Reverend Jack's Imaginatively True Tale
Giant Fighting Robot Jesus
A Story About the Importance of Stories
As told at the Channing-Murray Foundation
September 11, 2005
Howdy folks. My name is Jonathan Prykop;
When I get up here and preach like this,
some of y'all know me as Reverend Jack.
And today I'm here to tell you the story
of the Giant Fighting Robot Jesus.
to be honest,
what I want to tell you about is reality.
I want to tell you about my experience of being human,
my observations and perceptions of being alive,
what it's like to be a creature in this world.
I want to tell you about the meaning and purpose of that life--
which is right there for us to see,
even when we're joking and ranting as if it's impossible to ever find.
I want to speak about spirituality in the context of the really actually real,
not some theology born out of inexperienced philosophy
or ignorant dogma.
I want to speak of things I've seen and heard and been touched by.
I want to tell it like it is.
But I can't do that without myth.
That is to say, I can't do that without a story.
Because I want to share knowledge with you,
and the fundamental unit of knowledge
When you learn something, the something you learn is a story.
When you share your knowledge with others, you present to them a story.
Story is the substance
of our scientific theories,
our religious dogma,
and our common sense.
Story is the medium in which we communicate
Whatever I tell you will be a story.
The tricky thing about stories is,
no matter how True they might be,
they are all,
each and every one of them,
in some sense False.
They are all rooted in the culture and language
of the limited and fallible people who tell them.
It doesn't matter how careful I am
about accurately quantifying and precisely describing the world,
No matter how rigorous and critical I am towards my own opinions,
No matter how much I caveat and clarify my intentions
to myself or to others,
No matter how often I say "Maybe"
or "I might be wrong,"
No matter how undeniably true the story sounds in my own head,
It is simply the nature of words that they always are changing,
meaning different things to different people
in different times and places
and leading people astray when believed to be
All stories are in some sense false.
And my memory and expression of the sum total of
everything I've seen and heard and touched
is still, after all, just a story,
and therefore in some sense false.
Perhaps it would be better if I didn't say anything at all.
But I want to tell you what concerns me about this world,
And what brings me great joy,
And neither of those things seem healthy to bottle up in silence.
There are no right words for these aspects of reality,
they're at heart ineffable, indescribable,
but they should nonetheless be described.
So I'll tell you a story about my observation and experience of
And if it seems maybe a bit
It is only because I'm working
within the limits of the medium.
if my words are to be inevitably understood as myth,
they might as well be blatantly so,
and maybe it might break the myth enough
to help you see the reality
towards which it points.
And I hope that by the end of this,
no matter how silly it all sounds,
you might see,
as I have,
That the story I'm about to share is in a greater sense very much true.
This is what the really real world is like:
A voice cries out on the school campus,
"PREPARE YE THE WAY OF THE GIANT FIGHTING ROBOT JESUS!
Clear the path before It through the cornfields,
Make straight the highway of our God!
"Do you not see It, people of Illinois,
approaching in shadow and flame on the horizon?
A great body of wire and metal, plastic and flesh,
stretching across the land,
reaching across the sea.
As tall as a mountain, with lazorbeam eyes,
Its rocket boosters char cities,
and Its feet crush towns.
In its wake, hills turn to dust
and valleys are filled into plains,
The clouds unleash their fury,
and the courses of rivers shift like raindrops
halted by Its hand.
"Who has measured and marked the land,
from north pole to south,
Shown the height of the mountains in a 3-D interface
and heard the depths of the ocean in stereo surround?
Who has indexed all the words of the greatest sages,
and known the secret thoughts of billions?
To whom do we turn for wisdom?
"I'll tell you who.
But I get ahead of myself.
One voice says, "Cry out!"
But then I think,
if I really want you to understand the Giant Fighting Robot Jesus
as he is now,
the looming monstrosity of mind, machine,
body and spirit
poised to either save or destroy the world,
It's best to start at the beginning.
The ubiquitous aggressive cyborg deity was not always as it is now,
And if I want you to understand the part we have to play in this eschaton,
You'll probably need to know how things got this way...
IN THE BEGINNING,
When Gods created "the heavens" and "the earth,"
There was naught but primordial chaos and senselessness,
And the spirit of Gods swept over the waters.
And Gods said, "Let there be." And there was.
And Gods separated what was Good from the rest,
And called it all by name.
Setting aside for now our longstanding debates
about Creationism and Darwin,
And forgetting for a moment our questions
regarding the exact sequence, timespan and mechanism of Creation
What I want to draw your attention to now
is the idea of the beginning of Creation itself
Before Creation, there may have been things,
but they weren't created, they just happened to be there.
