The Theology of Christmas Poop

My pastor's sermon yesterday reminded me of a conversation about poop I had with my grade-schooler recently.

Now, I'm not insinuating that the sermon was a load of crap. In fact, I thought it was very good. I have heard crappy sermons before, but I don't think I've ever heard one from Dr. Andy McQuitty. No, what reminded me of the poop talk was Andy's analogy about physical and spiritual bread. Let me see if I can walk this fine line between blasphemy and boorishness to explain what I mean.

Andy talked about a passage in John 6 wherein Jesus feeds 5,000 men and then calls himself the "bread of life". Andy said that the common criticism of religion that it is for the weak is akin to saying that food is for the weak. We wouldn't call someone weak because they feed their body, nor should we call someone weak when they feed their soul. I agree with Andy's premise, but I think I would have come at it a different way. And that's where the poop comes in.

A few months ago, I had one of those conversations you can only have with a seven-year-old boy. My son asked me, "Dad, does God poop?" I had to think about the answer. Was there an answer to that question? And did the answer matter? Or should I just roll my eyes at the kid and tell him not to be silly. After a little reflection I was surprised to realize that, yes, there is a theological truth in the answer to my son's question, one that matters a great deal. I told him, "No, son. God doesn't poop. You know why he doesn't poop? Because he doesn't eat. And you know why he doesn't eat? Because God doesn't need food or water or air or any other source of life outside himself." God is entirely sovereign and self-sufficient. He doesn't rely on any provision. He doesn't need any fuel outside of himself. He is, in fact, the only being of which this is true.

Which brings me back to Andy's discussion of the Bread of Life. I think Andy is right, but I also agree with that old saying about religion. It is for the weak. It is for those of us — meaning all of us — who are not entirely self-sufficient.

Eating is an act of humility, just as is every habit of human survival. Every time we surrender to sleep, every time we draw a breath, every time we tuck into a quarter pounder with cheese, we are making a tiny confession that we are needy, we are temporal, we are weak, we are not God. Isn't it interesting how often we are reminded of our neediness — three times a day by growling stomachs, once a day by heavy eyelids, countless times by our emotions — and yet we can forget to acknowledge this most basic truth?

And that's where Andy's analogy was going. It would take a delusionally proud person to insist that they don't have the human weakness that requires food. And yet we are often proud enough to insist that we don't have the weakness that requires the Bread of Life.

There's one more angle to this theology of poop which is appropriate during yuletide. Christmas is the time when we celebrate that, among other things, God pooped. The all-sufficient, all-mighty, sovereign God of heaven — the Ancient of Days who had never known need, never lacked for food, never feared the future or fretted over scarcity — became human, humbled himself at his birth, at his family dinner table, and in ancient Palestinian latrines in order to offer us the Bread of Life.

Somewhere, between learned lectures of my pastor and the uncouth innocence of my son's potty ponderings, I was given a lesson about God and humankind and poop. If that's not a Christmas miracle, I don't know what is.
Ryan SandersComment