If It Only Takes the Messiah To Save Us from Liberalism Our Chances May be Better Than We Thought!

Samuel anoints David, Dura Europos, Syria, Date: 3rd century CE. – Public Domain

The one thing of value in the universe is the active soul.
It is a necessity of the human nature that it should express itself outwardly and embody its thought.
The people fancy they hate poetry, and they are all poets and mystics.
Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, quotations fr. Emerson, the Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson, Jr.

Throwing caution to the wind, fearing I may offend absolutely everybody, might I continue the walk with Jesus I began in my last (pre-Christmas) essay for awhile and not lose all my readers? As liberal minds know and are proud of ourselves for knowing, the solstice time of year just past is celebrated in many different equally valid traditions, but I wish to stay “inside” the Jesus-inspired narrative for a little longer than you – or even I – may be comfortable with. And then, soldiers’ honor, I’m done! No need to cancel me; the topic’s already canceled in liberal discourse! And that is why I must speak of the season just passed: specifically, I suspect the Christmas tradition, now de-mythologized and celebrated with enthusiasm mostly by retailers, almost mechanically by us consumers, in its very post-cancellation persistence – may hold a significant clue to the way out of the crisis paralyzing the left, blocking action for the common good.

The craziness of the season just past lures me out of my normal habits and into its own rule of busyness, that cannot be resolved for me by focusing on the nativity story or singing carols. Do you, too, occasionally wonder why you have left off all your normal routines as if on command from some unseen cosmic Event Planner? And this not for a soul retreat, not for a regathering of oneself in solitude, but to engage in the madness of producing gifts, such an awesome switch of focus (if you’re a follower of self-interest like me) that it causes you to wonder if you are a loving person after all, who cannot come up with perfect gifts for all the loved ones?

Plenty of sensible people no longer pay any mind to the whole thing, I realize. Those who still do, sensible ones, perhaps honestly feel yourselves “unensnared,” the shortest-day-longest-night holiday strictly had on your own terms. But collective history does not bear you out; we seem not able to drop Jesus, as people dropped Pan or Odin, even if he seems to be invoked mainly sickeningly, to endorse a season of gluttony and consumer engorgement that you so rightly distance yourself from. For the rest of us unable to make so clean a break, he sticks like a cockleburr (or a pine tree needle?) – perhaps in the crazed quality of the season that many of us strap ourselves into without a second thought! Is the fact we can’t shake this sticky persistent thing due to that postponed confrontation our own history presents to us in the man Jesus and his extraordinary example? Or do we think it’s natural that we just keep ignoring the man as if he’d never spoken those extraordinary words so troubling to the conscience of humanity?

That is, might the fact we trip over this holiday year after year come from the fact that though we ignore it, the person behind it has posed us a question that must be answered? Might we be being asked when will we take up this reckoning and its terrible inconvenience we have so far evaded? When do we come to grips with the Jesus message, so simple to understand (i.e, love your enemy, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, etc,) that is so impossibly, damningly about f-ing sweetness? Sweetness? Bah! For, what we who refuse the call and most who have not – Christians and non-Christians alike – have thus far failed to acknowledge is the radicalism of “love your enemy,” its refusal of the given political reality of Empire, of “might makes right” and its barbaric heart. The true choice for a warrior for peace, as Jesus knew, is not between turn-the-other-cheek docility and sword-wielding-warrior ferocity, but between which things you will turn your sword – defend yourself – against! And if you choose wrongly, unable to see through to the dark heart of the civilization – that is, of your own civilized goodness or your own haplessness – your sword will end up in somebody else’s hands, its destructive force magnified a millionfold by wondrous technology, to be used not on behalf of the brothers and sisters, but to kill them. There it is: simple message, love your enemy, but we cannot get it!