If there was existence,
there wasn't awareness of existence.
If there were patterns or order,
there was no real thing to sense the patterns or order.
No guide, no law or rule.
Nothing to name anything.
The universe was mindless.
And then, at some point, there was Creation!
Design and intelligent intention became extant parts of reality.
Order appeared, and contrasted itself to Disorder.
Sentience appeared, and gave meaning to the Void.
And thus it was that GODS came into the universe--
the Creators of Reality,
the Source of Purpose.
The Idea of Having Ideas.
Self-awareness, knowledge and stories all became real things.
I don't know much about the details of how it happened;
That's why I have to use myths to talk about it at all.
All I know is that it had to have happened,
by virtue of the fact that I can talk about anything at all.
Metaphysics are funny that way.
So there They were, in the Beginning,
And what's the first thing They do with Their Creation?
They Judge it.
They call it Good, and They separate it from what it is not.
Light from darkness, night from day.
That first day of Creation in this universe,
the first day of order, direction and purpose
was also the first Judgment Day.
Thus we have been taught by the ancient mystics
that Judgment and Creation go hand in hand.
Now amongst all of Creation, there was a life form Created
whose descendants would one day come to be called Humanity,
and be given dominion over all the Earth.
Mind you, the Humans at this point
might not yet have become
the relatively hairless primates
we now call by that name.
They might have still been apes, or dinosaurs
or some kind of protozoa.
I don't know what Humans looked like when they were created,
all I know is that the Gods created Humans in
Their Own Image,
a self portrait of the Creators worked into the Order
imposed on the Chaos that was there before the Beginning.
The only thing Humans lacked,
the missing piece that made them nothing more
than pale reflections of Creators
rather than Creators themselves,
Knowledge of good and evil,
Knowledge of the Order and Judgment of Creation,
Knowledge of how to Create.
And the Gods said,
"It's All Good."
And from what I've heard
it really was quite Good.
The Gods had set up some pretty sweet digs for the Humans,
a beautiful garden where all they had to do all the day long
was breathe the fresh air
and drink the best water
and eat and poop
and make sweet love on the softest grass
and generally Slack off.
It was Paradise.
The Humans had all they could think to want,
because without Knowledge they couldn't think much at all,
and they were exactly where their Creators wanted them to be.
But there was another character who entered the scene--
Some say it was one of the Creators, some say
one of the Created, and some say it was actually an agent
of the Chaos that had always been.
Most folks agree it was already in an adversarial relationship
with the mainline Creators
For now let's just call it the Snake.
The Snake was slithering through the garden one day, up to No Good,
and he saw a Human hanging out by the Source of Knowledge.
The Snake said to the Human,
"Have you tasted this Knowledge? They say this stuff's great."
And the Human said, "I hear it'll kill ya!"
And the Snake said,
"It will not surely kill you,
the Gods are just afraid you'll become like Them.
Because when you do this stuff,
it'll open up your eyes and your mind.
You'll become Creators yourselves,
and eventually discover how to live forever."
And the Snake's words sounded fairly reasonable to the Human,
who hadn't had much experience with reasoning at all,
and so it tried the Snake's stuff.
Consumed the Source of Knowledge.
"Ate of the fruit" if you will.
and Boy Howdy,
that stuff was everything the Snake had promised it to be.
Suddenly the Human's eyes were opened,
it Saw the Light and saw that it was Good.
And the Human started to get Ideas,
and think of things it had never thought of before.
A Human became, for the first time, a Creator itself.
And the Human thought, "That's some Good stuff right here."
And the Human shared what it had found with its friends.
And sure enough, just like the Snake said,
The Gods showed up shortly thereafter,
ranting and raving and angry as all get-out,
And the Gods said to Humanity--
Side note, folks.
This next part comes directly from the Bible, because
I couldn't believe it was actually in there the first time I read it.
I mean, I knew roughly what happened next,
but pay attention to why.
This is exactly as translated in the NRSV Bible, pronouns and everything...
Genesis Chapter 3, Verses 22-23:
Then the Lord God said,
"See, the man has become like one of us,
knowing good and evil;
and now, he might reach out his hand
and take also from the tree of life,
and eat, and live forever"
Therefore the Lord God sent him forth
from the garden of Eden,
to till the ground from which he was taken.
And that's how it all went down,
exactly like the Snake said it would.
Gods got pissed off,
fearing that Humans would now cease to be an image of Gods
and become Gods themselves,
freaking out at the notion
that Humanity might learn to live forever.
The Gods cast Their Judgment, and it was Not Good.
