This morning, I was mindlessly flipping through the many channels of my TV, which is hooked to the large and rather unsightly satellite dish poised on the railing of my balcony. I pay 200 large each month to gain access to subscription TV channels.
I like variation.
They like infomercials.
There’s little to watch on an early Sunday morning and while access to cable and satellite grants you a much wider selection; there’s still very little choice. That’s when programming lapses into this “Lamp Unto My Feet” mode. Religious shows are about all you can find. Oh yeah sure…the Beverly Hillbillies is on TV LAND but those are only good when filmed in black and white. The versions playing now allow you see how brown and dingy Irene Ryan ‘s (TV’s “Granny”) teeth really were.
Not exactly the vision I want to wake up to.
As sprituality is concerned, I haven’t been much of a church goer in recent years. I’m not sure why. I think for me, reading and certain aspects of enlightenment stole orgnized religion’s thunder. I’ve discovered that my prayers are always answered in the affirmative or the negative as often at home, as they are when I’m begging, grovelling and deal brokering in a cavernous Catholic church.
But today, my channel flipping landed on a local station that was broadcasting Houston’s religious wünderkind, Joel Osteen. I listened to his homespun SE Texas delivery. I watched his broad smile and eyes that become the tiniest of facial slits when he goes happy face. Jesus often comes into play in Joel’s homilies, but God always seem to be le sujet chaque dimanche matin.
Then, I wonder why he even has to make distinctions between the two. I was taught as a young Catholic sapling that God is comprised of three persons: “And noooooowwwwww……Welome the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to the stage!!!!!!!!!”
In early 1999, my niece was killed in a traffic accident. I hadn’t been to mass in probably 12 years prior to her funeral mass that her uncle…a bishop and promiment figure among Texas Catholics, kept talking about Holly already being in Heaven with Jesus.
When did that happen? I was always taught that we were buried facing east so when Gabriel comes down from the heavens to blow his clarion indicating the end of days, we would rise again…a la Jesus. Once our life-brimming bodies are resurrected, we emerge from our graves and like so much ectoplasm, we’d float right on to Heaven. I can’t remember where I was taught our spirits go in the interim, but I seem to remember that spirit and it’s former humanly vessel will be united in some way when the world ended.
And then there’s the Rapture. That was never part of my Catholic lexicon as the nuns, priests and well intentioned lay people tried to teach me diocesan Catechism. But I think the Rapture inidcates Stage One of The End. I’ve heard religious zealotry describe it as something of a flash: one minute you’re here, the next minute you’re not. You’re sitting at your desk then suddenly, the din created by toiling in cubicles ceases and you’re all alone. Those who disappeared into thin air got lucky–they lived good, God and Jesus fearing, sanctified lives and that earned them a big ol’ E-ticket to come on up to groove in paradise for forever and ever, Amen.
But if you’re the one left wondering what the hell happened……well, get used to hearing that word a lot because hell on earth is about to unfold before your eyes. Watch for four really ugly men on horseback whose very beings represent war, pestilence, famine and death.
I can’t fathom perpetuity…infinity. Eeschatology is a difficult concept to swallow. Does Hell last forever? What happens to it at the end of the world? What happens to a fully raptured planet? It’s remains empty and whithers away do to neglect? What happens after all the good people who ascend upward to the Heavens above and the bad ones fall to the very depths–is that all there is? We part ways? Half gets to experience sublimnity while the other half are sent to toil amid the flames? Why must we even have an end? What’s the logic in destroying this embattled, but still beautiful planet?
Why can’t we just come back as enlightened people each time?
And what about the acceptance of Jesus Christ as lord and savior serves as the ONLY way one can gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven???
I don’t get it. Moses, Abraham, Jesus’ grandparents and anyone else who lived and died before that first auspicious Easter when Jesus died. He wasn’t their Messiah. He wasn’t even born yet. So, logically one could surmise that based on this particular infallable Christian tenet, that Moses, King David, et.al. are in Hell. Apparently, so are billions of Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and tribes who live primitively near a savannah in Africa or near the banks of the Amazon who’ve rarely seen cultivated man, much less know squat about Jesus or the God I’ve been referring to….what about them? Are they hellbound??? Condemned to hell for innocently being ignorant of Christian ways and means?
And why death and its permanence? To think we only get one shot at life seems to defeat the purpsoe.
When man first supposedly emerged from the promordial glue of Life as living flotsam, then began walking upright, then learned about the positives attached to eating protien riddled, brain-feeding meat along with the invention of simple machines and fire, we soon began to learn that life worked better if it included structure. Needed was a leader, his followers, workers, nurterers, hunter/gatherers and if they were really lucky and progressive thinking, they’d understand that some semblance of a democratic process was the only effective way to live communally.
And here’ are a few more things about me. I adulterate my Scotch with soda; I’ll put ketchup on a lesser quality steak and I believe in evolution. I think it’s ongoing, actually. Well, to a degree anyway. Who can deny it’s in play while watching the amazing growth cycle of a child from zygote to toddler to teen to adult? Who can’t see proof of evolution when looking at a once, youthful, dewey, fresh face, now wrinkled and jaded in appearance and NOT understand this process is real and happening before our very eyes?
