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Baby Jesus smashes systems of order

By Mark Johnson - posted Friday, 17 December 2010

We are an ordered lot. Neat housing blocks, grid-patterned suburbs, notions of acceptable behaviour, and modes of correct speech. All is measured and quantified, whether we adhere to mainstream or fringe.

We extend and inflate our need for order and resemblance to other people. We accept others according to how they look to us, according to their social position, their occupation, their income, their education, their success, or their sporting allegiance. Our perfected heroes and celebrities are those who reinforce our fantasies of order.

In lock step with the "secular" delight in order is that of the metaphysical in and by which we manufacture an invisible system which qualitatively amplifies the very same prejudices which typify the broader society.


All that is - seen and unseen - reflects our small loves of order and our self-amplitude. The heroes and celebrities of this sanctified space too are all air brushed, softened and perfected so to conform to and bolster an ideal.

And so, ultimately, high and far beyond us is a deity of order, the guarantor of that cosmic harmony which elevates the few, excludes the many, and forces all into scripted roles.

This deity has been designed by those systems of order, both secular and religious that we create. And too by those hierarchies - secular and religious, structural and cognitive - we have in place.

Much of what it is to be richly human cannot be spoken of by that language linked to the very systems of order that we understand ourselves by. Our language has become platitudinous and sentimental, or so textually abbreviated so to convey the most trivial, but each showing the dissonance between our vitality and our available means by which to give it meaning.

Conditioned lives cannot speak of what lies beyond order.

This is what happens when systems of order are asked to walk and talk for us. They cannot, for they are lifeless, and can only show us our own static aspirations. Maybe we can construct anew; and that’s what we do, ever new variations of the same.


History as one progressive line of grey monoliths; perhaps the lips curled into an enigmatic smile here, a digit raised in indicative gesture there, enough alteration to persuade us of change, difference, of a new day.

But yet the same material used to construct.

We are now in Advent. Christmas again approaches. The birth of God in the world once abruptly pierced our sealed histories of order.

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About the Author

Mark Johnson teaches in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, where he is a PhD candidate. In January, he is teaching a course at the the university's Summer School titled Christianity as a Global Religion.

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