Monday, December 8, 2014
The Principle of Embarrassment
Anyone within two time zones of the Boston area at any time during the past forty years will be able to discern pretty quickly that my writing plays hob with the facts.
Like, for example, who ever heard of The Cilley Academy? Or Whambam College?
People who love me have warned that by fooling around with names, facts, and chronology, I am undercutting the power of the material I hope to present. To these dear friends, and to you dear reader, I submit one principle. I may remind you of it again.
The principle is embarrassment, and though I am no Biblical scholar, I understand that this principle is used to help determine whether an event in the Bible is more or less likely to have happened in actual historical fact.
The principle of embarrassment states that you can be pretty sure something happened if it was likely to have embarrassed first-century Christians. For example, if you were trying to “foist” a new world religion on the Gentile world of the Mediterranean basin, would you have been likely to:
• State that Jesus was betrayed by one of his followers?
• Emphasize that the first people to learn of the resurrection were women—in a culture that did not particularly value the opinion of women?
• Show Jesus suffering—if you wanted to prove he was God?
We can be pretty sure these things happened because otherwise who would have “dreamed them up” and why?
The same principle can be applied to the story of a much lesser figure, i.e., me.
I assure you that I do not like to be embarrassed. For many years, I was something of an actor, and if there’s one thing an actor is it’s vain. He likes to look good.
Therefore, if you read anything I’ve written about my life and the sometimes trumped-up circumstances surrounding it, and you think, Oh, that’s embarrassing—you can be pretty sure it happened.
As in the most recent excerpt, where I describe myself as an undergraduate at Whambam College falling under the influence of a spiritual guru.
Believe me, I wouldn’t describe it this way if it hadn’t happened. Who cares if some of the names have been changed?