Self-Flagellation and Other Sexy Ways to Bake Bread
I’m an organist for a Lutheran church, so every Sunday I watch the few attendees scramble up to the altar for their favorite ceremony; devouring the flesh and imbibing the blood of their deity. They call it “Communion” or “Eucharist”, but the practice of eating a deity is formally known as deiphagy and was a common ritual among antique religions and cults of Mediterranean. Apparently, eating the transubstantiated wafer is a moment of remembrance of the covenant and salvation of Jesus Christ. Not surprisingly, no matter how many salvation wafers I’ve seen them eat, these same church-goers continue to express the love of hoarding money, the fear of non-Christians, the resentment of the Christians who worship across the street, and the idolatry of their own fancy building (just to name a few of the luscious cognitive dissonances I witness).
I can guarantee you this is not particular to my church. This willful ignorance, paranoia, and pursuit for comfort penetrates many churches – It pierces other religious practices – It pervades our politics and economies, saturating governments and societies. We justify it as the human condition. In a world ravaged by the insatiable hunger for comfort and ease, no wonder Christians find peace in thoughtlessly consuming the body and drinking the blood of Christ; eating that little wafer is the most painless action to achieve “Everlasting Life” (even the phrase “Everlasting Life” circumvents that uncomfortable notion of dying). When those church-goers eat their Lord, do they not see him hanging on the wall, bloodied, emaciated, naked, humiliated, and crucified?
When you partake in Christ’s body, it should be a gentle reminder to self-flagellate. As you chew, let it be a moment of meditation; “How do I destroy myself for the sake of those less fortunate? How do I wound myself, gore myself, whip myself, sacrifice my comforts and my body for the well-being of others?”
On his journey to the Golgotha, Jesus was publicly shamed and humiliated with 40 lashes. How can we publicly humiliate ourselves? How can we make ourselves vulnerable daily? We must let go of “personal reputation”. We must let go of social magnetism and privileged charisma. Humiliation is the sacred baptismal font that cleanses the ego from its dirty selfishness.
Execution by crucifixion was a special custom for those who committed treason against the Roman Empire. Jesus was executed because he was seen as treasonous. When sacrificing oneself for the sake of others, one should ask, “How should I commit treason?” We shall commit treason by any means necessary and we shall be caught and hung naked for the world to see our emaciated bodies, starved and gored for the sake of those oppressed. We shall not limit ourselves to treason against the government; We shall commit treason against societal expectations of being, treason against normalcies, treason against cultural values and aspirations, and treason against our own personal ideas and philosophies.
When Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani?” (My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?). But Jesus really knew that God did not forsook him. It was just an elaborate role-play ~ God is a Dominatrix. And God is Love. Love will whip us, and spit on us, ride us like a pony, laugh at our stripped bodies and humiliate us until we are broken. Only when we are laid bare, frightened and smashed can we glimpse the erotically divine ecstasy of total passion. As Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, eloquently expresses:
For even as Love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
Which brings us back to eating Jesus’ body. In my radical Christian theology, eating Jesus should not be a remembrance of an unconditional promise of everlasting life. Instead, eating Jesus should be a reminder of how we can become bread for others. When our bodies have become nothing but food for those who have nothing, only then can we consider ourselves saved.
 from Late Latin passionem (nominative passio) “suffering, enduring,” from past participle stem of Latin pati “to suffer, endure”.