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I Feel Sorry for Jesus

| 19.10.03
'I feel sorry for Jesus', by Naomi Shihab Nye

I ran across this poem in the October issue of The Christian Century, and was delighted to see that it was also available online. Two things viscerally grabbed me about this poem.

First, the dangers of "talking for Jesus," which seem so obvious. I see it more as an indictment of theological and ideological certainty, or an over-association of one's own agenda with what one perceives as Jesus' agenda. We've all either known people or been people who wanted to be "His Special Pet," or missed the heart of the gospel in favor of the "pomp" and "golden chandeliers."

Secondly, and more importantly, it was the last line "You won't hear me talk about this again" that seemed the most arresting, all the more powerful for it's paradoxical relationship with the rest of the poem. In the earlier verses, Nye illustrates those who appropriate Jesus wrongly, then falls into the error herself. Yet the path to truth for Nye is not about talking for Jesus, but following in Jesus' footsteps. By standing in the spot where Jesus was born and by making "every twist" of the Way be "written on [her] skin," Nye experiences a truth beyond ideology, and beyond words.

One major commonality of the "appropriators," from my perspective, is that they not only talk for Jesus, but talk endlessly. Conventional wisdom seems to be that if something is important it needs to be mentioned often. But by saying "You won't hear me talk about this again" Nye draws attention to the need for silence as part of spiritual practice --both to hear what others have to say and to hear what Jesus has to say. She also subverts conventional wisdom by suggesting that the truly important things aren't mentioned often and have to be keenly sought out or listened for in order to be heard and understood.

PUBLISHER: "I Feel Sorry for Jesus" first appeared in Antioch Review (Spring 1998.) I first read it in the October 8, 2003 issue of the Christian Century.
LINK: http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m1058/21_120/110361288/p1/article.jhtml

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