Although the story of the rich man is a key, primarily it is not because we cling to our materialism that we cannot follow Jesus’s example. Rather, it’s because we are set from birth against the truth closest to our nature, perhaps because it (our alive soul) was never loved by others and so we don’t know how to do it for ourselves. Thus we cannot know our sword of discernment must be set much closer, just outside our skin. In a very offensive way, the truth of the soul, Jesus-like, pits us against the world that raised us, in which we are socialized, not just to see it in a skeptical or critical way (I know my parents weren’t “perfect!”) but as if that world were guilty of an offense that is beyond our power to forgive. That is, hearing Jesus correctly, would mean saying to the world that grinds on, continuously producing “collateral damage,” the one we expect to pass on to our children and grandchildren, “No, that is not good enough,” “That does not feel right to me!” “I can’t.”

“Jesus politics,” then, start right with my own body in which my soul has been authorized to speak. As Ralph Waldo Emerson explicitly taught in “Self-reliance,” one doesn’t to have to attend a church in order to authorize one’s soul. In fact, far better not to – (best to avoid school, as well, according to RWE.) All one needs is one’s expression, i.e., one’s art. The rest follows like day after night: my expression having granted to the soul a safe place, the soul, in its powerful universality, in turn imparts the peace only it can give. That peace is transformative: having experienced it I, in turn, must then insist upon safety as precondition for all relationships, no exceptions; for the soul is clear as crystal: safety is her uncompromisable demand. A society built upon any other foundation will be inherently cruel.

So, I’m arguing, we who have no use for Jesus are not this way because we’re atheists, not because forget we need to know “the universe loves me” and practice instead the wrong kind of “self-reliance.” Nor do I forget him because I do not know how to “accept myself just the way I am.” We forget him as a consensus forgetting because his message if heeded means I must remain true to the voice that was in me since birth, that suffered at the hands of my unwitting parents acting on behalf of a society depleted of human-supportive meaning or purpose and that, because of that suffering, the immediate cause of which I no longer can remember without years of intensive psychotherapy, I keep judiciously to the “winning side” – against the soul, as most of us – no matter how liberal radical hip or intelligent – do. Some of us manage this feat entirely believably, convincing each other as well as ourselves this is the real me, and I believe in Joe Biden (well, maybe not Joe Biden per se, but certainly we must keep down Trump and his minions)!


The collective voices of those 19th century proto-beatnik hippies known as Transcendentalists, the guiding genius of all their geniuses being that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, gave America another amplification for the radicalizing soul’s voice that speaks in the only place it can: in individuals. What Emerson did not know – or did not let on he knew – the soul’s voice – the very object of his teachings – would be kept at second hand for future generations not by church authority but by our degraded understanding of freedom, as people cave – as if defenseless against it – to the ever rising tide of materialism.

For one attuned today to its voice, the soul’s truth thus has a different accent than it did for Emerson, which is to take nothing from the radical nature of Emerson’s teaching. To understand that, all one has to do is take Emerson up on his call to the supremacy of genius, the individual soul, your soul. Do it and see what happens!

As one who did take him up on it – in fact following Emerson’s path quite literally into and out of Unitarian ministry – I testify to what has changed and what remains the same in relation to soul truth after nearly two centuries. With a shrinking globe, with heightened ecological awareness, awareness of white supremacy and human-caused climate change, the liberal world “gets it:” we get, rationally, the soul’s perennial truth of interdependence, all-connected – soul’s “Great Mother” perspective. But getting it, rationally, without changing everything in how we live, is not getting it! Soul truth demands, has always demanded, a Jesus-like irrational embrace of its truth so it matters to me personally! Emerson’s ideal community was made up of individuals who had firsthand contact, poet-like, with their alive souls. This is a fully irrational choice in favor of immaterial reality! Its change in perspective is total: It begins not in caring/weeping for oppressed others, but in weeping in joyous recognition for the soul – my soul – itself. Inasmuch as I am able to regain contact with my banished soul, to experience its aliveness I must weep for my own complicity in ruthlessly crushing that soul in me. This oppression, cause for universal grief, has so far in liberal reality gone ungrieved, its cruelty “sanctified” in our world.

