Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.

Last night, we had our first Theology Circle on Bonhoeffer. Twelve of us, beers in hand, crammed together on a long picnic table in the back of a low-lit, noisy Brooklyn bar and talked about the meaning of “church”. To set the scene, I started out talking about Bonhoeffer’s life and context and how much of his life he was wrestling with this idea of “church”, of Christian fellowship. I then opened up the conversation to ask what the word “church” meant to everyone. It was a great discussion.

But today is Maundy Thursday, when Jesus sets up and says goodbye to the Church. And he does it like we often say goodbye: with a farewell dinner. Usually, we don’t give our worst friend part of our meal and send that friend on their way to betray us. Usually, we don’t wash everyone’s feet, either. But as the kids say these days, #yolo. Except in this case, maybe you don’t.

Get clean. Get fed. Get loved. Remember this. Do this again. And the Last Supper gets remembered in all sorts of ways and gets remembered as one of humanity’s most famous meals (another being a tasty snack in a garden that’s too good to be true). Jesus starts something that gets repeated over and over to the point of kitsch and parody and iconography and idolatry.

We take eating for granted. Millions are starving in this world at this very moment. Christianity revolves around eating. Jesus says, “eat to remember me.” And what if there is no food? What if the table is empty?

This is Maundy Thursday when, in the liturgical churches, Christians remember to get clean, get fed, get loved. And then with fresh feet and full bellies, strip their world of Jesus. Because now Holy Week kicks into high gear. Jesus is done. We are done with Jesus. As quickly as we are told to remember him, we remember to forget him. We remember to betray him. We remember to betray each other. This is the Church. This is what it means to be human, all too human.

Eat the apple. Take the bread. Take and eat. Eat and fall. Eat and fail.

We, the Church, strip the Church and the church and we take Christianity down from its peg on the wall and put it in a box. Phew. That’s over.

But the worst is yet to come. No one has died… yet.

The table is now empty. And we feel it. There is no food. We ate it. And we foolishly expect there to be food on Sunday like small children waiting to look for and expecting to find eggs and chocolate.

The Church closes today. It scatters. It betrays its god and itself and it scatters itself and it denies everything it ever believed.

It’s all very disappointing.

Eat the apple. Take the bread. Take and eat. Eat and fall. Eat and fail.

But as Samuel Beckett said, “Try again. Fail better.”

On Sunday, will we allow ourselves the opportunity to try again, to fail better?

Perhaps.

But for now, remember that I let you down. And you let me down.

Sorry about that. Will you forgive me?

How could you?

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By Burke
Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.

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