Sunday, March 24, 2013

Happy Place Diversion ~ What if God was One of Us?

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The new Pope Francis from Venezuela is considered a "man of the people" who said the other day he wants a "Poor Church to Feed the Poor." And he is trying harder than any Pope within living memory to prove that early in his Papacy.

From USA Today - the Pope on Palm Sunday
The square overflowed with some 250,000 pilgrims, tourists and Romans eager to join the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies, which lead up to Easter, Christianity's most important day.

. . . Francis even climbed down from the vehicle, kissed a woman in the crowd and chatted briefly with her, and another man in the crowd leaned over a barrier to squeeze the pontiff on a shoulder — an unheard of familiarity in the previous pontificate of the reserved Benedict XVI.

. . . Francis said Jesus "awakened so many hopes in the heart, above all among humble, simple, poor, forgotten people, those who don't matter in the eyes of the world."
Francis then told an off-the-cuff story from his childhood in Argentina. "My grandmother used to say, 'children, burial shrouds don't have' pockets'" the pope said, in a variation of "you can't take it with you."

So lately I've been thinking about Joan Osborne's hit "What if God was One of Us?" When the song came out many people thought it was somehow sacrilegious, but I never understood that criticism. She is asking age-old questions about faith and belief that all real Christians consider. She sings about Jesus being a human, which according to scripture he was, which is the whole point of the New Testament and all his sermons. Jesus experienced human life and let his disciples ask him questions. He was a man of the people and went out amongst the sinners. He didn't shun the poor, the unwell, or the prostitutes (which the GOP would call "sluts"). He led by example. He never said a single thing about hating gay people, or black people, or anyone with a different religion. Yes, the Church has unfortunately had leaders who felt that way over the centuries, but that is not the message of Jesus or a reason to hate all Christians.

Gandhi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Exactly. Many so-called Christians have forgotten the actual teachings of Christ, just as many denominations that consider themselves Protestant have drifted away from the simplicity of Martin Luther. Some churches have became more and more ostentatious and outrageous as they try to out-do the churches down the street instead of using their tithes to help the indigent and feed poor children. Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the Temple, and I think he would have the same reaction to all the politics in the church today. For instance, the Tea Partiers are so focused on what they think is "right" about abortion and the unborn that they want to sacrifice those who have been born, who are already existing and need our help: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden.

Many so-called Christians have spent the last ten years preparing for Armageddon, or the Rapture, or the Mayan Apocalypse. And because they consider themselves to be "The Chosen" because of which church they followed, they became so self-absorbed with either death or survival that they just didn't care about anyone else. That is not what the church teaches at all.

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They even made fun of it on the Simpsons several times: once in "Bart's Comet", when Ned Flanders builds a Bunker just large enough to save his family and his neighbors, but then the whole town shows up; and in Thank God It's Doomsday in which Homer is scared by the Left Behind movies and believes the Rapture is coming soon, but discovers he isn't much of a Prophet after all. Unfortunately for modern Christianity, Homer-as-Everyman isn't far from reality. And throughout history the church has dealt with "false prophets." An aunt of mine who recently died said people would frighten children with the same stories back in the 1920s, and my Grandmother told me years ago that Haley's Comet caused the same fear at the turn of the century. Human nature just doesn't change very much.

But I still think it's much more sacrilegious to pretend to be a Catholic, Protestant, Jew - whatever - and ask "What would Ayn Rand do?" Or even worse, "What would Grover Norquist do?" Ugh. The GOP cynicism they spout while expecting us to believe they are devoutly religious has nothing to do with God or Jesus. They are NOT "one of us," nor do they care anything about the slobs on the bus. Christianity did not "create" the Congress we have right now, but I'm happy to say the elections last year when the "people" spoke are a good first step in getting the hypocrite Pharisees out of our government.

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