Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 7: Jesus visits hell

A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. My cross seemed to grow taller. I was looking down on my enemies and friends at Golgotha from a greater height. Then I realized that I could see my own body nailed to one of the crosses below me…. I found myself in Gehenna, a scrubby desert valley just southwest of Jerusalem. People dumped and burned rubbish here. I had avoided this valley during my earthly lifetime because of its stink, its seemingly endless fires, and its frightening history. Some of my human ancestors had killed and burned their own children here as sacrifices on high altars built to foreign gods. The prophet Jeremiah warned that God would take such vengeance here that people would call the place “the Valley of the Slaughter.” But now my own Father had exiled me to Gehenna as a sacrifice. I sat down and considered my situation in the shade of an old acacia tree whose thick branches spread in a broad circle above my head. I seemed to be in the real earthly Gehenna, not any supernatural place. It was a spring afternoon exactly like the one on which I had died. The heat and smoke from Gehenna’s fires bothered me more than they normally would. I felt like I had a high fever, especially when I remembered all the times that I myself had warned people about Gehenna—which was also our name for the place where souls suffer after death. My words came back to haunt me: “If your right eye makes you sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to lose part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” The word I used for hell was “Gehenna.” I heard Satan’s noxious laugh twanging like an out-of-tune harp. As usual, he was invisible to me. Satan is actually boring, with all the interest generated by the host. I tried to meditate calmly and just be in Gehenna so Satan couldn’t hook me. When my mind began to wander, Satan spoke. “Welcome, Little Brother. I’m glad you’re here.” (Please come back tomorrow for the next daily installment in the Holy Week/Easter series at the Jesus in Love Blog.)

1 comment:

Trudie said...

Since I used the section immediately following this as a special part of my recent anniversary celebration, it is obvious this is my nominee for the most powerful chapter of "At the Cross". I believe this represents the true genius of these books -- the fleshing-out (quite literally) of those aspects of the reality of Jesus as "God With Us" that most commentaries gloss over or completely ignore. Thank you for highlighting those wonderful insights, despite their starkness!