Staging a play on Broadway Jules Feiffer wrote that an author can use a play to say anything he wants so long as it’s clear to the audience by Act III that he didn’t mean it!
Right on, Jules: except for one thing: your truth isn’t limited to Broadway.
Jesus could have said anything he wanted and not wound up on the cross if he had made it clear by the end of the sermon that the social hierarchy remained unaltered: Rome was on top, Tiberius Caesar on top in Rome, Pilate on top in Jerusalem: then, in Jerusalem, the centurions next on top, then King Herod, then the Temple, then the rabbis, then the God …
Maybe Jesus could even have turned over the money changing tables: provided that he picked them back up again, encouraged business to resume, as usual, so long as he apologized, explained that he had the rag on …
The cow said There, there:
I didn’t really mean it.
Here’s milk for his porridge,
And butter for his bread.
But you know it’s not just individuals, strictly similar rules apply to institutions. A presidential candidate can say anything he wants in the early days of electioneering, so long as it’s crystal clear by the party caucus that what he really meant was the party line. Reagan can campaign as an anarchist, the tea party can pretend to be libertarian, so long as both show solidarity before November with stock party pabulum.
I’m sorry, that’s weak: try this one:
The Roman Catholic Church can train you from birth that Original Sin applies, that human nature is no damn good, rotten, damned, not suited for saving, not worth saving, so long as by time the mass is said, it’s position has switched to: We’re going to get away with it! Hallelujah!
Jesus suffered … so we can be kleptocrats … and keep all the loot!
In human epistemology there’s always magic in the middle. We start out damned, we give money to the priest, we wind up saved.
In schools: we start out rotten no good ignorant sons-of-bitches; we wind up, thanks to the interference of experts, literate! Numerate! Rational!!!
Feiffer starts out funny, ascerbic; he winds up groomed! Rich!