The ending to my previous post was meant to be slightly confusing. I find that appropriate since I'm baffled myself. I loathe the Christianity of Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyers, Creflo Dollar and their ilk. Those teachings are a pyramid scheme wrapped in religious language, a scam with spiritual sentiments.
But there's one strong idea I hold in common with them: heaven, a good life, a beautiful life, the achievement of life, isn't something that should wait for us in our graves. I refuse to believe that. I'd rather lose all my friends, all my support, be outcast as a heretic than acquiesce to an anti-life teaching.
But it's not the kind of good life that those greasy charlatans sell. After so many years of hearing Christian preaching, the question I found myself asking the most over the last year or two was whether Christianity had anything to offer mature persons.
Most sermons I've heard spoke at length about the foolishness of materialism. Why spend your life chasing a career and money when it can be snatched from you by a speeding bus? Why invest everything in your heart into making the perfect family when you can't control what they do or who they become? Why go drinking and partying when your body will eventually give out on you, when the lights won't always shine so bright, the music won't always pump as loud... why waste your life?
And I agree with the statement lurking inside every question: those things just don't satisfy. Agreeing with the statement behind those questions isn't however, enough to support the next statement which is "So give your life to Christ."
What has boggled my mind for nearly a decade now is the way all Christian preaching I've heard, and hear I use the word "all" genuinely for I cannot recall even a single instance of an aversion, much less subversion, manages to take a rich world full of color, shape and complexity and flatten life into a gray, unrepresentative mass of stereotypes. Can I fault them for doing so? Most people only think in stereotypes. Depending where you first meet me, you might think that I'm a boisterous, hot-headed, idiot jock. Or you might think that I'm this frigid, overly-cerebral hulk. For most people who've met one side, meeting the other is something of a jaw-dropper. Stereotypes make the world easy.
But you know what? To hell with easy. Life ain't easy. Neither is dealing with real people. So seriously? Forget easy.
I've been playing with this idea ever since a close friend asked me if I ever considered the frailty of the human form and how everything I loved was so transient. What if I'm allergic to jellyfish and get stung by them when I dip into the Hudson on Saturday or Sunday 2 weeks from now? What if a car careens onto the race course and collides into me? What if I finally pick a fight I can't win?
I have my answer.
It's been a hell of a ride. I loved it. And let's see where we go from here.
What does Christianity say to the person who doesn't give a damn about material accumulation? I haven't bought new clothes for about 9 months. I haven't bought new furniture... well... I don't think I've ever bought furniture. Trophies? They're collecting dust underneath a mirror I rarely look at. I don't care about any of that. I care about the moment I have. Right now, as I'm typing in front of a computer at work, I'm enjoying my life. I can't really ask for more than that, can I? Some people might consider this enjoyment pathetic. They might say real enjoyment is lying pool-side at a resort. Well, they don't understand perspective. I enjoy every moment of my life. They enjoy 2 weeks of vacation time they slave 50 weeks for. Who's pathetic?
I'm not worried about tomorrow because I'm enjoying every moment of today that I spend building for tomorrow. If tomorrow doesn't come, I've lost nothing. Tomorrow's not a guarantee, not a promise. Why pretend it is? I'm not going to wait for anything to seize happiness. I'm going to have it right now. I'm going to have a lot more tomorrow, if that day comes. I enjoy my life because everything I do proceeds from my heart, emerges out of honesty. Every choice, every action proceeds out of desire. I refuse to be bullied by the word "duty." I'm writing science fiction right now, bad science fiction to be sure, but it's getting better. I'm doing it because I love thinking up new ideas and worlds. I hope to one day be able to leave a law factory with the freedom it gives me, but if that day doesn't come, then it doesn't come.
And Goldilocks no longer felt shame for enjoying her food. She savored each bite slowly, tasting the complexities and interplay of the myriad ingredients. Herbs, spices, oils, textures, flavors, fragrances... each bite simultaneously brought new horizons and dimensions of sensate satisfaction while dimming the world which lacked flavor.
I read a blog post recently about how hostile churches can be to those who don't fit their stereotype. Could the same be true of those serving those churches? A good number of ministers I know are so impressed by Luther's trembling before God in the Eucharist, how he couldn't let slip the sentence that would, in his view, transsubstantiate bread for flesh, wine for blood, that these ministers talk at length about the fear that they have in serving, and in everything they teach.
Isn't that insulting to God?
Fear and trembling is good, but the practice seems to be that since doing something wrong is terrifying, let's just do the same thing everyone else does. Safety in anonymity. If every other minister is doing it, if everyone respects them, then they must be right!
Safety is just re-organization. Threats don't just vanish. Making one element safe, endangers another. What are you making safe? What are you endangering? When you copy what other people doing, you're protecting yourself from criticism at the cost of your soul, the only one God has ever given you. Be dangerous. Live on the edge. Swing for the goddamn fences already and stop going up to the plate with the aim of "Just don't let me embarass myself."
What if leading with your heart and following God meant re-writing age old ministerial practices, spending less time at church and more time smiling? Could you endure the stares, the whispers, the claims that your an egoist and all the chastisement you'd get for not hanging out... oh, I'm sorry, fellowshipping as much?
Goldilocks finished her breakfast. She left a generous tip and asked the waiter to give her regards to the chef; it was the best meal she ever had. On her way out, she pulled one of the servers aside and inquired as to why everyone ate the same grey porridge when there was so rich a fare available. Sighing heavily the server said "They all come here and see everyone else having porridge so they order the same. Why ask for a menu when you're too scared to make a choice?"