A Chestertonian reflection on blasphemy and the Annunciation

A Chestertonian reflection on blasphemy and the Annunciation March 25, 2017

All that the most terrible blasphemer has to say is tame and timid compared with what we have to say. You may sweep the gutters for foul jokes, but you cannot say anything more frightful than that God was made flesh. Piety has anticipated all profanities. All the profane speakers I have ever heard have only been engaged in expounding and elaborating in detail, and perhaps with some dullness, the plain epigram of the Incarnation. The saints made the joke; the blasphemers only explain it. You may laugh if you see fit; but before you were the heavens laughed louder than you, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” – G. K. Chesterton, (London) “Daily News”, January 11, 1908

Blasphemy is the silliest of the sins and only diminishes the blasphemer. It sure can’t diminish God, because he already diminished himself as much as conceivably possible.

You want to stage an ‘abort Jesus” protest? Knock yourself out. The actual God has beaten you to your insults against Mary’s gynecology by actually spending nine months in her womb and dodging an abortion at the hands of Herod.

You want to hurl a string of profanities at God or declare a “Blaspheme the Holy Spirit” contest? He already put up with that from his enemies, who insulted him as he was gasping out his last breaths on the cross. The whole thing about the Incarnation is that what was the final taunt against God as a miserable failure has now been turned, not into a taunt back at us (the suckers of hell’s lies who killed him with extreme prejudice) but into our liberation.

The Incarnation is the reduction of God down to the size of a peasant you can finally tell off to his face with as much swearing, violence, and orgiastic hatred as the human race can muster. Want to beat him till his lacerated flesh is one open wound? Done! Still not happy and want crown him with thorns just for the sake of gratuitous cruelty? Done and done. Want let fly with a torrent of F bombs and insults about his parentage and mental health and everything else? It was all said at the foot of the Cross and has been said over and over monotonous by his enemies for 2000 years. Magician. Liar. Son of a whore. Demon-possessed. Fraud. The whole nine yards. It was the inevitable consequence of the Incarnation.

God became man so man could finally tell God how much and how deeply he hated his living guts and then torture him to death with as much sadistic glee as he could think of. God became man to let all that wash over him and to drink it all in. He became sin so that we might become like him, full of mercy for that sin and dysfunction and pure pathetic fury.

You can blaspheme if you like, but you won’t accomplish anything new or creative. It’s all been done to death. You’ll just make yourself believe yourself Big in a race with a God who already made himself the smallest. You’ll think you are winning the game when you aren’t even in the right ballpark.

That’s why the Cross was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks”. No self-respecting God would put up with that. He’d smite the swarming vermin who disrespected his dignity that way. He didn’t. Therefore he can’t be God.

Yeah. About that:

Gloria in Profundis
There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,

Its splendour is split on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

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