My son turned me on to the above satiric version of the famous poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. Star Wars fans will immediately identify the source. Of course when I saw it this morning I also thought of the Apache and Comanche, and I am sure many other warlike people before them, who did the same thing. The phrase resonates in science fiction because of the reality of human history, the enemy rides in single file to conceal their numbers. Why? To deprive you of the intelligence of the number of your foes, what you are facing and when and where the battle might be joined.
Comanche Warrior by Caitlin 1835
I must say, although this satire was done as a joke, I prefer this Jesus to the somewhat sentimental one of the original poem. This Jesus is eminently practical and helpful. In the original poem, if you remember, when the going gets tough in life Jesus just picks you up and carries you. The only problem is, that is not the sort of life Christ told us we would have as his followers:
See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles….Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved…A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the masters. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household? Matthew 10: 16-24
Apache Warrior by Farny
Jesus does not carry us, and does not get us out of things. He is not a sentimental savior. But, he is a practical one. He is practical because he helps us by telling us the truth – our enemies will be many, they will come at us and they will conceal themselves until the moment they strike, we will not know how many they are or where we will be when they strike. These enemies are both spiritual and physical. They will strike at the body and the soul. We are not to be timid. But, we are to be both wise and gentle. The Jesus who tells us that our foes travel single file to conceal their numbers is helping us get ready for the real world, not the one they teach you about in Sunday School.
In some ways this reminds me of the ancient Christian empires and kingdoms whose soldiers would go into battle carrying the cross before them, or the people of Constantinople who famously carried the icon of the Virgin Mary around the walls praying for deliverance from their enemies besieging the city. Such notions seem unholy and sacrilegious now, the notion that God should be invoked in warfare against our fellow-men. I doubt very much that God would approve, then or now. But, the point is this – to the ancients Christ’s presence was real in a way that it never is to you and me. To the ancients the presence of Christ, and indeed the Virgin in their midst was as real as the Emperor and generals giving orders. Not so with us. We tend to spiritualize Christ to the exclusion of his physicality. We take Christ and make him a best friend, sentimental companion or rescuer. We want him to get us out of things, to deliver us. But, that is not what a suffering savior does, does he? If we truly are not above our master who suffered and died, why should we expect to be delivered from suffering? We never believe that he is really with us, suffering with us, warning us, helping us, fighting in our struggles alongside us. Let us face it. Most of us carry the name of Christ but in reality we are practical atheists, or at least agnostics.
Siege of Constantinople
This is not to say that the U.S. Marines should carry a cross in to battle. Far from it. But, we his people should understand that Christ is a physical savior for a physical world. He does not rescue us from our troubles and travails. Instead he is a part of them and is with us through them. We will suffer. But, Christ is a part of that suffering. Christ is a physical savior, and a practical, ever present savior. If he is not, then there is really no point. If he is not, then he is not risen, has no power and our faith is folly and we are worse than fools. As St. Paul said, we above all people are the most to be pitied.
O Lord save your people and bless your inheritance, grant victory to your people over adversaries and by the power of your cross preserves us, your estate.
Peace be with y’all