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The Church of Geese (Soren Kierkegaard)

Kierkegaard, Søren. Journals. Edited by Alexander Dru. Translated by Alexander Dru. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959. 252-53


The Domestic Goose
A Moral Tale

“Try to imagine for a moment that geese could talk—that they had so arranged things that they too had their divine worship and their church-going.
“Every Sunday they would meet together and a gander would preach.
“The sermon was essentially the same each time—it told of the glorious destiny of geese, of the noble end for which their maker had created them—and every time his name was mentioned all the geese curtsied and all the ganders bowed their heads. They were to use their wings to fly away to the distant pastures to which they really belonged; for they were only pilgrims on this earth.
“The same thing happened each Sunday. Thereupon the meeting broke up and they all waddled home, only to meet again next Sunday for divine worship and waddle off home again—but that was as far as they ever got. They throve and grew fat, plump and delicious—and at Michaelmas they were eaten—and that was as far as they ever got. It never came to anything. For while their conversation on Sundays was high-sounding, on Mondays they would tell each other what had happened to the goose who had taken the end set before them quite seriously, and in spite of many tribulations had tried to use the wings its creator had bestowed upon it.
“All that was indeed common knowledge among the geese, but of course no one mentioned the subject on Sundays, for as they observed, it would then have been obvious that to attend divine service would have been to fool both God and themselves.
“Among the geese were several who looked ill and wan, and all the other geese said—there, you see what comes of taking flying seriously. It is all because they go about meditating on flying that they get thin and wan and are not blessed by the grace of God as we are; for that is why we grow fat, plump and delicious.
“And so next Sunday off they went to divine service, and the old gander preached of the glorious end for which their Maker (and at that point all the geese curtsied and the ganders bowed their heads) had created them, and of why they were given wings.
“And the same is true of divine worship in Christianity.”

“So it is with our Christian worship services. We, too, have wings, we have imagination, intended to help us actually rise aloft. But we play, allow our imagination to amuse itself in an hour of Sunday daydreaming. In reality, however, we stay right where we are – and on Monday regard it as a proof that God’s grace gets us plump, fat, delicate. That is, we accumulate money, get to be a somebody in the world, beget children, become successful, and so forth. And those who actually get involved with God and who therefore suffer and have torments, troubles, and grief, of these we say: Here is proof that they do not have the grace of God.


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