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"Eating God: the Absurdity of the Eucharist to a Former Evangelical” Personal Reflection by Jeremy Hutcheson
Illustration: Jim Boraas

All my life I’ve believed in absurd things. It started when I was young. Some of my first memories involved believing that aliens were out to get my family, and that the probability of a random tornado striking my trailer house was inevitable. That’s probably why I now believe in one of the most absurd concepts of all: that the wafer and wine of the Eucharist are the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ. It was a journey for me, but I’ll fill in the details.

When I first became conscious of my religious addiction as a teen, very specifically the salvific message of Jesus Christ, I was sold. From the first moment of saying the “Sinner’s Prayer” it took only months before I was the biggest evangelical Bible-thumper in my church. I was God’s warrior – striking down the powers of evil with the proclamation, “In the name of Jesus!” I’m sure that God will commend all the good work I did in casting out demons in my small Nebraska town, and my cats are probably happy for the intercessory prayer they received on my behalf.

The average person would probably consider this type of religious ideology loony. I believed that, you know, God became man and that I converse with him, although he’s not physically there. Moreover, there’s a heaven and hell, and he saved me from his own fiery judgement of sinners by his infinite love.

When I entered college, my religious beliefs began to fall apart. It wasn’t because the beliefs were incorrect – rather, it was because they were simply an ideology. I learned all about ideologies in college, and my evangelical faith appeared to be another ideology, like Marxism or Platonism. I learned how to deconstruct arguments and ideas, and how to construct my own. All ideologies, I discovered, are created, changed, and morphed throughout history as different generations believe and disbelieve different things. Thus, I faced the inevitable question: “What makes Christianity so different?” I was frustrated that I could create and kill God in my head; he was immaterial, conceptual, and believed differently by people throughout history.

But, instead of abandoning the Church and my beliefs, I figured out a way to believe in something even more obscure that quickly solved the quandary I faced. I needed something tangible to believe in Christianity. There had to be a way to bridge the gap between real life and the realm of religious ideology. We celebrated the Eucharist at the church I attended during college, and there was a connection existing in that meal that I hadn’t considered before. Gradually my absurdity kicked into full-gear, and I started believing that if the Christian ideology is real, my proof came from the physical manifestation of Christ in the Eucharist. The idea that Christ is the wafer and wine is so ridiculous that no human could have constructed this belief. Thus, Christianity was no longer a construction in my mind, but an embodied encounter with something bigger than my best ideas. My faith up to that point was all in my head, and now I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ quite literally, because I eat him. He’s tangible, sensory, material, and moving through my digestive system.

I’m going to step back and expand on what this belief means in non-religious terms. Belief in the physical transformation of the Eucharist means that taking the wafer and drinking the wine amounts to eating the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ – another man. Early critics of Christianity weren’t far off from calling Christians cannibals, because they ate a human (specifically Jesus Christ) in their religious rituals. If that isn’t kooky enough, I also believe that I’m not only consuming Jesus the man, but also Jesus the God – the Creator of the Universe. I ingest God on Sunday, and that’s nuts to most of the world.

As I examine my obscure belief, it’s comforting to know that some of the best things in life are as absurd as Christ showing up in the Eucharist. Why do humans love one another? Why do we have free will and reason when other animals do not? Why do I exist and want to continue to live? The answer to these questions cannot be simple and calculated; it must be absurd because it’s not easily accessible and clear to humans. It’s a mystery. As the Christian writer Tertullian wrote, “credo quia absurdum est,” or “I believe because it is absurd.” And for me, eating God is the closest thing I’ve come to answering the questions of existence.

 
 

 

 
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