Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Shhhh...God Can Hear You

I understand that the question: "What church do you go to?" is often used as a sort of conversational icebreaker between practitioners of the same religion. It's a valid question among fellow travelers.

Sometimes I am mistaken for one of those travelers.

Recently, a Christian friend asked me where I went to church.

"I go to the radio station", I said, "I have a Sunday show. Then I watch football."

"Duh", they replied,"I know that...there's plenty of time between your show and kick-off to go to church."

"Well, actually I'm not a Christian."

"Oh." They seemed puzzled. "I always thought you were."

"Really? Why?"

"Because you are very open and honest."

Me? This struck me as especially hilarious. I started laughing.

"What's so funny? You are."

"No, I'm not", I protested, "in fact, I just finished lying to my grandmother. I'm scum."

There was a long pause, finally broken by my friend's whispered questioning:

"You lied to your grandmother...? Uh...do you mind if I ask what you lied about?"

"I lied about religion."

More silence, followed by another hushed question.

"Um, I am not sure that I understand. What exactly did you tell her?"

"I told her that I believed in God," I whispered back,"It made her feel better."

"But you don't believe?"

"No. Why are we whispering? God knows what is in our hearts and thoughts; why are we talking so softly? He can hear. "

My buddy considered this for a second.

"I thought you just said you don't believe in God...how can you know how God thinks and hears?"

"I don't know. But there are books and stuff that claim to. I have read some of them."

"Yeah, I know, me too, but not as much as I should...I wish I were a better Christian. I'm Bad. I'm not Good, at least..."

Now it was my turn to be confused. I asked for some clarification- why were they not a 'Good Christian?'

"Because, honestly, I don't go to church much anymore, especially during football season...the kids have moved out...the divorce...you know how it is. I should go more often, is all..."

Damnation! I have a lot of Christian friends and most of them say the same thing, that they are not "Good Christians", usually because they don't go to church very often...or have ribald thoughts...or drink/smoke/toke (in moderation) etc. It's never for anything that hurts another person- in my understanding a Bad Christian would be one that deliberately causes harm- and none of my friends are like that.
I'd like to ask them questions to help me understand this logic gap, but they have already told me that they are Bad Christians...if I took my car to a garage and the mechanic said: "I am a Bad Mechanic", I'd be disinclined to ask for mechanical advice or service from that shop.
But this was the only garage open, so I asked him a question that I haven't uttered in years:

"Let me ask you something: what if you instinctively lived your life in accordance with the words of Christ- perhaps a few bad deeds (such as 'white lies' told to comfort a dying relative)- but considerably more good ones- you never hurt anyone, you help people when you can; you act on empathy and compassion, you are charitable and honest, kind to children, pets and the elderly etc...in short, you live a very moral, exemplary life- except you were not a Christian. Would you still get into Heaven, assuming it exists?"

"Hmm," he pondered," that's a tough one. Me, I'd be inclined to say yes, that it was deeds, not words that counted- and I think that helping people is a form of worship that has it's own rewards...but I'm a Bad Christian. I think most Christians would say that you were going to purgatory -or to Hell. But not me. But my opinion doesn't matter, I'm a Bad..."

"No, you aren't. You are a Good Christian. If your God exists, He surely loves you", I said.
I meant that.

It's been a year or more, but the last time I asked someone that same 'what if?' question, I was told by a self-proclaimed Good Christian that nothing you did on earth would matter unless you first accepted Jesus, that you could save a billion lives and you would still burn in Hell for eternity because you hurt the feelings of a being that's powerful enough to create the Cosmos. On the other hand, you could kill a dozen people, find redemption on Death Row and get into Heaven on the fast track via lethal injection.

I hope I never understand how someone could believe that.

That sort of dogma makes it difficult for me have any faith in God or Man, so it was refreshing to hear a more tolerant, open perspective...my friend had nudged me ever-so slightly towards a favorable impression of his faith, which, I would think, is what a Good Christian would do.
I think his God would approve and would love him for it. I explained this to my buddy, who seemed a little confused, but mostly unruffled. At least he listened.

"But you don't believe in...ah nevermind, dude. You might be crazy but you're right. Even if you do lie to your grandmother."

I think my Bad Christian pals are better souls than they credit themselves for.


Speck said...

Your porky soul is gonna fry in Hell??? I think that's the best blog label I've ever seen. Kudos for that one.

I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusions. The self-proclaimed Bad Christians are really just good people with undeserved guilt complexes.

I have a theory about the Christian dogma crap. It has to do with old men with limp wieners. I'm serious here, so bear with me.

Men, at some point in their old age, will acquire a permanently limp wiener. Yep, it happens. (gasp!) Those things do have a shelf life ya know. Since sex can no longer be their primary motivation in life, they look for something else to occupy their time.

They drag out their dusty Bibles and start to read. They begin to over-analyze what is written and read between the lines. They read meaning into passages that just aren't there.

They are miserable because they can't have sex anymore, so they decide everybody should be just as miserable too. They take their over-analyzed interpretations and create ridiculous rules for other people to follow.

People listen to these guys and believe what they say just because they're old, therefore are probably wiser than they are, and think they deserve some respect. Bah.

All it takes is one miserable old guy with a limp wiener to come up with a crazy idea. A second old limp wienered guy agrees with him. They start a church and it's all downhill from there. Pretty soon you have a whole nation of folks with guilt complexes just because they would enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.

