Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a young girl who was raped by one of the soldiers of an occupying force. She became pregnant and given the purity customs of her time, she was ostracised by her family and cast out by the community to fend for herself as she became on object of shame in their midst. Fortunately, there was an elder in the community who realised that her treatment by her family and community was unfair and unjust, and he took it upon himself to take the young girl as his wife and protect her and be a father-figure for the soon to be born son. Since she was well known in the village, they had to migrate to another village to give birth, but word had spread fast and they were unable to obtain decent lodgings, and as a result she was forced to deliver her firstborn in an abandoned shed.
Over the years, the kindness and generosity of this elder man had a profound effect on the young girl and eventually her son. She came to see the workings of the world differently from those around her, and she began to realise that some of their laws and customs were unjust and unfair and many served to sabotage the harmonious relationships within families and their communities, especially for those who were victims of circumstance. Despite her family and community abandoning her and heaping insult on injury at a time when she needed them the most, it was the outpouring of love by this elder whom she did not know, and his abundance of concern for their well-being, that allowed her to forgive the soldier of her injury and her family and community for the insults she sustained. Although she was scarred physically and suffered humiliation from this most abominable act of violation, her spirit was able to once again rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and she was able to perceive the world afresh with virgin eyes again. After the elder passed away, she continued to mold the mind, heart, soul and spirit of her son and helped him to mature and appreciate fully the healing powers of love and forgiveness that were the defining pillars of sustenance that helped her to overcome the shame and the defilement that almost ruined her life.
As her son grew older, he started to think critically about the social issues of his time. He had many discussions with the “wisdom” teachers and questioned always the authority of their teachings. They were impressed by the depth and breadth of his understanding of the pertinent issues. But he was far from impressed by the lack of considerations that was given by those in power to the concerns of the marginalised and those who were, no fault of their own, victims of circumstance. He realised that in the eyes of the establishment, the masses were there to do their bidding and were viewed as disposable and dispensable stock. The powers-that-be were less interested in disposing of the laws and customs that were maladaptive in their application and dehumanising in their implementation, and they were content in maintaining the status quo for their own sake instead of using their powers to usher in a new dispensation to change their communities and the lives of their people for the better.
He then found his calling. Whenever the opportunity arose, he spoke out for the least among the members of his community, he spoke out against the excesses of the establishment, and he even challenged the “wisdom” of their ways. He had a large following and many were drawn to his worldview and its implications, which was bottom-up in approach, in which, he professed that the least among them was to be put first, being accorded the highest priority of consideration, rather the greatest among them who had their needs already amply satisfied. He stressed the importance of provision of daily needs, forgiveness of transgressions, and the absolute need to understand their human frailties, vulnerabilities and inadequacies so that they could be on guard against their tendencies to hurt themselves and others. He walked the talk, and used his skills and his understanding of the human condition to convince many around him that they were held back from actualising their God-given potential by their own maladaptive mindset. He was able to catalyse this reawakening, this rebirth of sorts in their lives as he enabled those around him to hear, see, feel, touch, walk and arise from the slumber of despair for the first time in their lives, by spreading the good news of the redeeming power of love and forgiveness.
The powers-that-be soon realised that although they were able to control the minds of the masses, this charismatic young man who was bringing this good news of redemption to the people, was creating a movement from the bottom-up, and that given enough time, this movement would become a force to be reckoned with and would challenge their legitimacy to continue to rule unjustly. So they set him up, and accused him of destabilising the community, and he was charged with sedition, despite the contrary stabilising and uplifting message he preached of love, forgiveness and the blessings of peacemakers. He was eventually executed under trumped-up charges, to be made an example for those around him to see, in effect telling all and sundry that if anyone was to continue in his footsteps, they would meet the same fate. His followers understandably scattered out of fear and doubt and the movement was for all intents and purposes effectively neutralised.
As divine providence would have it, although he was physically knocked down, he was not spiritually knocked out. Several days later after the mental cloud of doubt and fear subsided, a few of his followers began to understand better his life and ministry and the true purpose of his incarnation. They realised that this young man’s life was bracketed by the ultimate indignities imaginable. Despite being conceived by the most violent act of rape, and knowing fully well that his fate would be his execution by the most violent act of crucifixion for daring to speak truth to power, by representing the voiceless and living his life with integrity, he was able to rise above all that was negative in the world and to forgive and love unconditionally. He wanted to show the world that no matter how bad things were in life, you could always overcome. His life which transcended his death was living proof of that. They now understood why he made it his life’s mission to show those around him that by loving their enemies and doing good to those who hurt them, they would not only lighten their own travails in life but be able to soar to higher heights unburdened by externalities beyond their control. In effect he was love and forgiveness personified, and they knew that he would have forgiven those who had executed him for they did not know what they were doing and what he was all about!!
As the story goes, he amassed the greatest following many years after his death, and over many centuries he has been the saving grace for many generations as they meditated on his birth, his ministry, his passion and his death. They realise that death can no longer claim victory over their lives, and they now knew that despite being persecuted by those in authority, the grave had lost its sting. Their faith was based on the undeniable fact that despite the physical burial of this messenger, his message of love and forgiveness rose again and continues to live on in the lives of countless generations, all past and present.
