almost appeared to be sorry, until three weeks after the temporary patch-up of their marriage, he was again spotted, at a different motel, with the choir lady–just humming along.

Darren and Karen decided their responsibility was to stay married.

Their further responsibility was to pretend it was working out really well.

No one would put up with such restrictions nowadays.

We’ve come up with the notion that our only responsibility is to be happy, and then, because we can’t seem to be, we permit ourselves many experiments to attempt to uncover our pleasure.

Meanwhile, responsibility has been carted away to the garage and set next to other words, which also seem to have no current relevance. Like “sinner”—that being one who gets too near sin.

Time pushes on.

Or does it march?

Perhaps slip on its greasy surroundings?

Or does time do a Rip van Winkle and just go to sleep, and wake up later, when the problem that existed is no longer considered problematic?

For we used to have a responsibility to tell the truth.

Now we have a responsibility to offer a convincing lie.

We had a responsibility to love our fellow-man. Now, all we have to do is “treat our families really good.”

We had a responsibility to feel guilty about the bigotry that existed in our country. Now we accept a cultural divide, which keeps us from thoroughly understanding one another.

We had a responsibility to be honest in our business practices.

Now we favor the old saying, “Let the buyer beware.”

Perhaps that’s what we should do at this season in our nation—have a deep-rooted discussion about our responsibility.

For certainly, threatening such a maneuver is a great way to terminate interest in this essay.

Not Long Tales … January 28th, 2020

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25.

Did I Keep You Waiting?

by Jonathan Richard Cring

It’s not really the tears. Privacy can be found for them.

It’s more the sense of vacancy—the emptiness, like a deep, dark cave, where the growl of agony echoes against the walls.

Eleanor counted the days. Forty-three. It had been forty-three days since the death of her soul, Jack.

Although she tried to remember, all that came to her was a wave of hopelessness which drenched her, leaving behind nothing but angry frustration.

She could barely remember the circumstances. An accident. A sleepy truck driver.

Instantly dead.

That’s what they told her. It was supposed to comfort her—that at least, her Jack did not suffer. No, all the suffering was left for her.

Somehow or another, she’d expected more empathy. It had been little more than a month and people were already moving on—perhaps wondering when she would be able to “compartmentalize” her grief.

To push on.

Somehow, she survived the funeral. But continuing life after Jack was not something she had planned for nor could any preparation have left her understanding the sense of incompletion that swept over her entire being.

She spent her days staring at his last razor, rubbing her hands across the top of his deodorant, using his washcloth and never rinsing it out, peering at the six-pack of beer in the corner of the kitchen he hadn’t finished.

And mostly—yes, mostly—indulging herself in smelling everything he had touched and everything that had been his.

Everybody had called them “Jack and Eleanor—the perfect couple.”

But if a coupling is perfect, what does it become minus one of its links? Especially if that joining has been ripped away, leaving the devastation on the other.

There was no relief for her grief. She didn’t want any. Not only was she unwilling to move on but found the whole idea blasphemous to a divine union which had been squelched by the demon of chance.

At first, Eleanor feared sleep. For it was peppered with flashes of Jack—some distorted and many violent. But gradually, the dreams tempered. They became an aching journey through images—almost like a photo album.

They were visions of firsts: first meeting, first kiss, first lovemaking, first child.

Ah, yes. The children. There were two—much too young to be talking about their dad in the past tense. Eleanor needed to tend to them, like a shepherd to sheep, but she was frighteningly put off by their presence. They were the evidence of Jack and Eleanor’s love—and now that their love was gone, only the needy evidence remained.

She was ashamed. She wanted to criticize the kids for not caring enough about their father—simply because they no longer broke down at the sound of his name or the sight of his picture.

Then, in her dream life the photo album of memories changed. She was given sights she couldn’t remember. She recognized herself—the children, old friends, and even Jack—but she held no recollection of the event or the scene or the time.

And then, on Tuesday night, October 25th, she met a visitor. Yes, a new image appeared in her dreams—a man. Part American Indian, athletic, eyes like her mother’s and a tender voice, deep and basal, like warm maple syrup.

She had never been visited in a dream before. But the apparition spoke to her. “What if you’re wrong?” he asked.

It was a simple question. She was surprised that her dream self was offended, and immediately spat back, “I’m not wrong.”

“My name is Saralis,” he said, pointing to himself.

Eleanor didn’t care. It was a dream. She wasn’t really interested in carrying on a conversation with something that was not going to last. She had already committed to eternally being in love with Jack, only to have it snatched away after fifteen short years.

