So, I promised a post that would make people unfriend me in droves, didn't I?
Well, I hinted, anyway.
(Note: This post is about religion, but I'm not interested in debate right now, this is just me musing aloud. If you are simply going to explode with the need to correct me on my terrible wrongness, understand that I will not be replying, but I don't mind if you rant. Thanks!)
(That last one is a perennial complaint on customers_suck. Church groups? You're not helping anyone to "see the light", you're being cheap. FYI.)
But I am always drawn to these strange little tracts - I tend to avoid the Jack Chick variety, because really, after you've seen one, you've seen them all, and they're all poisonous and hateful. No, it's the independent ones that really draw me in (though not, perhaps, in the way the anonymous person who left them intended). Such as the one I found in a small restaurant bathroom while stopped for lunch on I-81 in Virginia last January: "God's Simple Plan of Salvation".
Actually, I found a bunch of them; not content with leaving one in each stall, the bestower of "God's Simple Plan" had left one every two inches on every horizontal surface in the restroom. Some were a little waterlogged, being by the sinks, but the one I picked up (after washing my hands) was pristine. I tucked it into my purse, since there's always a wait for the food to come, and I like to amuse myself by courting Satan at every opportunity.
(I get bored easily, what can I say?)
The cover of the one-fold tract has a nice red white and black print on glossy paper of a star beaming down some sort of death rays on some shepherds in the desert. The sheep don't seem particularly impressed, but it definitely has a "Bethlehem-ish" feel, borne out by the message "to wish you a blessed Christmas and a new year filled with happiness". Except that every word is capitalized, so it's a bit forceful.
Inside, and continuing to the back of the fold, there's a series of quotes from the Bible (both new and old Testament) about how Jesus died for you, and if you accept him as your saviour, blah, blah, blah, saved!
All the pamphlets say this - it's how they say it that is so interesting. This pamphlet, produced by Lifegate Inc. (who have a website that you can Google, if you really care), is so earnest. It starts "My Friend, I am asking you the most important question of life [not your life, mind you, but all life]. Your joy or your sorrow for all eternity depends upon your answer. The question is: Are you saved?" [Bolding original. They mean it.]
And then we get partial quote after partial quote, basically arranged to prove that God thinks you suck, but in the most inexplicable deal (for him) of all eternity, Jesus took on all your evil, died horribly, and you owe him big time. But the partial quoting gets pretty zany after a while - we've got Leviticus mixed with Hebrews to make one sentence at one point ("For the life of the flesh is in the blood...without shedding of blood is no remission"). I particularly like the bit where it says "Although we cannot understand how, God said my sins and your sins were laid upon Jesus and He died in our place. He became our substitute. It is true. God cannot lie".
I thought we did understand how. God is everything, God gets to do what he wants, Jesus gets blamed for everything, blah, blah, Christcakes. Is this so hard to understand? God is magical. The entire foundation of Christianity is based on the most super magic trick of all time. No offense (I am a Catholic myself, and you bet I believe), but if Christ had not risen from the dead, he would have been simply another minor Jewish prophet with a small following and an unfortunate ending. If I believe that God is all powerful, it really isn't that big a leap to see God with a big yucky ball of sin in his hands, saying to Jesus "Look, if you swallow this, I'll make sure people remember you for over 2000 years. Whaddaya say? And remember, I'm your father".
(Hear that click? Just lost someone. Or twenty.)
What I'm saying is, if the pamphlet is asking me to take things on faith, then a sentence like that is silly.
Speaking of silly:
"Surely, you realize you are a sinner. Right now, wherever you are, repenting..." I am? I mean, yes, yes, I should. Of course. I am a sinner. I've been told this ten times in this pamphlet alone, just in case I forgot in between reading out-of-context quotes.
God may not lie, but Man can come up with some fascinating variations on God's truth. One of Man's ways of bullying us into believing is not to emphasize that God loves us all (John 3:16, though marginally quoted, is not actually quoted or cited), but to beat us over the head again and again with how evil we are. "You are a sinner. Therefore, unless you believe on Jesus Who died in your place, you will spend eternity in Hell".
(See? "Who died in your place"? You so owe him.)
God's truth may be out there, but I find it hard to trust what comes from the mouths of people who presume too much when they say they preach the word of God. Too many of them have all sorts of criteria to exclude anyone they disapprove of, and too many of them preach hatred and violence.
Worse, they say nothing good we do counts for anything without Jesus, even though God supposedly loves us so much - much as the pamphlet says: "No Church, no lodge, no good works can save you".
(I guess the Elks are out of luck, then.)
I do actually have a deep antipathy for this version of God's word - my ex-husband claimed he was born-again, and said that nothing he did afterwards mattered, because he was born again, and was guaranteed a place in heaven. Basically, he felt he could be an absolute asshole, and it didn't count against him (Jack Chick says the same thing in Flight 144 - as good an example of his twisted view as any of his hate-filled tracts). I cannot express how repugnant this idea is to me. C.S. Lewis spoke more to my feelings on the matter when he said that anything good you do, you do in God's name, whether you invoke Him or not, and any evil you do in God's name is really done for the Devil. It is the work you do to improve the lives of others that counts, not magical thinking.
This "Quick! Believe in Jesus!!" method of salvation always seemed to me a bit of a get-rich-quick scheme; no work, no effort, just a quick "hey, Jesus, I believe in you!", and go on your merry way. Jesus' teachings were a bit more complicated than that, and a lot less easy, but in these days of quick weight-loss pills and instant gratification, the old-fashioned way of doing good works all your life, and trying to live by the religious teachings you believe in seems so... hard.
I just can't shake this feeling that at the end of it all, like the weight-loss pills and the "enhancing" supplements, the quick-and-easy way will turn out to be a scam, and there are going to be a lot of pissed-off people demanding their money back.
(Tucked in the tract was a fortune cookie fortune that said "You have inexhaustible wisdom and power". I appreciate God's sense of irony.)
(and if you want to play the blessed lottery numbers that appeared to me Lo! on the back, they are 11, 9, 45, 26, 46, and 5.)