Friday, March 23, 2007

“Quo vadis, Domine?”

I saw a portion of the following poem on Kristen's blog, where she used it in a spoke to me so powerfully that I needed to find the rest. I'm not going to provide any commentary here--I think it speaks for itself. The name of the poem is My Easy Christ Has Left The Church, and it was written by Calvin Miller.

Okay, one tiny piece of commentary. (I'm sorry...I'm an English major...I can't help it.) I think it's especially telling and fitting that Mr. Miller doesn't just declare that Christ has left the church. Instead, he says "my easy Christ has left the church." I have a feeling that both the words my and easy are significant, and that it would be a mistake to overlook them.

Let those two words settle in your heart for a while after reading the poem.

My Easy Christ Has Left the Church
by Calvin Miller

My easy Christ has left the church.
Who can say why?
Maybe it’s because His video-logged apostles all
read diet-books, travel agency brochures
and Christian fiction thrillers
on how the world should end
But none read books on what the starving ignorant
should do until it does.
He left the church so disappointed that Americans
could all spell “user friendly”
but none of them could spell “Gethsemane”

Can we say for sure he’s quit?
Oh yes, it’s definite, I’m afraid:
He’s canceled his pledge card.
I passed him on the way out of the recreation building
near the incinerator where we burn
the leftover religious quarterlies
and the stained paper doilies
from our Valentine banquets.
“Quo Vadis, Domine?” I asked him.
“Somewhere else,” he said.

My easy Christ has left the church,
walking out of town past seminaries where
student scholars could all parse the ancient verbs
but few of them were sure why they had learned the art.
He shook his head counfounded that many
had studied all his ancient words
without much caring why he said them.
He seemed confused that so many
studied to be smart, but so few prayed to be holy.

Some say he left the church
because the part-time missionaries were mostly tourists
on short-term camera safaris,
photographing destitution to show the
pictures to their missionary clubs back home.
I cannot say what all his motives were.
I only know I saw him rummaging through dumpsters
in Djakarta looking for a scrap of bread
that he could multiply.
“Quo vadis, Domine?” I asked him.
“Somewhere else,” he said.

He’s gone - the melancholy Messiah’s gone.
I saw him passing by the beltway mega-temple
circled by its multi-acred asphalt lawn,
blanketed with imports and huge fat vehicles
nourished on the hydrocarbons of distant oil fields
where the poor dry rice on public roads
and die without a requiem, in unmarked graves.

Is it certain he is gone?

It is.

We saw him in the slums of Recife,
telling stories of old fools
who kept on building bigger barns,
oddly idealistic tales of widows with small coins
who outgave the richer deacons of the church.

I saw him sitting alone in a fast-food franchise
drinking only bottled water and sorting through
a stack of world-hunger posters.
He couldn’t stay long.
He was on his way to sell his
old books on Calvin and
Arminius to buy a bag of rice for Bangledesh.

My easy Christ has left the church.
I remember now where I last saw him.
He was sitting in one of those new
square, crossless mega-churches
singing 2x choruses and playing bongos
amid the music stands and amplifiers
with anonymous Larrie and Sherrie.
He turned to them in church and said
“I am He! Follow me!”
But they told him not to be so confrontational
and reminded him that they
had only come for the music and the drama,
and frankly were offended that he would dare
to talk to them out loud in church.
After all, they were only seekers, with a right to privacy.

I followed him out through the seven-acre vestibule,
where he passed the tape-duplicating machine
where people could buy the “how to” sermons
of the world’s most famous lecturers.

He left the church and threaded his way
across the crowded parking lot,
laying down those whips and cords
he’d once used to cleanse the temple,
and looked as though he wanted to make
key-scrapes on Lexi and huge white Audis
and family buses filled with infant seats.

He stooped and shed a tear after
and wrote “Ichabod” in the sand.
In a sudden moment I was face to face with him.
“Quo vadis, Domine?” I asked him.
“Somewhere else,” he said.

My easy Christ has left the church,
abandoning his all-star role in Easter pageants
to live incognito in a patchwork culture,
weeping for all those people who
cannot afford the pageant tickets.

He picked up an old junk cross,
lugging it into the bookstore
after the great religious rally,
and stood dumfounded
among the towering stacks of books
on how to grow a church.
“Are you conservative or liberal,” I asked him.
But he only mumbled, “Oh Jerusalem…”
and said the oddest thing about a hen
gathering her vicious, selfish chicks under her wings.
He left the room as I yelled out after him,
“Lord, is it true you’ve quit the church?
Quo vadis, Domine?”
“Somewhere else,” he said.


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