To tell you the truth, I’m uncertain what you’re about to read actually occurred. Perhaps I had too much to drink, or far more likely, someone put something into my drink. I swear I had only two beers over a two-hour period before I drove home.
It’s a long dark winding country road to my house in Whitmore and along the way there’s a pretty cool nativity scene. It’s an inexpensive affair, with plastic figures lit from the inside by electric lights, and this being the Christmas season, I’ve found myself drawn to it every time I drive by. I find it soothing. This time, I decided to stop.
I was crunching around in the pine needles in the middle of nowhere taking video of the nativity scene when suddenly I heard a voice. That’s how I captured the following interview with the baby Jesus, which is unedited.
Baby Jesus: Pssssst! Hey kid!
R.V. Scheide: Who’s there?!
BJ: It’s me kid, the baby Jesus.
RV: Don’t call me a kid, I’m almost 60.
BJ: You a Christian, kid?
RV: I used to think I was. Nowadays, I’m confused.
BJ: No kidding, kid. You’re talking to a plastic figure in a Walmart nativity scene.
RV: You started it! And stop calling me kid.
BJ: Whatever you say, chief.
RV: Your lips aren’t moving but I can still hear you speak. How does that work?
BJ: You people, always with the questions. I’m an omniscient spiritual being that exists in your imagination and the imaginations of countless billions of others.
RV: So, you’re not really real?
BJ: I’m as real as your imagination kid—and before you object to being called a kid again, I’ll point out I’m 2019 years old as of this Wednesday. Merry Christmas!
RV: Point taken, baby Jesus. And Merry Christmas to you!
BJ: Call me BJ, kid. I suppose you have some more questions?
RV: I do, BJ! So, is there life after death?
BJ: Kid, in the future you might consider modifying your approach and start with the simpler questions first. Your inquiry concerns the nature of linear and circular time. Humans exist in linear time between two points, birth and death. The good news is there’s an infinite number of points between those two points, so you’ll never realize that you’re dead.
RV: But everybody else will know I’m dead!
BJ: True enough, and they’ll be sad, because you’re not coming back during their lifetime. However, there may be a loophole. If the universe runs on circular time, and if the amount of matter and energy in the universe is finite, all the molecules that make up what you call your identity will inevitably come together again—and you won’t even know you’ve been gone!
RV: If the universe runs on circular time and if the amount of matter and energy in the universe is finite. Those are some pretty substantial “ifs,” BJ.
BJ: No kidding, kid! Nietzsche called it the “eternal return,” and we’re hoping he’s right.
RV: We? There’s more than one baby Jesus? And what difference does it make to you if Nietzsche’s right?
BJ: Theoretically, there are as many baby Jesuses as there are humans who believe in the baby Jesus. Since omniscient spiritual beings can only exist in the human imagination, if you all go, we all go. We have a vested interest in ensuring the survival of the human species, and frankly the death issue has us spooked, not to mention climate change. Fortunately, your philosophers and scientists have been working on these problems!
RV: What about your philosophers and scientists?
BJ: We’re not so good at those sorts of things anymore, kid. We’re pretty bad at business, too. That’s why we lost the publishing rights to the Bible. As immaterial beings, the court determined we had no standing in human affairs.
RV: So, the Bible wasn’t written by the hand of God?
BJ: Kid, you wouldn’t believe the number of people who’ve been in on the project, often with suspicious motives involving power and money. From the very beginning we told them, at least pay the writers a living wage and get some editors and fact-checkers! But no! They’re still at it today!
RV: What edits would you have made?
BJ: For starters, this whole immaculate conception narrative, which hit Joseph, my human dad, pretty hard. Mary, my mother, was a virgin when she met Joe, an older widower, and as many times as they tried, they couldn’t conceive. Moms was super religious and believed God was against her until Joseph took her to a fertility clinic in Jerusalem, and the doctors there discovered it wasn’t her, it was Joseph who had a blockage. You see that wise man sitting over there? That’s Joseph’s urologist.
RV: No kidding?
BJ: No kidding, kid. When the virgin birth story started going around, it took on a life of its own and kind of went to Mom’s head. Most people didn’t believe it at the time and snickered behind his back that Dad was either a letch because Mom was so young or a cuckold because no way could I be the old codger’s kid.
