Necessarily the very best of intentions are claimed for a streaming wannabe epic whose central character can call up dust storms in Syria, tornadoes in Texas and out-of-the blue tidal surges in Florida – and won’t be in the least disturbed by the prospect of torture-to-death in Israel or rendition or worse by the CIA when he gets to Washington DC. How he might also be a Russian cat’s paw against the West or just a savvy far-left Western political disruptor we aren’t allowed to know yet: by far the greatest disaster that could befall Netflix is that a project as resource-hungry as this would need to be cancelled after just one ‘season’ – for lack of enigma or loose ends.
The likelihood of at least one more season of ‘Messiah’ is in itself a kind of miracle, I guess. The jury is out on whether anyone’s life will be changed for the better by this enterprise – but who should care if the explosions and natural disasters, padded out with ‘wisdom talk’, keep coming?
Far be it from me, however, to claim that the hours spent watching ‘Messiah’ have been entirely wasted. In fact I believe I can now better understand why Jesus’s first coming long preceded the onset of global rolling TV news, why he did not lead an endless middle-eastern caravan to Jerusalem or Rome, and why he would not want to distract the current incumbent of the Oval Office – when that poor man has already been pushed close to thrombosis by Greta Thunberg, honest US diplomats and his own House of Representatives.
To explain that last point, why is the US president in ‘Messiah’ a conscientious and even shy Latter-Day Saint who will seriously consider pulling back all US overseas military forces and will obviously never even think of sitting up in bed at 4 a.m. to insult someone on Twitter? Did the show-runner (i.e. big boss) for ‘Messiah’ see a need to prevent a Trumpian president from seizing the limelight – e.g. by proposing in the situation room that a drone should fire a small nuke at this Socialist Antichrist in the Syrian desert, before he can even think of going to Texas?
I am making a serious point here, I hope: for me the Gospels are a complete indictment of the cult of celebrity, and of the narcissism of those who seek it. Far from setting out to make himself the central focus of global attention in his own time – as this Netflix messiah clearly does – Jesus taught on the smallest scale, to the least educated. He fled from any attempt to make himself the totemic leader of a political movement bent on regime-change, and insisted upon the greater importance of the poorest. His miracles were always a response to the faith of sufferers, never a bid to overawe the faithless. He died obscurely too, as the Roman literature of his own time attests by never mentioning him.
Clearly he knew long before Lord Acton that power – as Netflix understands it – corrupts. Its ‘Messiah’ needs to bone up on Acton, and to meditate a little further upon Jesus’s first coming.
Most important, Jesus insisted that only if he himself departed could ‘the counsellor’ come to advise his sincere followers, wherever they would be. By contrast, this Netflix messiah has clearly decided that the Holy Spirit of counsel has flunked out: everyone now needs to sit up and listen to him, the bearded and enigmatic one, via global media – and watch him walk on water at the Lincoln memorial. So much for the daft proposition that the verbal wisdoms and ‘special effects’ of such a phenomenon could now unite all of the Abrahamic traditions and pacify the world. The ‘teachings’ that pad out the spectacle in this production could never overpower the drawing power of those special effects or the episodic cliff hangers that every such TV production must depend upon. Adrenaline and grace are entirely different things, and the former is not conducive to insight, calm or memory. Game of Thrones did indeed travel far on adrenaline – but far too far. Because cinematic script-writing about warfare is far less educative and exhausting than real warfare, it ended in deep disappointment: not a good omen for ‘Messiah’.
It is clear that Jesus saw instead a need to assure the very poorest of their own dearness and nearness to an always-present ‘World Spirit’ of God. His short ministry showed even the downside of making any human individual a focus for the fascination of others, as Jesus’s closest disciples proved on the road to Jerusalem. We humans will jostle even for the seat next to any supposed Messiah – and build yet another abusive hierarchy of dignity out of that. It was exactly that jostling that led to the current crisis of the Catholic papacy and the church.
But that in turn laid a foundation for a Franciscan papacy, for a pope who could demystify ‘holiness’ and be persuasive of the miraculous power of tenderness and humility. It is for all of us together now to save the world, guided by the same World Spirit who led Jesus to humble himself. There can be no spectacular second coming of Jesus until we have all lost the desire to jostle for a global spotlight and for the nearest seat to God.
Sensible people will prefer to believe that Jesus is already here, observing us kindly, without ‘letting on’ – in the next seat in the bus. They know that the Trinity are already equidistant from all of us, and will make their home within us – if we simply ask.
Sean O’Conaill, 28/01/2020
Wow. I’ll have to go back and go through this another time because there are nuggets in there I’ll have to question further.
My first reaction, without having watched the series is that I hope it is about a woman who decides to go against the grain of society and call upon a global “youth v. gov” lawsuit and teach the men of the planet a thing or two about an active feminine in society looking for a VOTE on the environment. It would be amazing to see this story take shape. Perhaps we could make this central character extremely shy in public but extroverted online. She is never afraid to reach out and question an advisor or two.
There has to be an aboriginal attachment to this process too. Perhaps she feels like she’s always been connected to the earth more than her counterparts based on repeated astral planing events where she enters a future where our oceans no longer exist.
Because of her abilities, she is able to focus on multiple levels of communications strategies with global NGOs, not missing a beat in her attempt to align with those greater social justice movements.
