Missing Link Found

Blue shapes swim on the cover of the book on my desk: Walter Wink’s newest one, The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of Man. My eyes unfocus as I remember him reading from it in the humid air of the Gathering Store and responding to our politely phrased questions. Those gathered around him choose to ignore the beads of sweat on his brow. "Ezekiel’s amazing vision of God is believable because to his description of God he adds such qualifiers as ‘Something that seemed like a human form.’ Why does God choose to appear in the form of a human? Is God turning a human face to us to teach us we might someday have God’s power?" Walter Wink flips this amazing postulation over and over until he is satisfied we have had a tantalizing peek at its mystery.

"Perhaps," Walter Wink muses, "We are a missing link between what we were and what we will be or could be: fully human. Grow through your sins," he urges us, "redeemed over and over until you are real, rather than good. When we believe Jesus is the sole incarnation of God, we put him on a pedestal and that takes us off the hook. The Book of Mark shows how Jesus’ disciples project onto him their own power to incarnate God’s power. When Jesus calms a storm on the sea of Galilee, walks on its waters, and feeds 5,000 of his followers, his disciples misidentify the source of Jesus’ miraculous power."

My mind shifts. I see the poised figures of several young women standing on the auditorium stage at the start of Walter Wink’s plenary. They do three impromptu skits, directed by him, from the New Testament: "Turn the Other Cheek," "Give Your Undergarment, Too," and "Go the Second Mile." As their performance demonstrates his words, Walter Wink turns what I thought of as Jesus’ social justice on its head and teaches me interaction techniques that remind me of Aikido, the nonviolent martial art. Jesus seems to me to be saying, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer up the other side of your face to allow the momentum of their rage to sweep them into its whirlwind. Distract your enemy in this way in order to better direct them while keeping them safe from further violence. Give your undergarment, as well as your coat to your enemy, to demonstrate how their avarice threatens to consume both of you. Go an extra mile with your oppressor, in order to see life through their eyes. With their attention, reveal to them your interdependence on each other. In all circumstances, courageously and lovingly embrace opportunities to lead your enemy into a more just relationship with yourself. Create an alternative society based on justice within the shell of the old order of dominance." Jesus is an expert at guerrilla theater.

My attention returns to Walter Wink’s voice. "The nonviolence of pacifism is not passivity. By driving the money-changers out of the temple and freeing the animals sold for sacrifice there, Jesus teaches us that nonviolent direct action does involve coercion. Gandhi teaches us to use our rage as a source of nonviolent power: ‘You must be willing to be violent to renounce it.’ Use your greatest weakness, a power the world does not expect: be creative!" To be successful, Walter Wink cautions, "we must be willing to accept our own death, but in doing so," he exults, "we choose our death in an active way. What do you choose to die—but not kill—for?"

Walter Wink stands at the podium, a spotlight illuminating his white hair. "It is not enough to utilize Jesus’ recommended style of interaction with my enemies. My first step must be to engage my shadow, on its own terms, in the arena of my self, as opposed to its projection on to another human. After vanquishing my own shadow, I will be familiar with its moves in others. I must take responsibility for the damage I do to others by my quest for perfection. I am a missing link between ape and angel, beast and saint. When I dismantle the domination of perfection inside myself, I uncover my Inner Light." The meaning of Walter Wink’s words cause a twinge of regret to pass over me, and suddenly I feel the hardness of the chair I sit on. "We fail to recognize the true purpose of Jesus’ teachings. We give our attention to distractions provided by our shadow, empowering it." Amazement sweeps over me. Aware I am intently listening, I feel as though I am glimpsing myself as Walter Wink’s eyes search the auditorium.

As I browse my notes, my mind travels again to Walter Wink’s words in the discussion following his plenary: "God’s redemption is available to institutions if we don’t limit God. The spirituality of an institution makes it accessible to God. Institutions are creatures of God—even economies. If our imagination focuses on evil, we become it. We underestimate the practice of the Quaker ethos." Walter Wink’s white linen shirt catches the slight breeze from a ceiling vent, and he leans toward us. I sit, transfixed by his evidence. He continues, "Our perception of our enemy contains the power of our projected shadow self, a reflection of our own misguided striving for perfection."

A loud voice interrupts us. "Why can’t we see we are tiring out Walter Wink?" a woman, sitting near me during the question session demands indignantly. The spell is broken. I walk back to my room exhausted by excursions to realms I had never imagined. My night is filled with dreams. I wake in a haze and, dazed, I eat my breakfast, come back to my room, and take out and behold Walter Wink’s new book. As blue shapes swim on it, the thought bubbles up: "I am the missing link."

-—Amy Gomez