A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Essay
Sometimes it takes a different perspective for someone to see the reality of how things are handled, and Marquezs insights into the way “Mainstream Religion” has dragged God and Christianity through the mud to the point of non-recognition. This is illustrated by Pelayo and Elisendas not even seeing the wings in the beginning. My end goal here is to bring out this wonderful storys points and compare them to mainstream religions fallacies.
The description of the weather when the Angel is found very vividly paints a picture of the mood in Pelayos house that day. “The world had been sad since Tuesday.” Is the text, while Elisenda had been nursing a sick child that they feared might die. The sea and sky had come together in a foreboding leaden gray that squeezed all hope from anyone subjected to it. The sea itself, seen as a life giving, sustenance providing entity, has risen up to threaten a helpless child to Elisenda. The crabs that provided food and retail value, are now a cause for the childs sickness. The neighbor woman even says the Angel must have been coming for the child. This shows how the thought processes were turning in reverse. Most of our mainstream churches seem to have their thought processes in reverse also. We are of the “Janet Jackson” school of theology; “What have You done for me Lately?” This is not how the Bible teaches us to behave, but to serve God and one another in love, with understanding, knowing that we too were once the enemy of God, but through grace and love, adopted into His family. How can we condemn others and receive the love we are denying them.
Marquez chooses his character very carefully. God the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent being, cannot be portrayed as having been affected by the world without some feeling of blasphemy. An Angel on the other hand can be very old and still not carry the same connotation. This Angel projects the image of being alive throughout time, and also carrying the weight of fighting the worlds battles for much too long a time. The lack of hair and teeth are evidence of battles fought to much dismay. I am reminded of the story in the book of Daniel:
Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. (Dan 10:10-13 NKJV)
How many of these battles must the Angel have been involved with throughout the ages? How much this worlds pain can an Angel possibly carry, before it collapses to the ground, in disheveled weariness? The text even states “His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud.” What a beautiful image of the Divine overburdened with earthly matters.
The disheveled appearance is also representative of the bankruptcy of the heart of God. God in His infinite grace and wisdom has still grown weary of a world where even His representatives have turned to butchering everything the name of God stands for. There are precedents for this thought by the author. God destroyed the earth by flood for the wickedness of man in Genesis 6. He also wanted to destroy the Hebrews when talking with Moses on mount Sinai in Exodus 32. Todays church has continually tested the grace of God in perverting His word to allow things that are expressly forbidden. Some denominations are saying that the reason for Sodom and Gamorrahs destruction was not homosexuality, but simply being inhospitable to strangers. By changing this text they allow for homosexuals to be not only Christians, but even clerics in the church. Yet the very word sodomy comes from the literal translation of the story.
There is another concept beautifully portrayed in the decrepit personage of the Angel, and this is the stripping of divine attributes of God. This is shown throughout the story, from the Angel being held “captive” in Pelayos house to being locked in the chicken coop, to even having the villages interest wane with a carnival freak show. This image is representative of the way mainstream religion has started this “name it and claim it” idea of dealing with things they want. Some preachers are teaching that if you are sick, you deny the fact that youre sick and only think well thoughts. On the surface this sounds like simple visualization, except this denial keeps people from seeking medical treatment and tells them any action other than claming your healing is a lack of faith. This is presumption, and also trying to hold God hostage for your healing, by claiming if you do this He must heal you. I understand Gods Word has promises, and those promises are true for all, but when we say okay if I do this You have no choice, this is putting yourself in control of God and is not what the Word intends. Look at the way the sick came to see the Angel. They tried to touch, prod even hold feathers to their ailing parts in hopes they would be healed. In only one place in the Bible is the power to heal given to an Angel and that is concerning the Pool of Bethesda. An Angel would be sent down to trouble the water and the first person into the pool was healed. Jesus showed this to be an antiquated idea when he healed the man that had been sick for 38 years.(Jn. 5:2-9)
The priest and Romes treatment of the Angel is a very familiar story for any person familiar with the Bible. The Jewish priests (Pharisees) reacted to Jesus in the same manner as the angel. The priest presumed that God spoke Latin and would treat him better or at least with a certain amount of reverence for his position. The priests, even though astounded by His wisdom and power expected to be treated like VIPs by Jesus. Mainstream preachers sometimes do the same things to people. We have a very large church in Toledo where the preacher actually goes around in public with bodyguards, and will even throw people out of his church if they dont conform to his rules. This is a man condemning someone according to his own standards.
