By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

I remember being startled, and at the same time intrigued, as I read a short essay written by Alan Watts titled, “Wash Out Your Mouth.” It is contained in a book called, “The Gospel According to Zen.” The short piece deeply challenged me. It used something I hold very dear as a Christian, the precious name of Jesus, as part of a metaphor, to make its point. At first I was put off by what the essay was suggesting. I found it unsettling. Yet, at the same time, I sensed that it contained a powerful lesson. It pointed out a characteristic about Jesus and the way in which he communicated as he is depicted in the Gospels. It is an undeniable characteristic, and its implications something that I could not ignore. The message of the essay suggested a strikingly different aspect of what it means to be a disciple of Christ in a way that I had never considered, a challenging, yet very interesting, aspect.

The Watts essay makes sense in that the Gospels depict Jesus as always pointing to something beyond himself. Jesus describes himself as being, the way, to that something. “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). But what is, the “something” beyond himself that Jesus came to reveal to us? That, “something,” Jesus intimately refers to as his “Father,” and he invites us to do the same. The Father is no less than the omnipresent, incomprehensible God, the source of all life and goodness, the Higher Power in life, or the Universal Creative Life Energy. Becoming aware of “the Father’s” presence in our life is “the fullness of life” that Jesus refers to. “I came that you may have life and have it to the full” (John: 10:10). All of Jesus’ teaching, through the many parables found in Scripture, and his own example of how to live, are intended for the purpose of helping us to see the presence of God in ourselves, in others, and in the created world.

The Gospel narratives describe Jesus as being someone who is not self-absorbed but rather a person who is incredibly free from self-interest or glory seeking. The Jesus depicted in Sacred Scripture is not hung up on himself. This observation supports the lesson contained in Watts’ essay. Yes, Jesus wants us to come to him, however, our relationship with Jesus is paradoxical. For when we sincerely go to Jesus, he gives himself to us, however, we receive much more than we ever imagined, for Jesus reveals to us the Father. Jesus said, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). Watts’ article encourages us to do what Jesus himself is asking us to do, to look beyond (or through) Jesus, to what Jesus came to reveal, the presence of God already in, and around us.

I thought I would share the essay with you. Some may find it blastfamous. Others, through openness of mind and heart may be able to move beyond what might be an initial negative reaction to the metaphor. Realizing that the author intends no disrespect, and accepting what the piece has to offer, some readers will find their spiritual journey enriched. I hope that is true for you. I invite you to read the essay for yourself and to share your thoughts!

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Wash Out Your Mouth” By Alan Watts,

Christian piety makes a strange image of the object of its devotion, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The bearded moralist with the stern, kind and vaguely hurt look in the eyes. The man with the lantern, knocking at the heart’s door. “Come along now, children! Enough of this horsing around! It’s time you and I had a very serious talk!” Christ Jesus our Lord. Jeez-us. Jeez-you. The Zen Buddhists say, “Wash out your mouth every time you say ‘Buddha!'” The new life for Christianity begins just as soon as someone can get up in church and say, “Wash out your mouth every time you say ‘Jesus!'”

For we are spiritually paralyzed by the fetish of Jesus. Even to atheists he is the supremely good man, the exemplar and moral authority with whom no one may disagree. Whatever your opinions, we must perforce wangle the words of Jesus to agree with them. Poor Jesus! If he had known how great an authority was to be projected upon him, he would never have said a word. His literary image in the Gospels has, through centuries of homage, become far more of an idol than anything graven in wood or stone, so that today the most genuinely reverent act of worship is to destroy that image. In his own words, “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) cannot come unto you.” Or, as the angel said to the disciples who came looking for the body of Jesus in the tomb, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen and has gone before you …” But Christian piety does not let him go away, and continues to seek the living Christ in the dead letter of the historical record. As he said to the Jews, “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life.”

The Crucifixion gives eternal life because it is the giving up of God as an object to be possessed, known and held to for one’s own safety, “for he that would save his soul shall lose it.” To cling to Jesus is therefore to worship a Christ uncrucified, and idol instead of the living God (Alan Watts, “The Gospel According to Zen“).

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Visit my WordPress Home Page “Finding God in Daily Life” to find live presentations, books, articles, and listen to live radio interviews! https://wordpress.com/stats/day/sidoticharles.wordpress.com

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