He stood at the entrance of the sanctuary—a tunnel into the arena where he would be devoured by beasts.
Stage lights of blue and green and yellow flashed upon his face, then faded to utter darkness. He stood in the middle of the tunnel looking over the massive auditorium. There was no reason to be uneasy, though he had not been inside a church in twenty years, much less a government-sanctioned church. But here he was, a wanted man. A man who wore a long coat with the collar raised to hide his face, but no one could see in the darkness. No one could hear in the madness of the music.
Long ago he attended a place like this and was asked to lay his heart upon the altar and weep if he wished to be converted. They worried he did not hate himself sufficiently. He was too masculine and needed to soften up. He did not recognize what a scoundrel he truly was. He did not care about the right things or repeat the correct phrases. He questioned the teachings.
When they called him down to the altar he said this I cannot do. This I will not do.
The Stagetalker said this is what you must do to live forever, otherwise you will live forever in the fires of Hell.
But when the man stood up in defiance – when courage burst through his body and he defied those trying to rule over him – he already knew that he would live forever. In that moment he recognized that he had always been a son of God, but his true face had been hidden from himself by the liars on stages, the liars on television screens, the liars who could not obtain power over a people who knew their true worth.
For too long the eternal man was convinced that he was the man of death.
And so the people became the very thing they were told that they were. Animals. Worthless. Flesh and bone and nothing more. Driven by desire and lust and greed.
Temporary blips that destroyed the earth. And such despicable people needed salvation, so they went to submit to the Stagetalker.
The cycle went on and on.
Now he could see. All of these years later he knew he must return to topple the tables and drive out the moneychangers. Twenty years of conquering the earth at his feet. God told him that this is yours my son, all things belong to you because you belong to me.
The Voice heard in the stillness. The Spirit encountered in wild and dangerous places.
He wished to bring freedom to those who were still adorned in crowns of self-loathing and despair, and so he stood. And waited.
At the front of the room the Stagetalker addressed the crowd and spoke of nature, of the innate brokenness that each person in the audience must accept, admit, wear around their necks like a hellstone to remind them that they were nothing. In the same breath he said God loves you just as you are, there is nothing you can do to change that. Come to the front and say a prayer, because this is the variable between eternity spent in heaven or hell. There’s nothing you can do to make him love you. You, the fool. Nothing you can do except say this prayer, because he already loves you as much as he possibly can so say the prayer to make him love you.
From the stage he went on: we must be broken further to know our brokenness so cry, weep, let your emotions pour forth good men of the city for only now do you see that you are nothing at all, forget who made you, forget whose image you bear even in this moment, forget and replace that truth with this: you are the son of Adam’s sin, Adam with apple skin in his teeth, that is where you begin, not in the wild places beyond the garden, forget the notion that you are an inheritor of the goodness for you begin with a choice.
Not the choice of the God who chose to make you, but the choice of a man, the choice of a woman, and it is this choice that courses your veins.
From the back of the room, the defector roared out like a lion with a resounding ‘No.’
The people turned to see him and trembled, for a true son of God was in their midst.