Malcolm M. Sedam’s “Joseph”

Image: Malcolm M. Sedam

Highly doubtful of the feasibility of virgin birth, the speaker of Malcolm M. Sedam’s “Joseph” dramatizes his iconoclasm as he attempts to speak for the Biblical wise man.

Introduction and Text of “Joseph”

Malcolm M. Sedam’s poem “Joseph” from The Man in Motion plays out in two movements in fifteen free-verse lines. The speaker poses as the Biblical character of Joseph, husband of Mary, Mother of Jesus.

The speaker has Joseph relate his stance in order to press the speaker’s opinion that even though the virgin birth story is likely only a fable, the fact that Joseph actually attended upon the rearing of the child Jesus renders Joseph the real father of “Christ.”

The speaker employs the lower case in referring to “[G]od,” but unexpectedly refers to the Son of man as “Christ,” employing the monastic name instead of Jesus, whereas the more secularized name is more befitting the borderline atheism of the speaker.

This speaker’s position is likely that of an agnostic, rather than an atheist, even though he appears to enjoy what he deems the task of “myth busting” or iconoclasm. A heaping helping of hubris runs strongly through the veins of such a one who would myth-bust religious narrations about which they seem to possess little understanding. But such is the postmodernist mindset, which so willingly engages in that which is contradictory.

Joseph

Some things were never explained
even to me, and of course
they would tell it his way
but I believed in her
because I chose to believe
and you may be sure of this:
A man’s biological role is small
but a god’s can be no more
that it was I who was always there
to feed him, to clothe him
to teach him, and nurture his growth—
discount those foolish rumors
that bred on holy seed
for truly I say unto you:
I was the father of Christ.

Commentary

The speaker of Malcolm M. Sedam’s “Joseph,” an iconoclastic nightmare spitting the face of religious myth, is dramatizing his iconoclasm as he feigns speaking for the Biblical wise man, disavowing the feasibility of virgin birth.

First Movement: Cosmic Drama Prophesied in Earlier Scripture

Some things were never explained
even to me, and of course
they would tell it his way
but I believed in her
because I chose to believe
and you may be sure of this:

It is helpful to be aware of the following significant lines from the Gospel of St. Matthew 1:19-20 as one encounters this poem:

19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

In that same dream, the angel further reminds Joseph that these cosmic events had, indeed, already been revealed in prophecy, and about which Joseph himself had been aware: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son.” 

Thus, Joseph was well aware of his rôle in the cosmic drama featuring the coming of the messiah, and he acted according to that knowledge.

To the secular, postmodernist mind, the pseudo-science of Darwinian principles led to the inability to appreciate or even understand the spiritual truths explicated poetically through figurative devices in scriptural texts.

Materialism’s chokehold on the mental processes of the postmodernist mind thus rendered the idea of virgin birth outside the realm of “reason.”

Not only was the concept of virgin birth therefore considered not subject to debate, but it was seemingly forever subjected to ridicule and scorn.

Joseph would find such claims attributed to him as preposterous, likely wondering if the one uttering such nonsense could even read. The ancient man of wisdom could never have exclaimed, “Some things were never explained to me,” because the angel, in fact, did explain everything to him.

The notion that Joseph believed Mary’s condition was divinely ordained because he “chose” to believe it, not because it was true, is also preposterous. Joseph believed the virgin would give birth because an angel had explained the situation to him, and he had already been aware that the cosmic drama had been prophesied in earlier scripture.

Second Movement: Postmodern Misunderstanding of Biblical Lore

A man’s biological role is small
but a god’s can be no more
that it was I who was always there
to feed him, to clothe him
to teach him, and nurture his growth—
discount those foolish rumors
that bred on holy seed
for truly I say unto you:
I was the father of Christ.

This self-professed iconoclastic speaker, attempting to pose as Joseph, remains blinded and oblivious to scriptural myth interpretation, and he is thus led astray by his own testosterone. Thus, he fashions fallacious claims that exude a false modesty, as he engages in unmitigated prevarication.

The speaker asserts, “A man’s biological role is small / but a god’s can be no more.” If God’s role can be no more than a man’s, then it is likely that a man created the universe, and rings in the cosmos, and causes the seasons to appear on time, and the sun and moon to move with a regularity that no human being can even begin to understand. 

It takes an humongous load of hubris to assert that God and man’s influence on creation are the same!

And then this speaker offers his narrow-minded provincially sheltered notion asserting in the final lines that he was always there: “I who was always there.” This “I” who fed him (Jesus), clothed him, taught him, nurtured his growth constitutes the vanity of inserting himself as the “I, I, I” — up to his final farcical claim, “I was the father of Christ.”

And while it is true that Joseph performed the nurturing functions of a father to the boy, Jesus, it is mythologically and mystically impossible for him to have been the “father of Christ.” “Christ” is not the last name of the prophet/savior; it is the name of his mystical status and function as an avatar. It is more accurate to say, “Jesus the Christ” than “Jesus Christ.”

When Joseph as speaker of this poem says he is the “father of Christ” instead of “father of Jesus” is speaking nonsense. The real Joseph understood the difference between “Jesus Christ” and “Jesus the Christ.”

The speaker of this piece is confident that he has seen through the ruse of religious mythology: he knows that Joseph would go about repudiating traditional scripture by asserting his fatherhood of “Christ.” For this speaker, biology surpasses spirituality, physical reality outweighs mystical reality, and solipsism eclipses humility.

Such hubris necessarily accompanies the task of the myth-buster who skims only the surface of narration, confusing science with junk science.

Surely, Joseph, the wise man of the Bible, would find it laughable, even if in a sad way, that anyone could ever be so ego-induced by materialism and false science along with masculine hormones as to assert such nonsense by characterizing the events of Joseph’s life in such a limited fashion.

Sources

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