April 4, 2006

[The following post may offend. You have been warned.]

If God does exist, it sure has a strange way of showing itself in our world.

10,000 years of modern human history (supposedly), and it was only after, I don’t know, 5,000-7,000 years before we find evidence of one true God, God’s people the Jews of the Middle East. Then 8,000 years into our modern history, we have this figure named Jesus show up. 2,000 years later, anyone who claims to have spoken to God is claimed to be an idiot by the majority (ie the founder of the Mormon faith, or David Koresh from Waco, TX if you remember that). Our world is spiralling out of control, all in the name of religion one way or another (Protestants vs Catholics, Christianity vs Islam), and every powerful person on Earth claims to know what to do and has the right answer.

I’ll forget about all the non-Christian countries to keep things simple for now.

Leadership is a neccessity in our lives. If there was no one in control of a situation, we’d kill eachother and wipe ourselves off the planet. Leadership is a natural thing in our world (Queen bees/ants, alpha males in chimpanzees and wolves), and it’s something to be embraced and not shamed. There can be good leaders, and there must have been some good leaders in the past because colonies in early North America survived, civilizations like the Mayans and Egyptians flourished. The problem with our current leaders is that they use religion as a bargaining chip, as a way of manipulating everyone no matter what religion they are. Religion and leadership aren’t wrong, but when combined they are. It’s why Thomas Jefferson spoke about the separation of church and state. He recognized that religion is deeply personal. If a leader came along and reached into those collective personal issues, they’d be the most powerful beings on the planet. But leadership is more than power, it’s something much more spiritual and is the essence of Christianity.

It may be strange to think of it that way. If a leader is the manifestation of Christianity, shouldn’t they be allowed to use Christian values for their advantage? The simple answer is no.

Taking advantage of a situation does not seem to be the Judeo-Christian way, except in the form of sacrifice. It is never meant to leverage their personal selves above another group. They are meant to live humble lives, good lives, but never gloating. Think of the citizens of Masada when they were surrounded by the Romans. A lot of people would say that they killed themselves because they were in poor condition to continue fighting the Romans and the mass suicide was a last option for them. Their leaders must have looked at the situation and realized that their position was of one of strength, not weakness. To be slaughtered by the Romans, they would go down in history like all other people murdered by Romans or the Khans or Vikings. Instead they turned the situation into an advantage to display to the Romans the power of their faith in their people and God. To take their lives meant they controlled their path to God, they met God on their terms, not Rome’s. And now they are remembered for their courage of undertaking such an act, just like Jesus’ crucification. They gave up their lives as a demonstration of how powerful God was within them, not because they were giving up.

That’s why people dislike the concept of suicide so much, but why a fireman going into a burning building knowing that he’s likely to do is considered a hero to people of faith. They all know that those people were going into those buildings living the ultimate Christian ideal: giving yourself for someone less fortunate than you. Courage is just another way of saying you believe in God and you’re willing to do anything. Suicide is not a courageous act because you’re taking advantage of a situation to bring it back to yourself. It is a selfless act, because you’re saying your life is more valuable dead than alive.

Christianity is about life, however, not death. When preachers talk of Heaven, it is to calm us all and instill in us some courage to keep fighting through our lives. If Heaven was the solution to all our problems (disease free, all youthful, and so on), they someone long ago would have convinced his people that if we don’t kill ourselves now we will never make it to Heaven, that the Devil may capture our hearts. There are many examples of Christians living good lives in the Bible, and throughout history, so I don’t need to go too into depth about this concept. I will summarize it up in one neat package, though: if Christians are to aid those in need, how are you to help them if you’re dead?

Since the time of Jesus, however, this Christian ideal has been corrupted many times over. I’m pretty certain that if Jesus came back now and saw how people thought of him, abused his name, he’d most likely kill us all- okay, probably not, but he would be pretty upset. And all the blame can be pointed back at his Apostles and how they wrote about him. They glamourized his life to the point of making him an equal of God. If he was the son of God, and had the answers for the world, he would have told people upfront and not have worked away as a carpenter for as long as he did. Why didn’t he commit daily miracles as a teenager? Why didn’t he bring the words of God with him to earth, or write them down himself like Mohammed did? It’s questions like those that make me think Jesus was a good man, probably one of the greatest men to walk the earth, but he deserves respect, not the pornography of Christianity.

What I mean is why do Christians stress so much importance on having days to worship his birth, his death, his resurrection, use communion throughout the year, and say things like “Jesus loves us” or “Thank you, Jesus Christ.”? Shouldn’t we be more focused on daily Bible study or study groups or connecting with eachother to share our ideas of God and work together to heal our communities? Why do we make weekly financial offerings, but think it’s okay not to give spiritual offerings of service to Salvation Army or physical offerings of blood to the Red Cross or food for the Food Bank?

People have misused Jesus’s name in such a way to leverage their own power position, or they use it so frequently like he’s their best friend when in truth, they’ve never had contact with him, and probably don’t even study the Bible as often as Jesus would like them to. And this all ties back to how I started: leadership.

We are allowing ourselves to be dictated to, told how to believe, how to read our Bibles, how we should display our faith openly, and what priorities should be. But if Christians are meant to aid others in need, how does telling us what to do help us? Shouldn’t we be giving people the tools to discover and create their own faiths, while offering support to help them keep their thoughts and beliefs pure and not corrupted by all the other portrayals around us or show them the improper ways of using your faith in your daily life? Leaders are meant to guide us in the right direction, tell us what our end goals should be, be there when we need them, and listen to us when we have questions. Leaders are the shepherds who tend the flocks, but they lead in a way to instill the courage in ourselves to pursue the good and right life, whenever we can.

When we pray, we are not connecting with a higher being; we are connecting with the inner spirit. We are searching for the spirit to build up our courage and to tackle the problems in our lives. The spirit within us all is the confidence we need to take the next step, to progress. The spirit is our love for humankind, for animals, for our planet. When we fall in love, we recognize another’s spirit is as strong as our own, and you marry to make sure you both remain strong and to pass along your faith to your children.

We can explain the existence of other religions in this way, as well. They all connect with their own spirits in their own ways- prayer is universal, love is universal, hate is universal. Something must exist within us that explains all of that, but we all have different ways of interpreting it and understanding it. We all share that knowledge differently. The spirit is universal.

God does exist; but God does not exist in the way we humans have imagined it for thousands of years.

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