An Atheist's Prayer for the Church

Last night I finished Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

It's an interesting read. I'll likely have more to say about the book in the future, but today I'd just like to share with you a bit, from the book, of Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. This is, in Pullman's telling, the prayer (and, one would guess, Pullman's own prayer) of a Jesus who has lost his faith in God and who here imagines the kind of church he'd like to see represent him after his death:

"Lord, if I thought you were listening, I'd pray for this above all: that my church set up in your name should remain poor, and powerless, and modest. That it should wield no authority except that of love. That it should never cast anyone out. That it should own no property and make no laws. That is should not condemn, but only forgive. That it should be not like a palace with marble walls and polished floors, and guards standing at the door, but like a tree with its roots deep in the soil, that shelters every kind of bird and beast and gives blossom in the spring and shade in hot sun and fruit in the season, and in time gives up its good sound wood for the carpenter; but that sheds many thousands of seeds so that new trees can grow in its place. Does the tree say to the sparrow 'Get out, you don't belong here?' Does the tree say to the hungry man 'This fruit is not for you?' Does the tree test the loyalty of the beasts before it allows them into the shade?"

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