But Saralis continued. “Why are you so upset?”

“He is gone!” Eleanor screamed, feeling it completely unnecessary to explain who the “he” was. He was the only he she was interested in or would ever consider.

Saralis smiled. “Jack is not gone,” he said. “You are gone.”

Eleanor became immediately angry. Maybe it was the tone of voice, or the flippancy of the comment. It was rude. Meaningless statements uttered in dreams were not going to fill the hole in her soul.

Saralis, seeing her rage, continued, “If you can be calm, I will explain to you that Jack is alive and waiting.”

Eleanor laughed. She now understood. All her religious training, heavenly schooling and church foolishness was trying to take over and replace her vacuum.

Her laughter quickly turned to scorn. “I am not going to wait for heaven!” she snarled at Saralis. “I am not going to believe in something that isn’t nearly as promising as what I possessed with Jack.”

Saralis interrupted. “Nor would I ask you to. I would merely suggest that your ignorance keeps you from the truth that would free you of your obsession.”

“Jack is not my obsession,” Eleanor said. “He is my love. He and I shared a breath. We shared a purpose. We conformed to each other’s needs. We became gloriously ecstatic when we were able to meet them.”

Saralis walked across the dreamscape and sat down on what appeared to be a glowing pile of logs, prepared for him and his perch. “My dear,” he said, “you just don’t know where you are, so how could you be expected to know where to go? You are in the middle of a mortalation. And before you ask me what that is, let me tell you. A mortalation is when our dreams mercifully evolve into our reality, as God, in his grace and wisdom, grants us the blessing without us having to consciously struggle with the transformation.”

Eleanor was unimpressed. Saralis asked, “Did you understand anything I said?”

“Not a word,” snapped Eleanor, “because there was no sense in it. It’s the jumbled language people use to pretend they’re spiritual when they really have nothing to say.”

Saralis chuckled. “Yes,” he retorted. “It would be impossible to comprehend what I’m saying. But what I would like you to do is just listen to my voice. What I’m about to speak will be very familiar to you. Remain still. Don’t allow yourself to attack or be insulted. Just listen.”

As Saralis stopped, Eleanor took a breath to speak. Then Saralis began sharing again—louder. Maybe not louder, but it filled the space surrounding her.

“The first time I met her, I did not fall in love with her. But I liked her so much that I hoped I would have the good fortune to love her someday. I didn’t think my prospects were good, for she was much more lovely than I was handsome. Much smarter than I was intelligent. And so much better than my simple good.”

Eleanor held her breath, frozen, shocked. These were the exact words Jack had spoken at the altar so many years ago when they exchanged vows. Saralis continued.

“And then, one night, or one moment—just some speckle in time—she looked at me with a gleam in her eye that communicated that I had a chance. That’s all I needed—just an opportunity to try to convince her that her time would not be wasted on us blending our lives together.”

As Eleanor listened, the basal tones of Saralis melted away. It was an amazing evolution—like bitter salt turning into the sweetest sugar. Emerging through the voice of the apparition of her dream came the familiar, gentle and less assured sound of her beloved Jack.

“So,” he went on, “when she decided to let me touch her, kiss her—to unite with her, I was so fumbling bad. I thought she would surely think better of giving me another chance. But she not only gave me another chance, she told me I did well. That I made her happy, and that she, too, wanted to do it again and again and again, with only me.”

The voice began to lose its dreamy quality, sounding more normal. More human. More present.

“So that’s why I read this to you each and every day, with the hopes that one day you will remember when I said it the first time, at the church we chose because it was so pretty on the outside.”

The voice finished. Eleanor slowly opened her eyes, and with cloudy vision, saw the form of her lover and friend, Jack. She tried to move toward him—to put her arms around him, but she was much too weak. Apparently, the dream had drained her of all power.

Jack, looking into her open eyes and realizing she was moving, squeezed her hand and she weakly squeezed his. Without saying another word, Jack ran out of the room, and quickly returned with a man in a white coat, wearing a stethoscope.

Eleanor looked around the room and realized she was in a hospital. Her face was filled with distress, so the doctor firmly laid his hand on her shoulder, holding her down.

“Don’t move,” he said, with a convincing tone. “You’re fine. But I need to check you over.”

That he did, reviewing all her vital signs while Eleanor desperately looked past him at Jack, who was darting right and then left, attempting to maintain visual contact.

