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A few weeks ago, I was visiting a woman who sells biblical toys, action figures of Bible characters like David and Goliath, Moses, Jonah.
She handed me the Jesus doll, which was about twice the size of a G.I. Joe, and showed me how the fingers and joints move. Then she pressed a button on Jesus' back and Jesus started talking.
He was reciting a Bible verse or a series of verses - he went on for quite a while. I was there to interview the woman for a story and I tried to continue our conversation while Jesus kept talking, but it was difficult. Jesus was rather loud and I was distracted.
I didn't know what to do. On the one hand, I didn't want to be disrespectful to Jesus, even a toy Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus wouldn't stop talking.
So, I took a breath and asked the woman, "Um, could you please make Jesus be quiet?" I winced at my words, thinking surely that the real Jesus would rain down fire and brimstone on my sorry head. People who have tried to silence Jesus in the past generally haven't fared well.
Actually, I chuckled about it for the rest of the day.
"Could you please make Jesus be quiet?" As if someone could!
The irony (or the absurdity) is, we all, in our own ways, at times try to make Jesus be quiet. Imagine the chutzpah it takes to tell the one who spoke creation into being to be still and to tell the one who tells the oceans exactly how far to go up on the shore - and they obey and go no farther - to stop talking.
Be quiet, Jesus. Stop talking. Go away.
It's the height of arrogance. It's putting your fingers in your ears and going, "La la la la la la. Blah blah blah. I'm not listening. I can't hear you. La la la la."
The other day I got an e-mail from my favorite critic. He wrote to say that my recent columns on "true truth" actually made all of Christopher Hitchens' arguments; Hitchens is the author of "God Is Not Great," a book that skewers all religion in general and Christianity most vehemently.
My critic said that my column inspired him to attend a humanists' meeting that day.
Maybe that's true, or maybe he was just giving me a witty zinger, which he often does. Either way, whether he realizes it or not, he's got his fingers in his ears, going, "La la la la. Jesus, please be quiet."
The one I call my uncle-dad says that the will to not believe is strong and that it takes a volitional act to remain an unbeliever. He says that people who write anti-God books and who are drawn to atheism and humanism and any number of other "isms" out there are afraid that if they don't band with people of similar "unbeliefs" they'll lose their "unfaith."
King David once wrote, "Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing?" As one who used to plug my ears, I know exactly why - because if I hear Jesus then I'll have to do something about what he's saying.
If I hear him tell me to stop lying, stop stealing, stop envying and coveting and lusting, stop trying to live my life on my own terms, doing what makes me feel good at the moment, then I'll have to stop and I might not want to.
Better to plug up my ears or band with others who also don't like what Jesus says, or push a button on the back of a Jesus action figure to get him to please be quiet.
But to do so would also mean I miss his words of welcome and rest, hope and life.
"I tell you the truth," Jesus said, "whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned" (Matthew 5:24).
The apostle Peter once told Jesus, "To whom else would we go? You have the words of eternal life!"
I don't know about you, but when I hear things like that, I want Jesus to keep talking.