I was raised Catholic—you don’t get any of the good food like hotdish or cookie salad, but you to get to go through youth convinced you’re 20% more of a wizard than the other kids in school, and more prepared for an encounter with demons, which you convince yourself is a common enough occurrence to warrant living under a creepy international monarchy whilst the rest of America has moved onto more innovative creepiness. I’m not a Catholic, or anything, anymore; by the time I realize I could be in the presence of something greater than myself, I look but the moment is already gone. Movement atheism is just Reaganomics for guys with STEM degrees; the jagoffs get fame and notoriety off the radical notion that something they don’t experience doesn’t exist, and the accountability for the evils wrought by organized religion are put on the very people it manipulated.
I’m not here to say the ecumenical canonicity of John The Baptist suggests a capacity for God, if they exist, to love and redeem outside the confines of the fallible engine we call creed.
I’m also not here to say John The Baptist’s presence in overlapping spiritual analects suggests that placing a strict adherence to textual understandings of God is intellectually dubious.
All I came here to say is that John The Baptist, whether he was a prophet or Jesus’ hype man, would have been DTR: down to ramen.
This isn’t much of an interpretive stretch, since most of us can agree ramen is pretty great, and as an itinerant preacher, John likely had a lot of soup in his day.
I think he’d have been a bit of a ramen hipster, though. He was, when you think of it, a Christian before Christianity was even a thing. He’d try any ramen shop he was recommended by Yelp, but in his heart, I think he would pine for tsukemen.
LOOK, OKAY, THIS IS NOT JUST AN ELABORATE JOKE ABOUT DUNKING SOMETHING IN LIQUID. GIVE ME A CHANCE.
Tsukemen is a sort of “reverse ramen” where the noodles, toppings, and protein are served separately from the broth (which often has meat, fish, and/or veggies of its own). You eat it by dipping the ramen in the broth first—at least, that’s the idea, the ritual pretense of the offering. By the time the ramen’s been drained, rinsed, arranged, and carried to your table, the noodles will have started to stick, the meat congealing. On paper, it’s a deconstruction. In reality, it’s a renovation project, hand-wrapping gummy noodles around chopsticks and reanimating them in a lazarus pit of pork belly chunks.
Being a social justice organizer has taught me more about the appeal of Christianity than being raised under it; when someone comes to accept intersectionality in their lives, there is a sort of rebirth of accepting that you have committed wrongs, but that you are somewhat absolved of these wrongs because it was the result of a patriarchal society’s programming, and now you are armed with the knowledge and community to right those wrongs, and the wrongs of others. Like all highs, it is fleeting, compelling those who aren’t being affirmed within their communities (or affirmed “enough”) to engage in lateral violence against other marginalized people or perform public gestures of refutation (i.e. “dunking”) to experience that rush of realization.
In truth, it is tedious, thankless work. You untangle, you wrap up and smooth out—you either learn to take gratification in the work itself, and then the few times you get recognized or thanked for it become a sort of perk or fringe benefit, or you burn out. The Bliss of The Purpose is ever-evasive.
Sometimes constantly making a scene, however regressive in result, is the only thing keeping those around you from being lost to doubt at the dull, despairing life of the denouncer of evils. And even if it frustrates or even harms you, you can’t jettison everyone who has a bad and embarassing day on twitter from your community, not only because this is exactly how you lose the struggle, but also because in the back of your mind, you can’t shake the feeling that in your fleeting lucidity, it’s you who’s the aberration, and everyone else is acting predictably under inhuman stress.
Tomorrow, it could just as easily be you, or me. I find the tedium of a community townhall a soothing, affirming experience. I like the emotional solitude in the anonymous distribution of food or materials for protesters. But if I was totally rational and never let my emotions get in the way, I would’ve realized I was born in the best possible position society could afford me and just coasted and maybe cross-dressed in hotels if I traveled for business or roleplayed as a girl orc in World of Warcraft or whatever. The fact that I was willing to accept and live my truth kind of predisposes me to impulse. So: I try to take the banality of behind the scenes organizing as a sort of blessing unto itself.
So I think John would have found something ratifying in the experience of having to finagle food on the edge of “stale leftover” status and making it into a winsome, captivating pursuit, something to do with his hands, smiling to himself, thinking “ain’t this just life, though” while his friends contested the pronunciation of karage.
And not just because it’s a very convenient metaphor for baptism, which is in itself a metaphor for the emotional and spiritual renewal that comes with accepting a cause and design greater than yourself.
Look: I was at a mass once where a Bishop caught fire and everyone in the church hesitated before helping him because he’d just done a sermon about being able to read people’s minds and I guess we all just assumed this was like Penn & Teller for people who hate yeast in their bread.
I recognize that religion has an impact on people, not unlike the guy who finally got up and tackled the bishop and put out his flames. I try to respect it like one might respect a volcano (for similar reasons).
I’d never end a post with such a low-effort joke.
May you find strength and joy in the thankless toil of your struggles.
Peace be with you.
Author: Jetta Rae
Founder of Fry Havoc. Can be found on twitter at @jetta_rae