As the story develops and global lawsuits start to form around her she has to decide whether to take advantage of her given abilities in a race to outpace the financial elite or to align the indigenous of the planet to recover their true titles and for once and for all dissolve the Vatican and the Monarchy.
It’s a story about a trickster negotiator that the Hopi refer to as Pahana – this is fiction as they refer to him as “true white brother”. Oh, and the last thing we could add about her character, she hacked into a group of men getting ready to assemble and tackle this global crisis in a unique, cosmo-localism inspired way.
hackhumanity.net for more information
The above article mentions “an always-present ‘World Spirit’ of God”. Sacred Scripture talks about the Presence of God within us in two senses.
One is an abiding Presence from the moment of our conception (“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives within you!” 1Cor. 3:16). The second is an active recognition of that divine Presence within us brought about by the quality of the way we live our Christian lives (1 John 4:16 “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”) and Eucharist, enhanced by our practice of the ancient, mystical ‘prayer’ of contemplation used by the early Christian Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers. Contemplation is the silent realm of wordless prayer wherein we become increasingly conscious of the loving, all forgiving presence of God within us and all around us.
That duality of presence is often confused or not recognised in Catholic spirituality. Rarely, if ever, have I heard a sermon on that abiding Presence within all of us and in everything God creates. An awareness of that abiding Presence necessitates a deep respect for all human life and for all of God’s creation. That makes the experience of an awareness of God’s universal Presence very relevant to how we think of ourselves, treat each other, our environment and the animal kingdom.
Priests tend to refer only to the divine Presence in the Eucharist at Mass because that, so to speak, is what keeps them in business. They rarely even mention the other three liturgical Presences stated in Vatican Two’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, particularly the divine Presence to us in the Bible when read prayerfully, as at Mass (hopefully) and in Bible reading and Lectio Divina at home.
The reception of the divine Presence in Holy Communion at Mass is not to bring about a divine Presence within us, for that has been there from the moment of our conception, but rather, through the experience of the intimate Presence of Jesus the Christ in Eucharist, to bring about a longer lasting, deeper and more effective awareness of that Presence which is always within us throughout the day, unconditionally loving us and drawing us in love to Himself/Herself. That awareness should lead us increasingly to worship and love God and to let His/Her unconditional love flow through us to all those around us. Without our facilitating that necessary flow of God’s unconditional love into us and through us to others, our awareness of that divine Presence will wither and die, although the Presence itself will always be there, constantly calling us back to a recognition, awareness and acceptance of an unconditionally loving God within us, constantly calling us to a deeper and more loving relationship with the triune God, eternally reaching out in unconditional love to all of humanity
Eucharist is often called “divine food” (“take and eat”) and, like all food, is consumed to strengthen us, in this case to strengthen our awareness of God ever present within us and the implications of that Presence on how we are living our lives and constantly praising God. The current practise of Eucharistic adoration, as with the plethora of Masses, contribute to a widespread misunderstanding of Jesus’ intention in establishing Eucharist and a failure by many to recognise the divine Presence within them and all around them.
God is mystery so we can only know Him/Her by our ongoing and deepening awareness of the divine Presence within us and through feeding and strengthening that awareness by the weekly reception of Eucharist, the frequent and prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture in our homes and the living of our lives in the practical service of others.
Sunday Mass is a gathering of the local Catholic community in worship of God. A very important part of the Eucharistic feeding at Mass in the reception of Holy Communion, a part too often neglected in our inward-looking, self-centered spirituality, is to draw all members of that community ever closer together in their practical and spiritual care of each other and for the wider community. That awareness of the divine Presence within us and all around us, leading to our practical service of others, is the reality of the Kingdom of God among us, “an always-present ‘World Spirit’ of God”.
This is most helpful, Aidan. The descriptor ‘world spirit’ was used by Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict in a lengthy interview published as ‘Salt of the Earth’ in 1997. I took to it straight away, as it seemed to me more inclusive of other faiths.
Do I understand you to mean that while God is always present in every one of us, an AWARENESS of God’s presence may well be missing, and that what we Christians call ‘spirituality’ is the seeking of that awareness?
You are quite right that our clergy rarely go beyond speaking of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Too often also Eucharistic adoration is spoken about as though completely unrelated to our lives OUTSIDE sacred space – implying that God has a preference for this church-bound and monstrance-focused use of time, completely without regard to what we may be doing in the world outside afterwards.
That too must be unhelpful to the maintenance of an awareness of the divine presence within us in that external world, surely? As though we are supposed to believe that God is confined to ‘sacred space’ and can be found only there?
I sense that we could do with an article on Eucharistic adoration that directly addresses that problem – the possible misunderstanding that Jesus is indeed a ‘prisoner of the tabernacle’ who needs to be visited to be sure of our fidelity. Certainly I have never heard an emphatic rejection of that misunderstanding from a priest, and the typical absence of any clerical interest in Catholic social teaching can only reinforce the secularist mistake of supposing that ‘religion’ is all about the next life rather than purposeful in relation to ‘the social context’ right now.
Yes Sean; God is always present within us and unconditionally loving us but an awareness of that divine Presence may well be missing in our lives. Christian spirituality’s major role is to bring us to that awareness, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and to the implications of it for how we live our daily lives, relate to others and protect our environment.