Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday
(or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Resurrection)

[ALERT: This post will make overt references to religious/spiritual subject matter. If that is of no interest or will offend you, hit the Back button on your browser while you still can. If I haven't scared you off yet, let me just say: This post is not an attempt to save your soul.]

I know why religious people get such a bad rep - we earn it.

If you're not into the whole God thing - and looking at people who are - it's got to seem pretty messed up at times. It seems that way to us (the God Squad) too sometimes. I think being a person of good conscience who tries to live by some sort of moral / ethical code is just difficult - period. And having two billion people* around the world who may believe (vaguely) the same things as you doesn't make it any easier. Those other one billion, nine hundred and ninety-nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine people aren't around when I have to face myself in the mirror each morning. And they're not going to be around when I take my last breath either. I like Sting's line from All This Time:

Men go crazy in congregations - They only get better one by one**
I don't expect that any of this is much consolation to a person that doesn't believe - and feels themselves bombarded by the ideas and opinions of those other two billion people. What's worse is when some segment of that large group feels they can look down upon the people who don't share their particular belief - seemingly unaware that, by thinking so highly of themselves and passing judgement on the others, they have abandoned the essence of what they say they believe in.

In defense of those believers who strive to be more thoughtful, I will only repeat that - having faith is not easy. And there's no Cliff Notes version of the Bible available to help out either. (Although I have done some studying on world religions, I don't consider myself all that knowledgeable - so I'll try to speak about what I know.) The Bible and Christian theology contain plenty of (seemingly) contradictory ideas. Before I close, I'll offer just one example.

Compare this:

Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."

With this:

Matthew 11:28-30

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

I don't know about you - but based on those two passages, I don't find it easy to figure out whether this whole Christianity thing is supposed to be difficult or no sweat. So it doesn't surprise me that some believers can't figure out whether they're supposed to be hard-*sses - or begin passing out flowers and tie-dye shirts on street corners. I figure the percentage of stupid and/or lazy people is proportionally the same amongst those professing to be Christian as any other segment of the population. So I'm not shocked that there are people who, in their "easy faith", conduct themselves in a manner which does not reflect the spirit of the one they call Savior and Lord.

Maybe this last bit will clarify the whole thing. Although there are contradictions, Jesus always seems to speak quite clearly in addressing the subject of self-righteousness; like in Luke 6:42, a particular favorite of mine:

How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

It's a full-time job just trying to keep my own eyes clear. I figure if my brother asks for a hand getting something out of his eye, I want to be ready.

Take care.
And for those of you so inclined - Happy Easter.

* I don't see how anybody can know a precise figure for the number of Christians on the planet - but that's one I've seen at various places on the Internet that appeared reputable.
**Congregations have their place IMO - but the "getting better" part is definitely a singular affair.


Nancy said...

Excellent commentary. Another one I like is John 8:7 "let he who is without sin throw the first stone..." (or something to that effect)

Middle Aged Woman said...

Aside from anything else, Matthew appears to be a better writer than Luke.

Pamela said...

I like this. My husband and I are two of the people like you who are busy trying to deal with our own planks and doing our best to love the people around us. Good writing.

The Mister said...

The Missus (directly above) steered me over here. Nice work.

Jim Styro said...

Thanks for the kind words, ladies.

Nancy: I considered using the story from John as well - but I'm always fighting the tendency to be long-winded (or long-worded, I guess) - so I decided not to include it. I particularly love John including the detail (and how could you know something like this unless you were there - or had been told the story by someone who was present) that throughout the incident, Jesus was writing on the ground with his finger. So that at the end, only the accused woman is left with Jesus, who is still writing on the ground. A wonderful story.

MAW: "Well, that's like - your opinion, man." The Matthew passage is beautiful - but since both passages are mainly direct quotes, I'm not sure the writers should get too much credit.

Pamela: I wish you and The Mister continued success in your plank elimination work. Hope you and the young Elliott are over the thrush real soon.

Jim Styro said...

Mister: Glad the Missus steered you my way. Thanks for the kind words. I was beginning to wonder if my stuff only appealed to women. (Although that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing...)

And - to return the compliment - your most recent post was "the bomb" (does that still mean something good?).