Well, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Humm...I may need to rethink the wisdom of commenting on religious posts at 3:00 a.m. I do tend to rant on.

angel said...

see allan- now THIS is why you get things like "thinking blogger" awards!

i personally don't think there is such a thing as a "good christian", the whole point is to acknowledge being imperfect and striving to try to be so!

Allan said...

Just imagine what would happen if an
impotent male Christian was selected as President of the USA!

I always strive for imperfection.

Speck said...

Allan - No imagination necessary. Dubya is already our sitting prez.

We thankfully won't have to worry about this with Hillary in office. She won't have any LW men on her staff either. She would eat those guys for breakfast...with fava beans and a nice chianti.

Allan said...

That's what I meant.

Speck said...

Doh! Of course. Pfft. Went right over my head. Sorry.

Allan said...

Ha! I like you. Welcome to my blogroll!

yellowdog granny said...

everytime someone tells me with out being asked that they are a christian, I grab my purse and back my ass up against the wall...
nancy the new libraian and i were talking about a patron who kept asking me what church i went to..and what religion i was...finally i said im a pagan..the lady hurmpped and walked off..nancy looked at me for a long time .....then said..'figures'..hahah

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Those who yell that they are good Christians the loudest usually act the least like it. It's actions not words that make you a good Christian.

angel said...

i was sposed to say that christians must strive to be "perfect", but at the same time know they'll never get there as its not humanly possible!

Allan said...


the rube said...

i belong to the church of alternating current. it was nice that someone finally recognized my god.

Sling said...

I talk to Jesus all the time,and He told me that he likes everyone,except for that guy up the street with his infernal 7 am on a Saturday leafblower..I'm pretty sure he's going to hell.

Speck said...

Oh! Oh! Oh! I just ran across a prime example of my LW Christian theory. These guys took it to the extreme:

The Skoptzy


angel said...

i have something for you dude...

You Totally Blow My Mind

Merelyme said...

i totally agree with you on this one. i must say...i do like your blog. just came over from whimsy's site and thought i would visit some new people. nice to meet you.

Anonymous said...

Well, after reading what CityMouse had to say about your post here, I felt I had to re-open the sealed vault of our discontent and throw my hat into the ring:
I think your words to your friend were sage advice.
Now then, in entirely unrelated news: Hello! I owe you a thank you. When you did your post about my piano schtuff last year, it led me to an old friend from Christmas past. So, that should seal the deal for your eternal address right? Right.

Allan said...

JS- Hrmph, Indeed!

Rube- Looking back, I think someone else beat me to it.

Sling- He also hates the guy across the stre...well, that's gonna be a post.

Speck- More Skoptics= Less competition.

Angel- Awww, thanks ...I'll be 'round soon.

Merelyme- Hello and welcome! Any friend of Whim's is a friend of mine.

It's nice to see you again.

schlep said...

I have met one or two super-conscious Good Christians, they scare the hell out of me! The bad ones are easier to deal with, they're full of sin like the rest of us; just in denial.

more cowbell said...

I think the one thing that would've struck me from that convo is when you asked why your friend assumed you must be a Christian, he answered it was "because you were open and honest".

I used to be WAY on the Christian end of the scale. Now I'd say I'm agnostic if forced to label it. I've found myself surrounded with more open and honest people now, than when I was heavy in the Christian crowd. (Not saying that's how either group is as a whole, that's just been my personal experience.) I think it's because, in part, we were all trying to be "good Christians".

Of course I was all on board the "we're saved by grace, not works" bandwagon, believed it wholeheartedly, yet ... it still always seemed like climbing up a mountain made of mud, like I could never quite get to where I needed to be. There was always this guilt, this feeling of not being quite good enough, of always feeling lacking, even among those on the grace bandwagon.

I'm not in that world anymore (backslider, fallen away) but I can understand your friend's feelings.

I remember having that discussion, about if a person did all the good deeds in the world, and lived AS a Christian deed-wise without the belief in God/Jesus, would they be saved. I went to a New Testament non-denominational Christian church, and the belief was that "None shall come to the Father except through me (Jesus)", that good works was not a pass key to the pearly gates.

That's why I used to go door to door w/ the trusty Bible. Sheesh.

anyway, I like what you said to your friend, and hope he can give himself a break, in accordance with his own personal beliefs. It's not always easy to do.

Allan said...

MC- That did strike me as odd. Those are not common Christian traits.

You wrote:

"it still always seemed like climbing up a mountain made of mud, like I could never quite get to where I needed to be. There was always this guilt, this feeling of not being quite good enough, of always feeling lacking, even among [fellows]."

This sounds like my experience with alcoholism. Godspeed on your recovery! Um...Good Luck, I mean:)

Citymouse said...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Allen, Here is my formal, public, apology.

In no way did I mean to hurt you. I am truly sorry you feel that way.
I am sorry I hurt your feelings.
I am sorry your point didn't come across in the manner you intended it. It seems that is my problem.
I am sorry I misrepresented you.

I guess you missed the part I wrote about how I like you... and I like to debate with you.

I linked your post and site because I wanted people to read your point of view--- just so you would be represented correctly--so that it wasn’t one sided-- so your post could be heard. By the comments left on my blog, I believe it was.

But I am really sorry that it took you this long to say something to me.

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