Thursday 19 September 2019

In a mixed-up world, what would Jesus do?

In a Christmas Soapbox, Gene Kerrigan outlines three possible and fairly plausible versions of a Second Coming

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday
Gene Kerrigan

Gene Kerrigan

Suppose Jesus Christ came back. How would that work out in today's Ireland?

Well, it might depend on the manner of his Second Coming. Would he resume more or less where he left off, a militant martyr condemned for his radical message?

Or would he turn up in a manger, newly born in humble circumstances?

Take One

Imagine a pensioner enjoying an early morning walk in the Phoenix Park, startled to find Jesus nailed to the Papal Cross, asking for water.

What would happen?

Well, eventually a chap from the Office of Public Works fetches a ladder to help him down. Meanwhile, two crime correspondents arrive, alerted by Garda contacts. Both tweet that their sources have confirmed that this atrocity is the latest development in the Kinahan/Hutch feud.

Frances Fitzgerald announces that gardai have sufficient resources to cope with the situation. An hour later she announces an extra five million and an Action Plan, with a view to launching a Task Force.

In line with the New Politics, Fianna Fail immediately denounces these moves and calls instead for a Task Action and a Force Plan.

Fine Gael/Fianna Fail negotiators meet through the night. Each side leaks details of its "tough stance" to eager political correspondents. They finally agree on a Task Plan and a Force Action.

Meanwhile, live from outside Garda HQ, RTE reveals that the man nailed to the cross was known in underworld circles as "The Saviour".

Senior sources, they add, confirm that The Saviour was "known to gardai". And that "on his last appearance before judicial authorities The Saviour received a stiff sentence from Mr Justice Pilate..."

Further leaks suggest that "senior gardai believe" The Saviour was part of a sinister fringe that...

No, perhaps not.

Let's imagine a different, more gentle manner of Jesus's Second Coming.

Take Two

A parish priest prepares to say morning Mass and hears a cry from the Christmas Crib and, yes, lying there in the manger, it's the real Baby Jesus. Hallelujah!

In the days that follow, Political Correspondents relentlessly analyse the Jesus-welcoming performances of the Fine Gael leadership contenders.

Leo Varadkar sent the infant a Failte message, promising access to social services, "in-so-far as scarce resources allow".

FG voters will warm to this, conclude the Pol Corrs.

Simon Coveney drew up a 42-page exploratory memorandum, in which he suggested a new set of incentives to landlords. "This," he claimed, "will kick-start the market. And although he'll spend some time living in a B&B, I'm confident Baby Jesus will be housed before he finishes secondary school."

An impressive display of ministerial efficiency, the Pol Corrs decide.

Paschal Donohoe, they agree, scored highly by promising Fine Gael voters he'll ensure the Son of God doesn't become a "burden on the public purse".

At which point, the police swoop and take Baby Jesus into custody. A "concerned taxpayer" has phoned in a tip, alleging that the baby's mammy lives off a single mother's allowance while cohabiting with a carpenter.

Gardai leak their suspicion that the carpenter (named on social media as "Joe") might have claimed jobseeker's allowance while doing nixers on the sly.

Eventually, the authorities decide that Baby Jesus's skin colour suggested he was of Middle Eastern origins, at which point he's sent to a Direct Provision centre where he'll be held for 19 years. 

No, perhaps that too is not the best way for Jesus to return.

Let us instead suppose that Jesus comes back as an adult, pre-crucifixion; a strong, intelligent presence, somewhat puzzled by the world.

Take Three.

Having materialised in Clery's window, a location urgently in need of a Blessing, Jesus walks across the Liffey to the south side. As he's drying his feet, he notices a crowd gathering at a building.

A homeless couple, Jilly and Billy, explain to him that many buildings in Ireland are empty while people sleep in doorways. So, some artists and activists have commandeered Apollo House.

Rough sleepers have been housed, and the action has generated widespread concern that something be urgently done about homelessness.

"Singers and rebels? Don't you have politicians for fixing problems like homelessness? Who's in charge?"

Billy explains about Enda. "He's a Christian Democrat."

"Ah, a Christian, one of my followers?"

"It's complicated," says Jilly.

They explain about the crash and austerity.

"You're kidding me, right? They squandered public wealth by giving it away to the money changers?"

"The bankers, yes."

"And," says Jesus, "they cut support to public services?"

"Everything from hospitals to hospices. They cut carers, the blind and the sick," they tell him.

"Christ", says Jesus.

"You can wait years for a hospital appointment," Jilly explains, "and lie on a trolley for days, waiting for a bed. The money-changers are repossessing homes and selling them, the dispossessed are housed in squalid conditions, some sleep in cars or on streets. There are queues at soup kitchens."

Jesus makes his way to Fine Gael HQ in Mount Street. After a quick squint at the Bible, to refresh his memory, he stands in the middle of the street, raises both arms and in a deep, ringing voice says: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied..."

At which point the Garda Public Order Unit arrives with shields and batons. They've been told an outside agitator is threatening to falsely imprison the Taoiseach.

Jesus, Jilly and Billy do a runner. Later that day, Ibec condemns Jesus's Sermon on Mount Street as "damaging to our competitiveness".

Taoiseach Enda says he found Jesus's remarks "hurtful".

The Leader of the Labour Party says the last thing the homeless need is "this kind of ultra-left nonsense".

FF issues a statement saying in its entirety, "We love Jesus, so we do."

Meanwhile, Michael Noonan issues a statement on the Holy Trinity. It begins: "The thing about these four..."

And Pearse Doherty has to correct Noonan's figures yet again.

Jilly and Billy bring Jesus down Henry Street and show him the happy kids, the emotional parents. They tell him of the great joy his birthday creates.

"Who's this fat guy in the silly red suit?" he asks. "His image is everywhere."

"That's Santa - he's what Christmas is all about."

"Really?" says Jesus. "I thought I was what Christmas is all about."

"It's complicated."

So, they tell him about Santa bringing gifts for children around the world - visiting every house in one night, his sleigh flying above the towns and the cities, how he comes down the chimney with a sackful of toys.

Jesus raises both eyebrows.

"You're telling me," he says, "that people actually believe in an imaginary being who can perform miracles?''

Billy and Jilly exchange a glance. "Don't go there," they say.

So, Jesus shrugs, saying: "Well, it sounds like it makes people happy, and that's always good. So, I suppose I should wish you both a Happy Christmas".

"And peace on earth," says Jilly.

"To all of good will," says Billy.

Sunday Independent

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