The scandal eventually blew over, but hundreds of years later, long after Joseph’s death, there it was again, in a leaked draft of what eventually became the Bible.
RV: So, you’re saying one of the primary miracles of the New Testament is fake news?
BJ: I’m saying Thomas Jefferson had the right idea, kid. Cut all the supernatural mumbo jumbo out of the Bible, and you’re maybe left with some sound moral principles to build a civilization upon.
RV: So, you never turned the water into wine?
BJ: Funny story there, kid! Joseph was quite successful in the warehousing industry, and on my travels in Eurasia during my twenties I’d brought home several cases of vodka, which was unknown in Israel at the time. When that wedding ran out of wine, we dropped by with the vodka. They couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve never seen so many hungover Hebrews.
RV: What about all the healings?
BJ: I picked up a little medical knowledge on my travels. Yoga works wonders for just about everything but leprosy.
RV: Did you ever bring anyone back from the dead?
BJ: I revived a few people who were thought to be dead. In those days we didn’t have sophisticated medical equipment, and sometimes doctors made mistakes.
RV: But what about you, BJ? Surely you came back from the dead?
BJ: Sure, kid, I came back from the dead, as an omniscient spiritual being in the imaginations of my followers. But the body? Those Romans mangled it. There’s no coming back from that. I can tell you it hurt like hell when they broke my legs and nailed me to that cross. It still hurts like hell.
RV: Hell exists?
BJ: Sorry, just a figure of speech. Nope. No hell, no heaven, just an infinite number of points between now and the end. Hopefully.
RV: Baby Jesus, do you know there are people right here in Shasta County claiming in your name that they can heal the sick and resurrect the dead?
BJ: Yeah, I’m aware kid, I’m an omniscient spiritual being. We’ve all been quite concerned about the matter, since they’re raising millions of dollars off these claims, which is specifically prohibited by the Bible. Back before we lost editorial control, we were able to insert numerous passages warning of false prophets, sorcerers and flimflam men. I wrote one line that appears in Exodus: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
RV: Needless to say, that particular passage was lost in translation during the Salem witch trials.
BJ: No kidding, kid. We failed to comprehend the human imagination’s capacity for projection. “I’m a witch?! No!!! She’s a witch! Burn her!” That’s how it all started.
RV: I suppose you could say the same thing is going on in our politics today?
BJ: Kid, you’re beginning to depress me, but yeah, you could say that. It’s no mystery why white evangelicals hopped on the Trump train and have remained aboard: He’s their ticket to Armageddon, the chaotic destroyer of norms who’s opening the seven seals of the book, the Lamb of God prophesized in Revelations, which by the way we vehemently opposed including in the New Testament, to no avail.
RV: Is Trump really the Lamb of God?
BJ: Don’t be silly, kid. Trump doesn’t have a religious bone in his body—we know, we’ve tested them—and Nancy Pelosi is no witch. She’s a multi-millionaire centrist Democrat who refused to impeach Trump for his many moral transgressions until he finally went too far and broke the establishment’s own norms. Now he’s impeached. That’s pretty damned wicked, and so was Nancy’s move to leave us hanging over the holidays, but that doesn’t make her a witch.
Any last questions, kid? I’ll answer them, but afterward, I’d like you to do us a favor.
RV: I could use some free dental work. Anything you all can do about that?
BJ: Poof! You’re a millionaire! Kidding. Nope, can’t help you there.
RV: What’s the true meaning of Christmas?
BJ: Well, the way I like to think about it, I was a marked babe before I was even born, simply because someone in the past prophesied that I was destined to bring peace on earth and goodwill to all humans. That remains a radical message even today, and it hasn’t changed. That’s the message I want people to think about whenever they see a nativity scene.
RV: What’s the favor?
BJ: Can you wipe Mom’s face off? This dude knocked her over the other day when I tried to talk to him, and he bolted.
Oh, and also, no one’s going to believe you talked to me.
With that, the baby Jesus went silent and I was left alone in the nativity scene. Mary did indeed have mud on her face and suddenly I wondered if I was the dude who knocked her over. I didn’t have anything with which to clean her up, so I ran like hell back to the car.
Sweet baby Jesus, the engine started, and I got out of there as fast as I could.