Might we please reconsider the idea that God tells us if we are good or bad? Through disasters or cancers interpreted as celestial discipline? Through clergy telling us, they have interceded on our behalf to pronounce blessing or absolution? Through the ups and downs of “It’s Easter – hurray – you are blessed!” and “It’s Lent – too-bad-so-sad, you are a sinner and need redemption – get on your knees and beg.”
Is it ok to ask these questions or is it dangerous? It has been dangerous for a couple thousand years except perhaps for the first few hundred when
Christianity’s arrogance was held in check by society’s warrant for its arrest, torture, and public burning. And then, of course, the abused becomes the abuser when the Church begins it burnings. I mean, where does it all end?
As a person who writes, I get a lot of mail. About 25 emails or letters a week, given eight thousand on the Dailysip.org registration list and the thousands on my Facebook friends list. They sometimes rail at me. But usually, they write in dulcet, quiet, frightened tones as if we might be overheard by someone. “Is it true?” they say. “Is this all a mystery?” they ask. “What will happen to me if I do not subscribe to the dogma but just enjoy the community and the music – will I be cast out?”
Last week someone asked me if I thought God loved them with all their faults and demons or if God loved them only after confession – after being in “a state of grace” – and what was that ‘state of grace’ anyways?
I said I did not know.
They responded by saying ‘But my pastor is so sure of it all.”
I said that I was not.
She then asked, “Well, what is your advice to me if I am not willing to ride the sin-absolution rollercoaster?”
I responded suggesting an exercise that helps me.
- Look in the mirror, naked, for a while.
- Ask yourself “What would it take for me to believe that the beautiful human I am, with all my demons and faults, is wonderful and beloved of the Creator?
- Take a few decades to answer the question.
She asked “Isn’t it a heresy to think we can be beautiful without an intermediary? I am sure I read that somewhere. Can I just be beautiful and try every moment to make good choices? Is that enough?”
I said I did not know.
I said it’s working for me.
A few days later she wrote a 300-word thank you letter ending in the words “ all my energy worrying about being good, I am now putting into being me. I feel liberated.”
In a few decades, one or two, the church will collapse financially. We will need to figure out what that will mean. Each of us will.
My plan is to assume that whatever created this beautiful, flawed me and this beautiful, sometimes dangerous, world just wants to enjoy it all with me in these brief years of life before I become, again, dust.
I don’t know. And it’s ok not knowing. I prefer surprises to commandments. Always have. It’s more exciting!—
The painting “In the beginning” is by Rob Schouten, here on Whidbey Island, in Langley. For more beautiful art, go to his web site at https://www.robschoutengallery.com/
The Daily Sip is a series of short-form essays written by Charles LaFond, a potter, writer, and fundraiser; who lives with his dog Sugar on a cliff, on one of the more than 400 islands in the Salish Sea, pondering and writing about how to be a better human, but often failing. And sometimes not.