No Hope

Kanipakam-GanapathiToday, on our way back from a hospital we passed a church. It’s a church we’ve passed a hundred times. No biggie. And like many churches these days, the need a sign out front to broadcast religious phrases. Fine. Dandy.

Today, though, the message bothered me. I mean, more than it usually does. One side of the sign read, “Evolution: You’re an animal with no hope” and the other side of the sign read, “Bible: You’re the image of God, with Jesus as hope.” It’s amazing we didn’t run off the road with as much as we were rolling our eyes.

I don’t want this to come off as arrogant or anything, but I feel more than a little bad for folks who adhere to a way of life or thinking that seems to perpetually put them in conflict with the very existence they have.

I believe in God and in evolution. I think there are a billion ways to marry the two concepts and I’d reject anything that would try to make me doubt one or the other. Further, to claim that something like evolution means a human can have no hope is mean and ridiculous. The notion falls in line with the essential Church doctrine that humanity is inherent flawed and evil (at least since The Fall). Something I can’t stand.

As if that slap in the face didn’t do the job, the other cheek was more subtly slapped by the message on the other side of the sign. “Go to our holy book and learn just how evil you are and the place your only hope in an external source, as specified by us, because you’re not able to do anything else of worth.”

Then… god help me… an old friend of mine, who I pretty much only communicate with via Facebook and who is a Christian in the absolute loosest sense of the word decided that it would be an equality statement to post a verse from the biblical book of Hebrews. The verse seemed made up of two basic sentences. One implied that “the one who makes men holy” and “the ones who are holy” are of the same family. The other indicated that Jesus is not ashamed of the holy ones. Typical.

I pointed out that the verse he posted has two implications: That there are people who are unholy and that Jesus is ashamed of those people.

His response (at least, as of the last time I checked) was that I shouldn’t inject my personal views into the Bible. My only response was that I wasn’t projecting, just doing what he is doing which is to take the verse by itself and understand it as such. He insisted that the verse is pro-equality, which I don’t buy. I asked him if any of the surrounding verses actually support the idea of equality because the one he posted simply doesn’t.

As it stands, I think I’ll ignore any responses made to that post hence forth and instead spend the rest of tonight in sadhana and hitting the sack a little earlier than usual.

Advertisements

Fight or Flight, or Faith

I recently overheard a conversation which made me ask a few question within mine own head.

Here’s the deal: A few coworkers were, for whatever reason, discussing flying to places as opposed to road travel. One admitted that she was in her 40s when she flew for the first time. She reminisced with a smile on her face of how her aunt, who has since passed, once was in from out of town and as she was headed back wanted my coworker to come stay for a bit, so she bought her the plane ticket and the rest is history. My coworker said she was so thrilled to be flying that she was glued to her window the entire flight.

The other, I’m not sure has ever flown and was very clear that she prefers to travel by car/bus/train… anything except air. I don’t recall her citing any kind of tragic or unpleasant experience. Just some disdain… and much fear. Interestingly, she did go a little into how she felt powerless while flying, or whenever she considered flying. I remember her saying something like, “When you’re in that air plane you can plummet from the sky, crash, and die. There’s nothing below you. You’re in The Hands and that’s all you got.” While saying this she cupped her hands before her solar plexus.

Of course, by “The Hands” she meant the hands of her god, which happens to be the certainly crucified and possibly risen Jesus of Nazareth. And for the record, both this woman and the one she was speaking with are both Christians. What struck me the most isn’t that one Christian had no fear and the other was full of it, but that the one with fear pretty much out rightly proclaimed that resting in her own god’s hands wasn’t safe enough for her. She trusts her own flawed driving skills more than she trusts the one who’s “driving skills” are the source and direction of everything.

I’m not as versed in Christianity as I once was, but I know a huge part of walking that path pertains to faith and believing. I know faith has numerous definitions, but a generalized definition I think applies often enough is something along the lines of, “I hope/have confidence that this/that will happen, although I have no concrete reason to logically know it will.” After all, by faith you’re saved through Jesus Christ (biblical Book of Ephesians), who apparently paid not only for your transgressions, but also everyone else’s. After accepting Jesus into one’s heart, faith is what makes a person a “new creature.” (biblical book of 2nd Corinthians) Faith is what saved the three in the fiery furnace. (biblical Book of Hebrews, and Book of Daniel) Jesus was so impressed by the centurion’s faith that he healed his young gay lover, without even going to him. (from the Gospel of Matthew)

But apparently faith isn’t enough to comfort someone as they fasten their airplane seatbelt.

I guess I’m trying to decide whether I think she’s a “good” Christian or a wishy-washy one. As if my opinion actually matters! Maybe that’s not even a fair question. And by “good” Christian, I don’t mean a Christian who is a good person. I think most Christians are perfectly good people. What I mean is a Christian who adheres to their religion strongly. Since its advent, and in most cultures where Christianity has been present, good Christians have taken solace in what they consider faith during times when reason seems to have left them. Example: Just about any time science has made a new discovery or advancement. Galileo’s life was made quite miserable by the Christians of his day.

I’ve sat through sermons in many churches where the understanding of faith is different from this. In Christian theory (theology?), faith (and the corresponding salvation/relationship with Christ) is not unlike the concept of faith in dharmic religions. In a practical context, though, a difference definitely appears.

In Hinduism, the word for faith is SHRADDH(A). In the context of shraddha, one’s faith must be evident in his actions, or it can’t truly be said that he even has “faith” (shraddh). He may have belief, but not faith. The idea here is that if what you believe isn’t reflected in your actions, then necessarily, it can’t be said that you believe what you think you believe, or at least what you tell others you believe. You can’t call a spade a spade, if it has no characteristics of a spade. No?

However, within Christendom, it’s completely accepted and common practice to say or preach one thing, but do another. I know that might sound judgmental and harsh, but it’s the historical reality. The Church, as it exists as a collective body of believers, has not been very diligent about focusing on the actual teachings of its guru, Christ. (This could easily lead me to a post on the value of practical hypocrisy, but now’s not the time.) This brings me back to the coworker gal in my office who says she believes she’s in “The Hands” while flying, but refuses to fly. Surely to have faith that your version of God is in control is the same as acknowledging “The Hands” everything rests in. How is it even logical to walk around glorifying your Lord up one side and down the other, at every turn (and trust me she does all day long), but then not have faith in that Lord to care for you? Am I missing something here?

But whatever.

I’ll close with a quote by someone I respect immensely for his work and its clarity. He’s a celebrity, but no less authentic in regard to the teachings he passes on to us. Deepak Chopra once said,

“Faith can be the cover for a mind that stubbornly holds onto God or stubbornly refuses to accept the possibility of God. All faiths were founded on direct experience of God and their intention was to pass that experience on. Faith is a form of hope and hope is unfulfilled unless real experience arrives. Turn inward to find the root that faith springs from. When you find it, faith will no longer be a crutch, an excuse, or a desperate hope.”

Om shanti