Fishers of Men — Matthew 4:19

Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Last night I had Act I Scene II of John Adams’s Opera “Nixon in China” going round my head as I fell asleep. The exchange:

Chou:  You’ve said
That there’s a certain well-known tree
That grows from nothing in a day,
Lives only as a sapling, dies
Just at its prime, when good men raise
It as their idol.
Nixon:  Not the cross?
Mao:  The Liberty Tree. Let it pass.
It was a riddle, not a test.
The revolution does not last.
It is duration — the regime
Survives in that, and not in time.
While it is young in us it lives;
We can save it, it never saves.
Kissinger:   And yours will last a thousand years.
Mao:  Founders come first, then profiteers.
Nixon:  Capitalists?
Mao:  Fishers of men.
An organized oblivion.
Let us not be misled.

struck me for its rather different interpretation of the phrase compared to Christianity.

Fishing is hunting. It is sport. The fish will be hooked, wrestled into nets, hauled out of their natural environment. Clubbed over the head (or allowed to suffocate to death). Then either stuffed and mounted as a prize, or be chopped up and eaten.

Fishers of men?

Perhaps an apt metaphor for some kinds of evangelism. But hardly an aspirational one.

(Anglican Minister, Rev.) Alice Goodman’s awesome libretto goes on to say:

Nixon:   Where is the Chinese people’s faith?
Mao:  The people’s faith? Another myth
To sell bonds.

I don’t have nearly as bleak view of faith as Goodman’s Mao. But the sentiment is certainly recognizable.

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