Furthermore, I don’t buy the reality that God clapped his hands seven times over a seven day period and that created the universe and all who live in it. I kind of think man has been always been around; that reincarnation exists as we live. Sorry all you Vedas out there, but I believe this has some credibility. Think about it: Monkey people/knuckle draggers turned cro-mag, turned thinkers. Every time man as a species dies out which happens all the time, a new and improved version arrives on the scene. Over the millenia, life taught our forefathers keep building the proverbial better mouse trap. They learned that a split level Tuscan style condo with a modernized kitchen and media room selling in the lower 400-thousands (and city adjacent) serves as a much better dwelling than a lowly cave. People represent progress. When you think about, it’s hard not to believed that as humans, we aren’t recyclable. It just doesn’t seem plausible to believe that all that spirit,spunk and talent and brilliance just simply evaporates into the ether.
What a waste.
And who will replace us? Those who live in sky towers; who drive flying jet cars, who can cook roast beef dinners for 12 in mere seconds and have busy body robotic maids with Brooklyn accents named Rosie?
We are poised right on the brink of the Jetsonian Era.
Nevertheless, we are as we have been, as we will always be: greedy, jealous, slovenly, lustful, proud, anger ridden and gluttons for both food and punishment. Simply put, we are human. Programmed to be errant. And if we’re lucky and normal, we’re also programmed to understand how to rectify our errancy.
When I think about the future, I see a blur. It’s dizzying; hard to even try to see it in a sensical manner. I used to see it in amazing clarity. Youth makes the view 20/20. If you’ve been able to place enough life in your quiver, you begin to understand how this whole process of life works. You live and you understand you’re in far more contr0l than you ever thought possible.
Faith that good things can still happen is as tough as living in a limited world and believing blindly that a religious prophet once had to prove his prowress to ignorant people by walking on water, healing a leper here and there with a touch of his hand and turning fish into loaves. These people, so limited in scope, couldn’t possibly wrap their heads around logic; but they could easily and readily understand magic and mysticism. Magic for them, was visually tactile.
And that’s made it believable.
A metaphoric firey charriot (or a perfectly timed meteor) racing across the sky explained more to these people than a text ever could. As mentioned above, faith often needs proof in order to stay in the cranial forefront and that’s what Jesus’ apostolic followers gave these people. They gave them an option. The uneducated who couldn’t keep up with ever evolving intellectualism of Judaism, needed something else. Christanity got the nod. Proponents needed these souls to believe. So, the story goes that Jesus Christ could die like a human; but like a god they intended him to be, he couldn’t stay dead. He’d be back.
If someone doesn’t believe this, shouldn’t he or she have the right to ask if the Bible’s authors were nothing but propagandists???
It’s easy to think this way. Today, miracles don’t happen in a biblical context. Never again will we see anyone walk on water. Those kind of miracles don’t exist–unless of course, you think the invention of a Wave Runner is the next best thing. No one produces loaves from fishes anymore. We do it today in mass production with flour, water, yeast and riboflavin in gigantic ovens which produce thousands of loaves everyday.
Lastly, I think miracles are idiosyncratic. They’re what you need them to be. Personally, I don’t think of my life as existing in a chasm of religious goal orientation. I don’t necessarily worry if I slip up on the controls of those ten idioms that Moses was so closely attached, I’ll be condemned to hell for perpetuity.
Save for murder. Nor am I a fan of infidelity or coveting neighbors’ stuff either.
I also believe we endure periods of hell in our lifetimes. Fire and brimstone are used euphemistically. Hell is prison. Hell is lonliness. Hell is helplessness. Hell is being mentally and emotionally skewed. Hell is hunger, drought, unemployment and loss.
Hell is poverty. It is lonliness and grief. Hell is burying your baby. It’s kissing your husband’s lifeless face in the waning seconds before the life saving equipment is shut off. It’s looking back on a life poorly lived knowing full well that your particular clock that controls everything, is about to strike 12.
Hell is regret.
Far be it from me to gaslight your Godly reality, whatever that might be. I want you to believe in what you must; in whatever gets you through the night. I’m no different from any other human who’s ever walked on this big blue marble. I’ve loved and hated and accomplished and failed. Uderstandably, after living a life rife with arrears in faith, hope, love and mankind in general, I understand what it’s like to want and need to believe in the possibility that something better could happen somewhere else, at some other time.
But when specifically never comes hard and fast. You question why. This is where the inexcplicable, but all purpose explanation–” everything happens in God’s time” comes into play.
Faith is all we have, really. Whether that’s geared at God, Allah, Vishnu or the Druidic “Green Man” or the Denver Bronocs, we all need to believe in something. Everyday I wake up in the morning to face the day ahead and I understand just how vital that is. Prayer is important; it is empowering. Belief in a higher power is important too….but so is the belief in ourselves. That we’re often in more control than we realize.
I have only recently understood how relevant that is to the story line behind the “The Wizard of Oz”. There she was, this misplaced Kansan named Dorothy, galavating around this strange land in ruby slippers thanks to a tornado and her farmhouse’s open pier and beam foundation. She learned at the very end of her long, difficult journey to the Emerald City, that by clicking her slippers together, she alone had the power to go home the entire time, she just didn’t know it.
You see, she never needed a wizard.
She simply needed wisdom and so do we, folks.