When I woke this morning, I was reminded of what I read last night in The Wisdom Jesus (Cynthia Bourgeault) about the distinction between John the Baptist as “the archetypal ascetic” and Jesus as ‘full-participant in life.’ I then realized that Christian children, educated in private Christian schools or home-schooled, are being taught to be more like John…and not like Jesus, at all.
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, followed “the classic path of renunciation; (he) left behind friends, family, and earthly pleasures.” Jesus, on the other hand, while He may have started out looking a lot like His cousin John, “when he returned from the wilderness, he did so without any further trappings of renunciation. He moved into the marketplace: taught, healed, laughed and danced and dined; lived among the people as brother and friend. Whatever he learned in the wilderness seems to have pushed him through and beyond the ascetic path.”
In a study, also by Cynthia Bourgeault, of Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff (mystic, philosopher, spiritual teacher, and composer), Cynthia lays out what Gurdjieff presents as our human obligations: the necessary if not required skills and practices of this life. Bourgeault describes how, once Jesus returned from His 40 days in the wilderness and was fully-functioning in the ‘marketplace,’ He “was alert enough, in the moment enough, in his body enough, to spot (every) window of opportunity and take it. That kind of practical, grounded intelligence is essential if we are to become effective agents of transformation,” i.e., effective followers of Jesus…i.e., Christians.
For Jesus to have been skilled at dealing with His tempter in the wilderness and be an “effective agent of transformation” in the marketplace, He must have learned His street smarts and ‘savvy’ skills before His baptism. (In India, perhaps?) Jesus had obviously learned quite well how to meditate, how to cast out demons, and how to heal. He did not learn those in carpentry shop class. Would these skills have been taught in the local synagogue?
I’m thinking that to be the most effective followers of Jesus (which is what we as Christians are meant to be), we need to be properly ‘educated’ in everything from street lingo to emotional intelligence; be well-read in history, culture, and world religions; be knowledgeable in science, and be trained in all forms of communication. The best venue for that would be public school and lots of exposure to regular, everyday LIFE. To ‘Do it like Jesus,’ kids need to learn it like Jesus, practice it like Jesus, and share it like Jesus.
(I think I’ve identified my new activism area-of-interest.)