This Sunday I will be preaching John 1:1-18 . . . well were could I possibly go with that? I took the opportunity to begin with the only joke I can remember which which is Zizek’s Lacanian joke about the man who believed he was a grain.
A man had been seeing a psychiatrist for some time. The problem it seems was that he kept believing he was a grain of seed. He and the psychiatrist worked on this issue for some time. They made slow progress until one day both he and the psychiatrist were sure that the problem solved. The man no longer believed he was a grain of seed. The two shook hands and parted encouraged by what was possible. The man left the office onto the street and a few seconds later returned in fear and panic. Obviously concerned the psychiatrist asked what was wrong. The man said that there was a chicken standing right outside the office door. The psychiatrist responded, “Remember you are not a grain of seed.” The man replied, “I know that, but how I can be sure the chicken does?”
From here I moved to what seemed like the obvious parallel.
A young boy goes to church where he is told that God will provide for him. He goes Sunday after Sunday, year after year and, in time, he comes to believe that God will provide for him. Then one day he shows up at the pastor’s office in state of great anxiety. The pastor tries to comfort him and assure him that God will provide. To which the man replies, “Yes I believe that pastor but it’s the banker I’m worried about.”
The Bible unapologetically tells us that more often than not what we call peace is not peace; what we call light is not light; what we call God is not God. And so the Word becomes flesh, dwells among us, comes to his own but his own do not receive him. This is the light that enlightens all. So how is it possible to mistake light? No matter how small the light and how great the darkness a light cannot be put out by darkness itself. One of the only solutions then is that what we call light is not light. The trouble is that the Bible takes aim at those very things by which we judge everything else. Here are a few excerpts in how I explore this problem.
Suppose you were given a ruler at the beginning of the school year. You used it for every assignment and got good marks. Then a new kid joined the class. He challenged you on whether your ruler was actually correct. Just to make sure you checked it with the other kid’s ruler. You even checked the teacher’s ruler. They all seemed the same. Why would you trust this new kid? Whenever you ask him to show you his ruler he says he doesn’t have one and what is more he seems to be failing class. And so Jesus comes not as a ruler, not as a law but as the embodiment, as the full expression of what it means to judge correctly. He can offer no reason. He can offer no other ruler to compare with yours. He is the ruler. Think ahead a few chapters in John’s gospel. When John the Baptist’s disciples ask if Jesus is the Messiah how does he respond? He asks them to look and see what is happening and judge for themselves.
So the Word is made flesh and dwells among us. The light of God has come. The law of God has come. The peace of God has come. The God of God has come. But we live by our lights, by our laws, by our peace, and by our god. We try to listen to the truth of our faith we head out into the world like the man who believed he was not a chicken and when faced with those who believe otherwise we tremble, we falter and we conform. Indeed the chicken or the banker licks his lips and sees before him a grain of seed.
After this I change gears from all the metaphor and consider gender.
Consider the damnable history of women; or should I say more accurately the damnable history of men’s view of women. Luce Irigaray in a fundamental text to certain strands of feminism attempted a psychoanalysis of psychoanalysis. She attempted to place Freud on the couch and analysis him. She begins with a quote from lecture Freud once gave,
Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Throughout history people have knocked their heads again the riddle of the nature of femininity – . . . Nor will you have escaped worrying over this problem – those of you who are men; to those of you who are women this will not apply – you yourselves are the problem.
Irigaray responds to Freud,
So it would be a case of you men speaking among yourselves about women, who cannot be involved in hearing or producing a [word] that concerns the riddle . . . she represents for you. The enigma that is woman will therefore [be] the target, the object, the stake, of a masculine discourse, of a debate among men, which would not consult her, would not concern her. Which, ultimately, she is not supposed to know anything about.
Irigaray is accusing Freud and the western male-dominated modes of knowledge of a fundamental act of dishonesty and ignorance. Remember the kids in school with their rulers. Imagine now a conference of highly educated psychiatrists trying to solve the ‘problem’ of women by using a talking Barbie-doll. Then suppose a woman shows up at the conference and challenges their assumptions. The men patiently show her the research they have done. They demonstrate their successful techniques and observations on the Barbie. Clearly then this woman is delusional, suffering from some fundamental misunderstanding. And so women were treated as a problem, as an insufficient man, as delusional, hysterical. Oppose and argue against this thinking and you will be proved to be all the more ill and deviant from what you should be. And so feminists have had to endure conceptions of women that were male based and male dominated. Men have been slow to stop playing with their Barbie dolls and talk with women and engage them for who they are.
As I have been working through these ideas it becomes stark and clear how in fact the Word can be entirely mistaken, rejected and called darkness.
You’ll have to come on out Sunday morning to see how I bring it home (not sure myself yet).