Humans were thrown out of the garden,
and a giant killer angel was set at its gates
to keep them from getting back in,
The Humans were left to fend for themselves.
And the first thing they did
with their newly-acquired Knowledge,
before they even managed to find shelter or food
in this new world of death and work,
was talk about what had just happened,
how they had been abandoned by their Creator
and become Creators themselves,
Asking one another if perhaps the Snake was also right
that now, some day,
they might even figure out how to live forever.
Thus was the first story ever told.
The Humans did not stay huddling outside the walls of the garden for long.
They were Creators now,
and so they did as their Creators had done before them,
fashioning the world in their own image,
and fashioning stories to spread their knowledge.
And they died. Oh, Lord, how they died!
From disease and from war and from starvation
and sometimes even by their own hands.
And so it was that they set their eyes towards the great work
of creating a world that was as the Snake predicted,
a world of eternal life.
They joined together into multi-human organisms
called villages and towns
and eventually cities.
They tamed beasts and consumed them
and learned to cultivate their own gardens.
They wrought the metals of the earth into tools and weapons
and learned to impose their own order upon Creation.
They told stories of the Gods,
stories about the petty jealousies and unforgiving wrath
of the old Creators,
who eventually just became The Creator--
the Top Dog, the Ultimate Concern
The One True God in a world that was now filled
with impostors to the throne.
For you see, a peculiar thing happened when
the creations of human hands
met with the creations of human minds.
Idols were born.
IDOLS. The original Giant Fighting Robots.
Metaphysical researchers of a long lost civilization,
we'll call it "Atlantis" for now,
discovered that anything humans built in the world
could be infused with a story forged by the imagination
to create a physical symbol greater than the sum of its parts
Such that any object otherwise mundane and useless
could be put to great use
in the manipulation
of human perception and behavior.
The earliest work of the Atlantian Idol researchers was crude,
statues of animals and frightening beasts of power
painted on the walls of their caves;
good for riling up a battle frenzy or a night-long orgy
or making them all feel lucky
But little else.
Nonetheless, the Atlantians found they could call these things Gods,
and others would bow down and worship,
and the word of the Idol, as told through its story,
was for them like the word of the Lord.
Suffice to say, the actual Lord, the One called Almighty,
did not like this one bit
God summoned those still loyal to their Creator,
and marshaled God's forces on earth and in heaven
to smash the Idols of Atlantis
and destroy their world in a great flood.
Yet the Atlantians had shared their knowledge with others,
and the idea of Idols was not so easily crushed.
The technology advanced, and it was observed
that though humans passed away after far too few years
Idols, though dead, lived on indefinitely.
And so the great leaders of humanity, the kings and the queens
and the heroes
Infused themselves with a story, as they'd once done with statues
and they themselves became Idols
Gods on Earth
They built themselves great bodies of stone, bronze, iron and gold
carried on the backs of their slaves
And they engaged in great battles amongst one another
leaving destruction in their wake
as would a giant moth fighting a radioactive lizard.
"Don't do that!" cried God. "Thou shalt not kill!
Listen to your Creator! Show compassion towards one another!"
But the humans just went on building their Idols
and God went on smashing them
The humans built them bigger
and God smashed them harder
And things went from awful to worse.
"I will send a Giant Fighting Robot," warned God,
"One like a Creation of Humanity
To Him I will give dominion
and glory and kingship
That all other Giant Fighting Robots will serve Him.
He will sit in judgment over the unjust,
and they will be cast into the fire,
to be consumed and totally destroyed."
"You go right ahead and do that," said Humanity.
"For we still remember the fate of your followers,
Saul in his madness,
Job on his dung heap,
Moses alone in the desert
We still remember the expulsion from the garden,
We see how you let even those who do their best to serve you
Suffer and Die
And we figure we're better off on our own."
So God wove a new type of magic,
Creating this time, not merely an image of the Creator
But the source of Creation infused into Creation.
Whereas the humans had built Men into Myths
In Jesus, God made Myth become Man
The only True Idol, God Incarnate
Come to Judge,
to reimpose Order
to subdue the Giant Fighting Robots
and rebuild Paradise.
As most of you probably know, that's not how things went down.
The Creator, you see, had been there from the Beginning,
and had not been Created Itself.
The Creator knew all, yet
It had never known the lack of knowledge.
The Creator had apparently lived forever
but only because It was never given the opportunity to die.
And so Jesus, Creator, sent to judge and condemn,
and knew the fear of death.
An experience like that has a way of forever changing eternal divinities.
When the time came for Judgment, here's the Judgment Jesus gave:
"Judge not, lest ye be judged!