Eleanor opened her mouth to speak, but no words came forth. The doctor patted her on the head, took a washcloth lying nearby and soothed her brow.

“I need you to relax and be quiet,” he instructed. “I will explain everything to you soon.”

Eleanor looked at Jack. She hadn’t really taken in his entire appearance. He was much thinner than she remembered. His clothes looked cheap, like they had been purchased at Goodwill. And though she would never tell him and hurt his feelings, he had aged.

But obedient, and too exhausted to say a thing, she lay her head back and closed her eyes. The doctor slipped out of the room, motioning for Jack to follow him.

In the hallway, the doctor looked for a private area and finally ducked into an examination room. Jack was gleeful, grabbing the doctor and pulling him in close for a bullish embrace.

The doctor held up a hand. “We’re not out of the woods,” he said.

Jack interrupted. “I know, doc—but it’s been five years. I never thought I would even see her eyes light up again, or… I don’t know. I gave up on any progress. I spent all my money. The kids and I are back living with my parents. I finally found a job that would accept that I needed to be at the hospital four hours a day. But the money’s terrible!”

The doctor broke in. “I understand all of that, Jack. What I am telling you is, she has come from someplace we don’t understand, so her grasp of the place we’re in may be twisted…”

Jack frowned. “What do you mean by twisted?”

“I don’t know,” said the doctor. “We think we’re so smart, but the human brain is so much smarter. She’s back. But her story may be much different than yours.”

“You mean she may not know she was struck by an eighteen-wheeler and suffered a severe brain injury?” Jack asked.

The doctor chuckled. “No. She won’t know any of that, more than likely. But don’t be afraid of her story. Don’t be afraid of her telling.”

He put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “The universe is so much larger than we are that her version may be the accurate one. We may be the ones having an illusion.”

Jack stared at him like he had sprouted a second head. The doctor smiled. “Don’t worry about it, Jack. It doesn’t matter who’s been waiting for who. All that matters is, somewhere in that darkness, you found each other.”

THE END

 

Drawing Attention … December 25th, 2019

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Fantasy Morning (Christmas Day)

(tap the picture to see the video)

art by Clazzy

Music:  Joy

(arr. Jonathan Richard Cring)

From the Symphony, Have Yourself a Clazzy Little Christmas


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Sit Down Comedy … October 11th, 2019

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Sit Down Comedy

I sat and listened quietly, almost mouse-like, as two fellows in their early thirties launched into a great debate, right before my ears, about whether the Joker, as presented in the latest film, would actually be as murderous as predicted.

The discussion became vehement, nearly volatile. Each one of the fine fellows was certain that he had a pinpoint understanding on the true character, if not mental profile, of the villain.

Internally I was smiling.

The truth is, they both could be right since the Joker is a fictitious character.

Yes—you can conjure almost any scenario about him you want in the pursuit of advertising your theory or feathering your nest with ticket sales.

Likewise, of late I have sat in the presence of my Republican and Democrat brothers and sisters as they have mused over whether Jesus would agree with some portion of their political piety. But you see, here’s the problem–in this second discussion between the politicians, they fail to remember that unlike the Joker, Jesus was not a mythical figure.

There is some actual historical confirmation of his life, quite a few renditions of his thinking, and even a record of his untimely demise, recorded for all time by the fastidious Roman Empire.

It is much more difficult to turn Jesus of Nazareth into a mascot rooting for your team.

The Republicans may want to make him conservative as the Democrats profile him as liberal, but the fact of the matter is:

Jesus was Jesonian.

He had a way of thinking, doing, being, believing, loving, caring and moving.

If you choose to study these motions and imitate them, then you might be able to call yourself a Christian. But if you’re going to ignore the biographical information available and the obvious choices he made as a human being, you may pretend he is a mythical being, but it will be very easy to prove his timeline.

Let’s be clear:

Jesus never claimed that he was “Almighty” or “a stable genius.”

He also did not profile himself to be the preacher for the poor—out to get the top one percent of rich folks.

He didn’t rail against abortion and demand that people sacrifice their free will.

But of course, he did favor children, and said they were “like the kingdom of heaven.”

Yet rather than going through a litany of issues that have been placed upon his shoulders as burdens to carry, let’s look at two things we do know about him, based upon his own words and actions:

1. On a fine afternoon, when approached by a rich, young ruler, who addressed him as “Good Master,” Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? There’s none good but God.”

Now, Jesus had done enough kindly deeds, and dare we say, even merciful acts of miraculous proportions, to have absorbed up the word “good” without seeming to be puffed up.

