CHRISTIAN CLASSICS

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JESUS
by Muggeridge

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MARGIN NOTES
Malcolm Muggeridge
Born in 1903, Malcolm Muggeridge has become one of the notable figures of the twentieth century. He is well-known as an author, journalist, media personality, and in his later years, a leading spokesman for Christianity. His upbringing was, as he termed it, "socialist;" his father was involved in politics and served as a member of Parliament. He attended Cambridge University, and after his graduation in 1924, went to India as a teacher. He returned to his native England in 1927, where he married Katherine (Kitty) Dobbs and worked as a substitute teacher. After six months, the young couple moved to Egypt to assume another teaching post. It was here in Egypt that Muggeridge's career as a journalist began in earnest, a life of writing that would include work for the Manchester Guardian , Calcutta Statesman , Evening Standard , Daily Telegraph , and other newspapers.

Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge spent the fall and winter of 1932-33 in Moscow, where he was a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian . He witnessed the Ukranian famine and was the first western reporter to write truthfully about the resultant death and devestation. This sojourn in the Soviet Union ended Muggeridge's infatuation with Communism as a panacea for the ills of the world.

Returning briefly to England, he subsequently accepted a post in India as assistant editor for the Calcutta Statesman . While there he completed a biography of Samuel Butler. During the Second World War, Muggeridge joined the Army Intelligence Corps and served in Mozambique, Italy, and France. Resuming his career as a journalist following the war, he spent almost two years in Washington, DC as a correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.

Muggeridge's wit and style endeared him to many as he became a popular (and controversial) figure on radio and television. From 1953-57 he served as editor of the British humor magazine Punch . During the 1960s this former Socialist and vocal agnostic gradually modified his positions on religion and became a Christian. This journey is recorded in his book Jesus Rediscovered . From that time his writings reflect his increasingly orthodox stance on matters of faith. In 1983 Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge became members of the Roman Catholic Church.

In his latter years, Muggeridge expressed a growing concern about moral and ethical issues. He opposed abortion and euthanasia while supporting the rights of the mentally and physically handicapped. His opposition to birth control led to his controversial resignation as Rector of Edinburgh University. He was greatly influenced by Mother Theresa of Calcutta and her efforts on behalf of the forgotten people of the world. She is the subject of his book Something Beautiful for God.

A leading Christian apologist, Muggeridge is sometimes cited as the G. K. Chesterton of the latter twentieth century. There appears to be a widening audience hungering for his sometimes cynical, yet always insightful opinions.

Malcolm Muggeridge, after a fruitful life of constant interaction and tension with life, entered eternal rest November 14, 1990.










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JESUS
by Malcolm Muggeridge


Such acts of healing on Jesus' part are generally considered to be miracles, which of course they are in the sense that they happened at his behest, and that in the account given of them in the Gospels they are seen as coming about through the direct intervention of God, and so as transcending what is called the natural law. On this showing, although my resuscitation of the red-bearded man with bad breath by giving him my blood happened more or less instantaneously, it was not a miracle, but came into the category of normal medical treatment. If it is considered that in effecting his miracles Jesus was bound, consciously or unconsciously, to give of himself - for instance, on the occasion described in St. Luke's Gospel, when a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon . . . came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases.

. . . And all the multitude sought to touch him, for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all - then the two processes of a blood-transfusion and a miracle can be seen as comparable. Indeed, had Jesus been a Harley Street specialist instead of an itinerant evangelist claiming to be the Son of God, he might well have carried on his healing in precisely the same way, getting himself knighted instead of founding a world religion, a church and a civilization. In both cases, he would equally have fallen foul of the authorities; the British Medical Association, we may be sure, would have found his methods and pretensions as abhorrent as the Sanhedrin did, and would likewise have sought ways to dispose of him.

Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

Miracles are like modern day blood-transfusions
If Jesus' miracles may thus be seen as a sort of spiritual equivalent of a blood-transfusion, in his case it was not just a matter of dispensing a pint or so of surplus blood, and then having a cheerful cup of tea with a friend. Ultimately, on the Cross, he gave all his blood, to the very last drop, not to revive one patient for the remainder of a waning life, but to revivify all mankind for ever; the outward and visible sign of this being the Eucharist, when Jesus' blood in the form of the Blessed Sacrament is offered to all who will accept it.