Today many of us are still hoping for the coming of a person of similar passion, vision and integrity of character, to continue to guide and to lead us forward to the promise land, to in effect create a heaven here on earth, governed not by unjust and unfair laws that pervert the mind, body, soul and spirit into subservience and servitude, but to one governed by the liberating principles of truth and reconciliation so as to uplift the mind, body, soul and spirit to one of service. This hoped for new dispensation would serve to bring to the fore and operationalise the defining principles of love and forgiveness. It must be remembered that these were the same guiding principles that sustained and reinvigorated this person of history and his mother. More so, it is hoped that this same person of faith, would help us to actualise a new age of transformation, moving us away from one vested in the lowest form of en-darkened self-interest, towards one invested in the highest form of enlightened self-interest where now the self has expanded to include the family and the community, from the least to the greatest among us, in this generation and those to come.
I always remind myself that we are defined as a people by the stories we tell and the games we play. The top-down theology of the past has been found wanting and has left much more to be desired. Instead of looking on high for answers to our daily challenges, maybe what we so desperately need is a new bottom-up theology based on the ancient sensibilities of love and forgiveness which should be given every opportunity to bubble up from within rather than to be searched for from without.
It is in this light that I have presented this retelling of an ancient story, which has continued to inspire and sustain me in ways you cannot imagine. Although many may view my reinterpretation of events as blasphemy and heresy, I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that this perspective has more to offer and it makes this person of history and of faith more credible and convincing and worthy of emulation.
One of my colleagues understandably had some concerns with the heretical nature of this “Untold Story,” especially as it pertains “to the circumstances of conception.”
This was my response:
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2014 20:30:43 -0400
Subject: RE: Updated: Just Elaborating on a Spectacular Untold Story
There is no historical evidence to confirm or refute the details of Jesus’ conception, so I make no claim to the veracity of the “Untold Story.” What I am struggling with now is to understand how the Gospel stories of Jesus was able to move so many people up to this day. Was it his heavenly divinity and the miracles he performed and his physical resurrection from death that made his story compelling or was it his down to earth extraordinary humanity? If almost all of Jesus’ disciples and many of his early followers were persecuted for evangelizing about him, did they do it for wanting to go to heaven, or because they believed in his cause and his message for humanity? I honestly believe that by ascribing to Jesus a bigger than life character, and out of this world persona, we actually take away from his message and this does more harm to his cause and his insights.
Jesus made it a habit in the Gospels to challenge the orthodoxy of the time, be it political or religious. Just remember he was very much Jewish. Should we not also follow his example and challenge our teachers and leaders too? Who do you think are the modern-day Scribes and Pharisees in our midst?
The courage and inspiration I got for sitting down and writing the “Untold Story” came after hearing on The Big Picture yesterday the sound bites on the life and times of Maya Angelou. You had a young girl who was raped at the age of 7, who eventually developed great insights into the human condition which has influenced her work immensely and have informed her positive approach to life. I gather also that Oprah Winfrey was raped, and the traumatic events in their childhood, made them both think long and hard about the human condition and their calling in life. Could the same have happened to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and could it have been the intervention by Joseph that resulted in her being the main influence who taught young Jesus of the redeeming powers of love and forgiveness in all things human?
It was a woman, his mother, who was the real protagonist of the “Untold Story”, and this is what makes more sense to me, as the nurturing wisdom, caring for all the children no matter who they be, can only come from a matriarchal figure. In the “Untold Story,” it was not his divine nature but the motherly human touch that made him who he was, and the fact that given all odds, she was able to set him on such a secure path of confidence in himself and love for his people, that makes his story more compelling for me, and worthy of sharing. Because he was one of us, and he and his mother was the least among us at their time, that makes this “Untold Story” even more motivational. Although adding a divine nature to his humanity took away from his true humanity, it is regained here in the “Untold Story” in all of its glory.
Although I had reservations initially, it was Maya’s story and life that convinced me that now was the time to put it down on paper (or should I say type a blog) and I hope that this “Untold Story” could continue to inspire others to love and forgive more, and to value the wisdom of truth and reconciliation.
I always ask myself this question? How can a story that uplifts and inspires and nurtures and sustains and is true to the message of Christ which shows good triumphant over evil be sacrilegious? Sometimes we err when we put more emphasis on the messenger than the message, and also when we put more emphasis on the characters than the themes of the story.
By making us stop and think, and question the authority and authenticity of our own orthodox teachings, and producing a creative tension in our minds, I hope that this “Untold Story” would have achieved its purpose and in some small way, help catalyze a change in our hearts, our minds, our souls and spirits, individually, and collectively, in our families and most important of all in our communities.
Have no fear, my faith in God is very strong. In the spirit of Maya Angelou, this “Untold Story” could be viewed as a form of autobiographical fiction as most of my sentiments and perspectives were projected into the characters of Jesus, his mother and Joseph. There is no need to challenge the authenticity of the gospels and the collection of writings in the Bible that were inspired by men and women who had similar intimations of the divine in their lives. Although there is only one God, there are many different ways of perceiving His immanence and transcendence in our lives.