Christ’s Pathetic Majesty

Having grown up with the stories, I tend to forget just how strange this Easter thing really is. I found myself thinking again this year about the incredibly perplexing central claim of Christianity. To the declarations of faith delivered by poets and prophets, I add the voices of two who decried the scandal of the cross. Their unbelief lends clarity to my belief:

“Obtuse to all Christian terminology, modern people can no longer relate to the hideous superlative found by an ancient taste in the paradoxical formula ‘god on the cross.’ Nowhere to date has there been such a bold inversion or anything quite as horrible, questioning, and questionable as this formula. It promised a revaluation of all the values of antiquity.”1

The weakness of Christ on the cross disgusted the philosopher who dreamed of an Übermensch. Who would worship a weak, bleeding, dying man on a cross?

The other voice is fictional. It comes from the pen of sometime-Latter-day Saint author Edward Tullidge who attempted to write a Miltonic epic poem telling the Mormon story from the premortal life through the end times. He evidently never completed the work, but in one striking scene he depicts Satan’s declaration of victory over Jesus. Satan reminds his minions how they caused Jesus to suffer, bleed and die—their moment of triumph. But there’s an ironic double meaning in Satan’s exultation, one that would only become clear in hindsight:

“When came the Son to break our iron bands,
And wrest the sceptre from our powerful hands,
(My haughty rival—him whose name I hate,—
With whom we battled in the first estate,)
We fired our minions, hung him on the cross;
His life and kingdom were at once his loss;
Blows were his honours, mock’ry his renown,
The rugged tree his throne, and thorns his crown:
Say, my brave princes, was not triumph here!!
Was he not mighty on his bloody bier!!”2

.

I believe he was.

 
______________________________________
Footnotes:

1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 44.

2. E.W. Tullidge, “A Chapter From the Prophet of the Nineteenth Century,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 1, vol. 20 (2 January 1858): 14-16. See here for a longer description.

Comments

  1. Beautiful (and not beautiful), Blair!

  2. The irony continues. Thank you, Blair.

  3. Very interesting take, Blair. Thanks for sharing this clarity with me. Especially fitting for Easter Saturday, when we contemplate the sense of loss.

  4. Wonderful thoughts, Blair. I also believe he was.

    I presided a few years ago at the closing of a small branch on Easter Sunday. I had to give the Easter-themed Sacrament Meeting talk and then announce the dissolution an hour later. The following post includes my talk that day:

    “It Is Finished: Death on Easter Sunday”. (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2008/03/it-is-finished-death-on-easter-sunday_9863.html)

  5. Joshua B. says:

    Interesting view…

  6. Thanks, y’all.

  7. Joshua B. says:

    Something looks seriously different. Whoever put time into the webwork seems to know what they’re doing beyond the simple wordpress job, without a lot of rough corners. Keep it up!

  8. Joshua B. says:

    Edit: There’s still a few rough corners though.

  9. There’ll be some rough corners for some time. Feel free to shoot an email to the admins to help us smooth them out.

  10. Evans, this has nothing to do with Jesus!

  11. Google is honoring Cesar Chavez this Easter Sunday. This post contains a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche. Not one scripture is referred to, and no quotes from the prophets. I’m alright with that, we have are agency.

    Drawing near to the Lord with our lips is like the man who knows he should provide for his family but somehow never gets around to it. Good intentions never acted upon are truly pathetic.

  12. I think you missed the point of the post, Jared. In spite of this post I hope you have a great Easter.

  13. But how can we possibly draw near to the Lord without quoting scriptures or GC talks???

  14. Thanks for your post. This is right in the vein of what I’ve been thinking today, about how we go from fearing our weakness, to embracing it, to glorying in it, to getting lost in it, to rediscovering it, to surrendering it. How weakness is transformed into strength only through Christ, who embodied that principle.

  15. “Drawing near to the Lord with our lips is like the man who knows he should provide for his family but somehow never gets around to it. Good intentions never acted upon are truly pathetic.”

    Says the dude who just wrote a blog comment complaining that google isn’t drawing near enough to the Lord with its lips and that the OP is paying insufficient lip service to prophets…

  16. “Drawing near to the Lord with our lips is like the man who knows he should provide for his family but somehow never gets around to it. Good intentions never acted upon are truly pathetic.” Must we always use this awful analogy? Maybe the man knows he has to provide for his family but has terminal cancer. Or maybe he’s had a really rough last two years since he lost his job. Where is the compassion for these people?! Surprisingly as it seems, most people don’t choose to be poor.

  17. Lucy, it seems Jared simply missed the point of the post and misunderstood my citation from Nietzsche. One of the things the philosopher found most revolting about the Christian story was the worship or adoration for a suffering, apparently weak deity in Jesus. What he disliked is what I find to be one of the most encouraging, moving things about Christian faith. Christ’s majesty is pathetic to the extent that it provokes feelings of compassion and love in us, toward the poor and anyone else.

    If I were to give a sacrament meeting talk with this title I might begin by citing Webster’s in order to avoid misunderstanding, and I’d probably cite Ether 12:27 for good measure.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pathos

    http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/ether/12.27?lang=eng#25

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