Most of us, that is, are not like little Seryosha, Anna Karenina‘s son, who could not learn what the tutor and his father wanted him to learn “because there were demands in his soul that were more exacting for him than those imposed by [his educators.]” “He was…a child; but he knew his own soul, it was dear to him, and he protected it as the eyelid protects the eye, and did not let anyone into his soul without the key of love.” People who know my writing know that for me the evidence of this abandonment of the soul is not only in the perception that the “best lack all conviction,” (Yeats) but in the failure of all of us “unexceptional” people to practice an art – to follow genius – which is the giving of a voice to the creative soul and the only means for its protection outside of religion.


Caught between his powerful insights and his admiration for the American can-do spirit, Emerson did not see, as we do, the endangered world calls us to compression/contraction (no more west to expand to!) of our hypermaterialist way of life, in the way Thoreau, taking up the challenge of removing himself from modernity and its mean living, perhaps saw better. We’re now in a position to see that to rebuild the soil of the local, which is the embodied part of that necessary contraction, an end to the universally sanctified murder of the soul has to be undertaken by the many, not just the few “geniuses.”

Tolstoy’s Seryosha was able to protect his soul – his genius – because of his mother’s pure love for him. To bring an end to the false modesty that is practically universal, this denial of the genius that keeps us from our artist/mystic natures, is an act of purest love for the voice that is one’s own, a love that is immensely and socially transformative from the bottom up. Moreover the inward voice, popularly known as conscience, has to be stood up for (i.e., loved), not first against the Pentagon, or the oligarchs, or the corporate landlords or the Donald Trumps. Because this oppression is so embodied, so “natural,” the inward voice has to be stood up for socially beginning at home – a heroic task – where the eternal play of dominance and submission can be masked by the naive wish to be loved, where the only outside verification (i.e., of love) comes from the unreliable “other,” and where one is at a loss from the start, having based one’s opinions about love on the parents’ word, leaving us nary a clue as to what love/being loved in our soul feels like.

People on the left do not feel it necessary to defend marriage – it – like religion – is a matter outside liberal discourse, except where it engages with identity matters. This non-discussibility has left marriage to persist not as sacrament but as an ego-syntonic, empire colluding mutually-reinforcing redoubt against the soul. As sharp-eyed Emma Goldman fervently wished, marriage should either be outlawed, or transformed into its true sanctity, a temple for nurturing and protecting the souls of its members, an eros released from narrow definition with sex to expression itself.

Obviously, I have opted, for better and for worse, for transformation! For this daunting task the practice of one’s art – optional as long as we stay mainstreamed and materialist – is needed absolutely. Without art, the terror in the soul is simply repressed, morphing naturally into various kinds of abuse, subtle and not-so-subtle. Art is the mirror allowing Perseus to escape the raw reality of the enraged soul, the Medusa. The soul’s poetic voice, the inward voice of imagination – inasmuch as she is allowed expression – speaks with power. She is not a victim and cannot speak from that place of victimhood. She quietly assures us that other, preferred feeling – that expansive feeling (joy) of being included in a larger reality – is valid, and that any behavior that removes or threatens the feeling of blessed inclusion – and here the most intimate relationships hold the most power for abuse – is simply wrong and must be righted.

We could just throw the marriage institution out as a lost cause, but like Jesus at Christmas, it will persist. That is why it must be transformed into consciousness.


Liberal society prefers to export our compassion to needy others at the southern U.S. border or rescued animals; we cannot look at what has been destroyed in our most intimate, and local, living – essentially the awareness of participation in the sacred. The most formidable tool against this ever-advancing mechanization of human beings is forgiveness, the immediate restoration of safety. Once given its authority in expression, the heart cannot be complicit with Empire; it has to build a reality counter to the one in which we are machines rather than ensouled human beings. Call it the kingdom of god, the common wealth. It begins, humbly, at home and in rebuilding “home” in which in each person the heart is given its room and intrinsic meaning resuscitated. This is what I mean by the long postponed meetup with Jesus.


Kim C. Domenico, reside in Utica, New York, co-owner of Cafe Domenico (a coffee shop and community space),  and administrator of the small nonprofit independent art space, The Other Side.  Seminary trained and ordained,  but independently religious. She can be reached at: kodomenico@verizon.net.