Through the miracles we may understand the availability of forgiveness, the possibility of redemption and the promise of salvation. They are, in this sense, a kind of parable, conveying, as the others do, how we may be whole persons rather than maimed and disjointed, floundering and staggering like a bird with a broken wing. In the spoken parables he told us how to achieve this - how to see clearly through the eye rather than blindly with it, how to live fleet and free as children of God rather than burdened and manacled as bond slaves to our will and desires. The miracles were practical demonstrations to the same effect; here, a blind man who sees, a dumb man who speaks, a crazed man who puts on his clothes and recovers his right mind, here a lame man who runs, a dead man who lives again. Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls - who can resist such an invitation, so wonderfully conveyed in word and deed?

It was Jesus' mercy thus to use miracles or parables rather than propounding ideas or deploying arguments, which he only indulged in ironically or humorously in exchanges with legalistic Scribes who were trying to trip him up. The only history he drew on, or for that matter knew, was the traditional story of the Children of Israel as set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures. Not one date or generalization; no anthropology, sociology, psychology; just the world and its way, as he and his hearers knew them. A grain of wheat was put in the earth and died, in its death germinating; so we died, and in dying, lived. Rain fell on the just and unjust alike; so did God's love. A shepherd would leave his flock to go after one lost sheep, find it and bring it back to the fold; so God concerned Himself with one sinner, which we all are - solitary sinners who easily stray and lose our way. The lilies of the field neither toil nor spin, but yet are arrayed more gloriously than Solomon; so God who has clothed plants in such magnificence will surely clothe us, His children.

The scientific view of life as a closed system governed by an inexorable natural law tends to rule out belief in miracles, which most people nowadays regard as the inventions of too credulous early Christians and too ardent later ones. Even believers search eagerly for some scientifically tenable explanation of the miraculous occurrences which played so large a part in Jesus' ministry. Yet, as St. Augustine pointed out, when Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee he was only performing quickly the slow miracle occurring year by year in vineyards, whereby the irrigation water fills out the grapes for the sun to ripen them, so that they may be transformed into wine. The same thing might be said about the miraculous cures. Psychiatrists require many sessions to relieve a patient of guilt feelings which have made him sick in body and mind; Jesus' power of spiritual and moral persuasion was so overwhelming that he could produce the same effect just by saying: Thy sins be forgiven thee. Likewise, far more effectively and lastingly than any sedative, he could calm and soothe the mentally distracted by ordering the demons who were tormenting them to be gone.

Mental sickness of one sort and another is the particular scourge of our time; as the tuberculosis sanatoria empty, the psychiatric wards fill with frustrated pursuers of happiness. There must be few today who have not had some personal experience of such institutions, and so are familiar with the particular anguish of seeing a beloved face drugged into vacancy or twisted and contorted with some uncomprehended and incomprehensible fury. In the light of their distress, the notion of demonic possession, generally held throughout the Roman Empire when Jesus was preaching and teaching and healing in Galilee and Judaea, will not seem so wide of the mark as might be supposed by comparison with our allegedly more profound understanding of the cause and cure of mental disorders. Who, helpless before another's mental affliction, would not welcome the coming of someone like Jesus, capable by his mere presence of calming a distracted mind; driving away the ravenous, angry impulses which are its torment, and bringing back to a face darkened with animality the light of recognition and the capacity to respond to love? Then ask, and he will come; that was the promise.

Jesus seems to have been especially compassionate towards the mentally sick; and when he sent the disciples off to preach on his behalf, he specifically empowered them to cast out demons from any who were troubled by them. He clearly felt a particular sympathy for these unfortunates, often homeless like himself, and left to wander in desolate places. For instance, the one he encountered in the country of the Gadarenes who went about naked, frequented the cemetery, and was subject to fits so violent that he easily broke any bonds or chains used to restrain him. A wild figure indeed, who when he saw Jesus shouted out: What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? An ordinary person would have been afraid and have made off - I certainly should - but Jesus stayed and asked the man his name. He said it was 'Legion' on account of being possessed, not just by one demon, but by many - which I take to be some sort of joke of a kind that the deranged greatly enjoy, laughing uproariously and cracking their fingers to intimate their satisfaction. At this point, according to the account in the Gospels, the demons themselves joined in the conversation, beseeching Jesus not to order them into the nearby Lake of Galilee, but rather into a herd of swine feeding on the mountainside. He agreed to this, and the demons were duly transferred to the swine, who thereupon ran violently down a steep path into the water and were drowned. So they found themselves in the lake anyway, providing for all time an image of the self-destructiveness of the human will.

All the devils besought him,
saying, Send us into the swine,
that we may enter into them.
And forthwith Jesus gave them leave.


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"Through the miracles we may understand the availability of forgiveness, the possibility of redemption and the promise of salvation. They are, in this sense, a kind of parable, conveying, as the others do, how we may be whole persons rather than maimed and disjointed, floundering and staggering like a bird with a broken wing."