But you see, he didn’t.

He portrayed that one of the great frailties of human thinking is to believe, promote and toot your horn as you trumpet your goodness to the populace.

Once again, he refused to call himself good.

2. Talking to his disciples one morning, he said, “When you’ve done that which is expected of you, call yourself an unprofitable servant.”

This was certainly an unpopular position with folks around the world who wanted to feel persecuted, let down, set aside or ignored.

Jesus made it clear that if you’re not excelling, you’re bitching.

So when it comes to those Republicans who love to talk about how great our nation is or what mighty deeds are being achieved, how they’re “the deciders,” or even how exceptional we are as a country…

Don’t get ready for Jesus to show up at the rally.

He kept his perspective.

Human beings don’t gain any power by insisting they have it.

There’s none good but God.

And for all my Democrat buddies out there, who think the bad rich people who have made money are the reason that the poor folks are unmotivated, broken, selfish and begging, they should take another gander at what Jesus really promotes before they dress him up in his blue robe and roll him out at the Convention. For Jesus said, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you do what you’re supposed to do, that doesn’t even get you in the door.”

Set your GPS for the second mile.

Now, if you like this statement of Jesus, I would invite you to join me and a chosen few in living it out joyfully. If you don’t, then hang around.

There’ll be an elephant or a donkey along real soon to carry you to the voting booth.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

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Sitting Twenty-Four

Pada was surprised at how easy it was to acquire the address of the gentile boy’s father. He drove to the home, walked up and knocked on the door.

When it opened, a man stood there in front of him, not that different from himself, both in appearance and in countenance—not a mirror image, but still—more alike than different.

Pada spoke deliberately. “Are you the father of Amir?”

“Who are you?” the man responded.

“I am the father of Jubal.”

“And who is Jubal?” he countered.

Pada drew a deep breath. “He is the boy with your son, in the desert.”

The man in the doorway vigorously shook his head. “You mean the boy who has tricked my son into disobeying his father, and who is living like an animal in the sand?”

Pada was up to the fight. “That’s strange. I thought it was your boy who deceived my son.”

The two men eyed each other.

There was no semblance of friendliness—no indication that an invitation would be extended to enter the home. This conversation certainly would be conducted standing in the doorway.

Pada continued. “I didn’t come here to argue with you, but I guess, to ask you, overall, what do you think we should do?”

The man smirked. “You want my opinion?”

Pada pursued with more vehemence. “Actually, I want an answer. Your opinion will suffice.”

The man leaned in a little closer and responded coldly, “I think until my people are given their freedom and the land they deserve, such atrocities by the children will be rampant.”

Pada sighed. “Ah. Politics. Must it always be politics? I am here to talk about our children, not the condition of our people.”

Amir’s father raised his finger and pointed at Pada’s face. “But it is about our people. It’s about thousands of years of you Jews arrogantly believing that you are the only sons granted inheritance in this land. I am a son of Abraham.”

“I am, too,” insisted Pada. “But that can’t be possible, because there’s no way that the two of us could actually be brothers.”

Amir’s father stiffened. “I do not want to be your brother. I just want my father’s inheritance.”

Pada stepped back to escape the intensity. “Why can’t we speak of our children?” he pleaded.

“What children?” the man asked.

“Your son—Amir, am I right? And my son, Jubal.”

Amir’s father shook his head. “I don’t know if you have a son named Jubal, but I have no son named Amir. You see, disgrace has no name, and dishonor cannot live in my house.”

Pada shook his head. “Nor will I allow it to live in mine,” he retorted. “Jubal is a shame to me. Yet he is my shame.”

The angry man moved as if he was going to close the door but stopped short of completing the deed. He spoke through a smaller crack. “I have no shame, for I have no disgrace, for I have no son named Amir.”

He was about to finish closing the door but stalled, inserting a thought. “Do you really expect to come to my house as a Jew and talk to me of earthly things? Family and children? If we do not agree on the heavenly, how can we ever discern the earth? You are not my enemy. You are just nothing at all.”

Having completed his speech, Amir’s father slammed the door Pada’s face. He stood for a moment, wondering whether to pound on the door until the man responded, but finally turned on his heel and made his way down the steps to his car.

For a moment, he wondered if he had a part in causing the rage in Amir’s father, or bringing about the disrespect he felt from Jubal.

Then all at once he remembered his own father’s words: “The Palestinians will serve us, just as our children are born to do so.”

Pada smiled and nodded his head. So it was, so it is and so it shall be.

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