Friday, December 9, 2011

Rodak's Writings: a Protestant Poem

Consent: a Brief History

Idolized as consenting; much depends

on that notion. But what earthly woman

could say no to an angel? The lithe olive-toned

form of the maiden soon swollen, shaped

from within by the prodigy growing.

Consent, was it then, to the flesh-rending

pain? To blood, urine and feces?

To birthing the type of material creation?

Flesh formed of the Word and man’s fated future:

my mortal career. So, serpent or fish?

The loaf or the stone? The one without sin,

or the first one to throw? Rocky soil, shallow root,

barren branch, blasted tree. Second mile,

dusted shoe. The chaff and the wheat.

The eye of the needle. The dog eating scraps

down under the table. Gaudy lily, willful blindness,

dying seed, burning vine. The prodigal son and the

Gadarene swine. One taken up and one left behind.

Bushel and light; foolish lack of lamp oil.

The mustard seed sown. The better part taken.

The sheep and the goats. A foundation on sand.

The shirt after the coat. The imperial coin,

the last pfennig she had. The pearl of great price,

the house scoured for a shekel. The shepherd,

the wolf, the one pulled from the pit. The infinite

regression tracking back to the Garden and

the immaculate conception of Eve, who consented.

You horn-sounding viper! You whitewashed sepulcher!

My mother, a woman, not some pagan crop goddess!

Consent! Few are chosen! You know not the hour!



wade-m said...

intriguing poem, Rodak...

For me, two lines in particular deserve special mention for their intensity:

"The lithe olive-toned/form of the maiden soon swollen"

"My mother, a woman, not some pagan crop goddess!"

A few responses:

I realize that "consent" in the poem has a multivalent significance--such, perhaps, as consenting to what you earlier called the "cross-to-bear". (Is the "Consent!" of the last line an imperative command?)

"Consent" is also, of course, one of the buzzwords of our present-day culture, the heart and soul of "liberal" democracy, if you will. And I think "consent" in that more mundane sense goes back to Protestantism--which you would seem to imply by the title of the post: "A Protestant Poem".

Increasingly, I'm inclined to see Protestantism (i.e. the Reformation) not so much as a Christian revival movement, but as a subtle revolt against Christianity... and the genesis of the modern age. Not unlike the idea of Eve eating the forbidden fruit as a liberation, not a "fall".

And once again... The poem reflects your "obsessional neurosis" with the figure of Christ. :) What ever is up with that?

Could you yourself be a contemporary Luther or Calvin... subtly using the figure of Jesus against the Christians?

In any event, I'm likely to go back and read this poem many times.

Rodak said...

The reason for the title of this piece is that it is against the Catholic conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The fact that she "consented" to be the "theotokos" is a major concept to Catholics. Beginning there, they go on to "idolize" (meant in the literal sense) her, and then finally to deify her. They, of course, won't cop to either "idol" or "deity," but any reasonable outsider can see that this is exactly how Mary is treated in practice.
I have never belonged to a Christian congregation as an adult, but I have always been very interested in religions.
I am not anti-Jesus, in any way. I don't think that I'm "obsessed" about him, pro or con. He interests me. And, people who write about him and about the religions that have sprung up in his name, also interest me. Saints interest me. The concept of a universe that is not composed of just dead energy and matter is aesthetically pleasing to me.
I'm rambling because the topic is much too large for a comment box.
Looking back through my posts, to the extent of your interest in where I'm coming from, is always an option.

wade-m said...

The poem's allusion to the Catholic conception of Mary is very interesting. And, yes, she is the Catholic Artemis.

No, I don't think you're at all anti-Jesus. But I do suspect you're anti-Christian... :)

I've been reading you longer than you might suppose, Rodak. (I was a longtime "lurker".)

Even so, I intend to read through your archives... I find your material to be quite interesting...

Rodak said...

I'm anti-organized religion, as it is currently organized. If to be "Christian" is to be invested in organized religion, then yes, I'm against that. Or, more accurately, not interested in it.
I think that church membership hinders, rather than facilitates, true spiritual growth, in most cases. It can, however, be a nourishing medium for the spirits of certain rare individuals (e.g. Simone Weil). The churches fail for the same reason that all other human institutions fail: because men are weak, self-serving, acquisitive, and often not that bright intellectually.

Ron King said...

Wow! I love this. There is a lot in it. What do you think about submitting it to VN for discussion? I think you are absolutely correct about idolizing Mary, how many I do not know. However, I also think she represents all women and at some unconscious level within the catholic church she represents the knowledge that women are to be highly valued spiritually and liberated from male domination and violence. The violence against women begins with their interpretation of "the fall".
Blame is laid on the innocent woman who "deceived" the man. Such is the interpretation of those under the influence of "sin".

Rodak said...

I don't know, Ron. I hesitate to post anything at VN that would be construed as "Catholic bashing." I also don't know how I would do so, since I can only comment there; I can't post things.
Full disclosure: it was Henry's recent post on Marian theology that laid this egg in my brain. But, if you saw my effort to discuss the Eden myth on one of his PDK posts, you will understand why I wouldn't post this poem under a post of his.
If you, as a third party, would want to direct attention from VN to my blog, I would be fine with that. But I don't think I want to do so directly, myself.

Ron King said...

Rodak, I just glanced at that PDK post and I see the resistance you were up against. I will comment tomorrow and have them look at your post. Must go now.

Rodak said...

It's actually PKD, not PDK--which mistake was mine. I've purchased that book, btw, and am having fun slogging through it.
Yes. Another reader of that thread actually told me that I was wasting my time making my argument, since my points were not being addressed. It's frustrating, when you're trying to discuss something of interest and just being (politely) ignored.
One often encounters this with Catholic writers, if one confronts them with arguments that go against Church doctrine. Alas. I think they fear extra time in Purgatory if they acknowledge any merit in your point of view. So they simply clam up.

Ron King said...

I know your frustration. I think you need to be a contributor to VN and I am going to suggest that if that is ok with you. This would open the exploration of different beliefs and experiences about God or no God. What do you think? By the way I have been lapse in thanking you for the support you have given me at VN. And I have been lapse in supporting what you have written there, I am sorry. When I see your thoughts at VN I think "Rodak is really intelligent and well-read. I can't add anything to that."

Ron King said...

Merry Christmas. I hope your Christmas is filled with love. Ron

Rodak said...

Thank you, Ron. Merry Christmas. I very much hope the same for you!

Brian Martin said...

Not sure that you check past posts.
I like the poem. As you know (I think) from discussions at Vox Nova, I am Catholic..previously Fundamentalist Protestant upbringing. I find a lot of Catholics treating prayer to Mary as almost supersticious behavior that goes beyond what i understand to be Church teaching. However, I also am not a theologian.
I sometimes wonder though, at the continued use of the term "Protestant" What exactly are protestants still protesting. They successfully broke away from Catholicism, and if they have actually developed their own theology, isn't it post-protestantism yet?

Rodak said...

Brian --

I guess I feel that "Protestant" is mostly a catch-all term applied by non-Protestants to Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc. -- all of whom tend to self-designate as Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and even Mormons! In some discussions, it is simply necessary to be able to make this generalization under the pressure of the need for verbal economy.