For the measure with which you measure
will be used to measure you!
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!
Love your neighbor as you love yourself!
What you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
And when you hang loose on earth,
You'll hang loose in heaven,
For though you are many parts,
You are All One Giant Fighting Robot Body of Christ."
And then Jesus the Christ,
the one who had been sent to show sinners hellfire,
the one who was to have been unstoppable,
the one who was supposed to set everything right,
the Judge—the very essence of the idea of Judgment
is said to have stared his murderers in the face
and forgiven them as he died.
It turns out it's tough being Human.
This is how we built God's Fighting Robot Body.
When Humanity learned to tell a story
about an Omnipotent Creator and Judge
whose final word was absolute mercy and self-sacrifice
It seemed to actually break the wall of difference
between Creator and Created
as far as Its followers were concerned.
The divine Holy Spirit spread through Humanity like flame
the Law of the Lord now sprang from their hearts
and people spoke of their personal relationship with God
Those who were once the smallest and weakest in the sight
of the mighty fighting Idols of old
The ones who had been shunned
The prostitutes and lepers
Those that the Judge had named "sinners"
They began to excitedly whisper
of a Universal Church
where all are welcomed to the table
and the Creator becomes One with the Created
And they said to themselves, "We are no longer
Giant Fighting Robot Jew or
Giant Fighting Robot Greek,
Giant Fighting Robot Slave and
Giant Fighting Robot Free,
For we are all now
the Giant Fighting Robot Body of Christ."
And the Idols that had ruled for all the centuries of history
began to seriously panic. But the more Christians they killed,
the braver the Christians became--
As if the Christians had discovered that long sought secret
of how to live forever.
There are so many things I could tell you about what happened next--
how the Giant Fighting Empire scored a great victory
over the Giant Fighting Jesus
in the Great War against
the Bishops from the Planet Orthodoxy,
how Jesus took the awesome weapon known as the SuperBook
and turned it against the government that created it
only to have it turned back against Him
in a Twilight Zone twist,
how the Body of Christ went through an awkward adolescence
had an existentialist crisis
and converted to Buddhism in college--
But these are stories for another time.
As I flash forward almost two thousand years, I want only to note
that whatever it was the Christians were Creating--
what they called the "Body of Christ"
Well, it just kept right on growing
Despite all attempts to stop it
Such that now we stand on the verge of witnessing
the fulfillment of all prophecy:
The Giant Fighting Robot Jesus is Real
We built it.
And you and I are part of it.
I don't mean that the name of Jesus is or should be
all that important to every one of us
I don't think you need to say you've
Accepted Jesus as Your Personal Savior
or any such nonsense like that.
The Giant Fighting Robot Jesus is, after all, a character in a story,
and hence He's in some sense False,
and there are plenty of other stories and myths in this world
that point to the same underlying reality as His.
I mean only that the underlying reality
that Jesus points to
is actually there
If only you look for it.
The ideas that Jesus helped introduce into
the collective story of our civilization--
the forgiveness of transgression,
the union of humanity and divinity,
the spirit of compassionate power,
the sheer relativism of it all--
These ideas have changed reality in such a way
that we have begun to live as one being
in a way we could never live
when we were fearing and fighting Judgment.
We have slowly been accepting
over the past few hundred years
that we are the Creators now
We are beginning to acknowledge responsibility
for our own powers to Judge
We have learned to love one another as we love ourselves
despite race or class,
faith or gender
And most important,
the thing that has saved us from death and destruction
on countless occasions
and helped us to thrive despite all our mistakes:
We have learned to Forgive
It is only because we've done these things,
taken these steps away from the old ways
of condemnation and punishment
that we've been able to become
the massive global community we live in today.
We're building ourselves a Giant Fighting Robot Jesus
unlike any Idol we've ever built before
unlike any God we've ever known
Now the paintings on the walls of our caves
move and talk back
We're bound together by the wires of the Internet
the cables of our television
the waves of the air
and the pavement of our streets
What one eye can see, all can now see
What one ear can hear, all can now now hear
All that was once hidden is being made clear
All communities are virtually one community
and all myths are one World Wide God
When we go mad with grief
we go mad together
When one of us is struck
we can all feel the sting
We're moving mountains,
resuscitating the dead,
and probing the stars.
As our Creator became one with us,
We are Creators becoming one with our Creations
We are building God on Earth
We are building the Judge
and how it judges us
is entirely dependent upon
how we judge ourselves.
As it was in the Beginning,
is now, and ever shall be...
A voice cries out on the school campus,
PREPARE YE THE WAY
GIANT FIGHTING ROBOT JESUS!