The most overused verse in the Bible is seen at sporting events, quoted by even the most inexperienced of “church” people and used as a hammer to pound others to believe the same as them. This verse is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”This verse, taken out of context is very dangerous and shows how the Bible can be made to say anything if taken out of context. Even slavery was justified by using the cursed of Ham when he made fun of his father Noahs drunkenness. After hams son was cursed to be a slave to Shem and Japheths families, Shem had a son named Cush, which means black. This story in Genesis 9 is what the Confederate “Christians” used for keeping blacks as slaves, saying it was their curse. When the context is added to the content, a whole different picture can emerge. This story says only one son, Caanan was cursed. Caanan was Cushs brother so there cannot be even a generational curse to affect Cush or his ancestor. This may seem like a digression from the point, but to carry it full circle John 3:16, put in context is followed by the statement, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” This turns the former verse from a weapon into an invitation of love. A Christian is not to condemn or beat someone into belief, but to love them and allow that love to incite change and progress.
Christianity is probably the most fragmented religion on earth. Some people say you dont go straight to Heaven or Hell, but to purgatory first when you die. Some argue you must be baptized before you can go to Heaven and even then it has to be in the name of Jesus. Still others say you have to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Other groups preach that you cant even have musical instruments in your church, and then their are groups that say no matter you do, once you give your heart to the Lord you are going to Heaven. All these groups use the Bible to say they are right, but they all take the Bible out of context, or maybe more correctly take a fragment of the Scriptures and build a theology around it. Marquez must have seen all of this hypocrisy in the church and used his wonderful symbolism to reveal it to the world, in such a way as not to offend others but hopefully open their eyes. I myself have seen these things in the organized church, but since I am not as eloquent and dont have the luxury of time in my life, my message is more direct. We have to love people the way Jesus did, and let the Lord make the changes in their lives. I have found from personal experience that when we fall in love with Him the changes come from within. I had habits that were unpleasing to my wife, but when I truly fell in love with her I wanted to change these habits and they started to disappear. The same is true of the Lord, when we fall in love with Him, the things that are unpleasing to Him will become unpleasant to us and we will change them.
I now turn to another sore point in the story, and in religion. The use of God to gain material wealth. The story clearly states this was done by Pelayo and Elisenda when they started charging people to see the Angel and also when Marquez goes into the list of monetary benefits gained by Pelayo and Elisenda. All of the clothes and big fancy mansion that even had bars on the windows to keep Angels out. This done even though they had brought this on themselves by taking the Angel captive, not the Angel coming through the window. Mainstream religion uses the same thinking in raising funds in some of their circles. God has promised to take care of His children and bless them when He is put first. This is taken to extreme in some instances, like when Jesus says”Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38 NKJV) I have actually heard it said that each word group i.e.: good measure is used, it is one times what you give. Since there are five sets; given, good measure, shaken together, and running over, then God owes you five times what you give. There is also the thirty, sixty, and hundred fold blessing that is mentioned and this means if you give a thousand dollars, God owes you thirty, sixty, or one hundred thousand dollars back. If this were true we would never have to do anything to earn money. We would just give money, then just follow the snowball effect to our riches. I dont believe God wants His people poor, but there is more to our prosperity than just waiting for a handout. The Bible also says, if you dont work you dont eat, so where does this fit into this giving scheme? I do believe there are laws concerning giving and tithing, but these laws are meant to govern our behavior, not Gods. Whenever we put ourselves in a position to hold God beholding to us we are being presumptuous and trying to hold God hostage, just as the Angel was held captive in the story.
To compare the Angels flight to that of a Buzzard is another of those symbols Marquez uses to signify the church. A buzzard is a scavenger that lives off the frailties of others. It is a shame to say that in some cases the church has done the same thing. Living off the hopes and dreams of people that have no other reason for life. God, so wants us to depend on Him, and He will give us what we need. When we on the other hand give that dependence to a man, even a preacher, father, or some other symbol of the church we set ourselves up for the parasitical, unscrupulous people that put themselves in a position of trust. This doesnt just happen in the church, but when it does it makes headline news.
The freedom of the Angel is as sad as the beginning of his stay in the village. The first sunny days that start the growth of feathers seems to show the growth that comes only from the Light of God. It had to be hidden from the disrespectful, irreverent people. It was necessary to protect this growth like the innocence of a newborn baby, until the time comes for those glorious, triumphal first steps. The Angels flight was as ungainly and awkward as the steps of a baby, but the beauty and triumph is wonderful to behold. A church can undergo the same growth, and maturity as the Angel symbolizes if it is willing to follow the same steps. Find the Light of God and cherish it. Protect it like the precious commodity it is. Then do the work, showing the love of God and not falling back into the traps that caught it up in the first place. Marquez realizes this will be ugly at first, those first steps will be hard. People will be distrustful at first, but in the end the final point is that the freedom God promises will be achieved and people will be affected.
This story deals with the state of organized religion in such an eloquent way that it does not offend, but simply makes you stop and look at yourself. This introspective approach is a refreshing way to handle one of the most devestating issues in our country today. The church is full of apathetic and self-serving people that only look beyond themselves long enough to see what God can do for them. I only wish more people would read this story and take its message to heart.