Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm Probably Going To Be Thirsty

My mother is one of the most religious/spiritual people I have ever met. I love that about her. She has the ability to look at any situation and understand…no…to feel that the message has come from God, Himself. There is a sobering quality about the way she looks at the world, relying on her faith to get her through horrible events in her life. It is magical and, I suppose, an example of billions of people around the world who deem religion to be their saving grace, the Benadryl that helps them get through the day or the week or the year without freaking out and running through the streets like a Starbucks Barista who has suddenly run out of the House Smooth and doesn’t know to whom she can scream her disgust and injustice at not being able to serve the corporate coffee snobs who must silently practice their order under their breath as they stand in line so as not to make a fool out of themselves when it’s their turn to order. Religion, for many, is just as powerful as a Grande Mocha Espresso….only its effects last much longer and doesn’t burn your mouth (generally) as it goes down on the first sip.

Just like left-handed scissors, religion is as powerful a tool as has ever been created. This blog’s email address (magnoliarambling@gmail.com) is going to implode before I get through all of the messages from angry people who took offense to the word ‘created’ just now. Everyone in my family is right-handed, and although I chuckle at the thought of them using left-handed scissors, the irony is electric. Admittedly not a student of religion, I am as ignorant to the religions practiced around the world as I am to the most effective way to throw a curve ball. Created – a word that when combined in a sentence with the word religion evokes passionate responses. For the record, the 2010 Census will list me as Christian and I’m pretty sure I believe that there is a God in the Heavens and that He has a son, Jesus Christ. I do have a tiny issue with the Immaculate Conception and the creation of the Heavens and the Earth. Damn the Discovery Channel and all that cable contributes to life!

My only reasoning behind saying religion is something that has been created stems from my ignorance. There, I’ve gone ahead and told on myself. Next to being one of the most brilliant people I know, I must say that I am ignorant a good deal of the day. I was brought up to go to church every Sunday. I didn’t know what was going on then, and I haven’t increased my level of understanding to this day. All I know is that when you are in the middle of an Episcopalian church service when you are five years old and sitting next to your older sister, it is inappropriate to wait until there is a lull in the sermon and shout, “Amen!”

How many religions are there around the world? How many of us know about them? How many of us have decided that since their religion is not the same religion that I practice, it must be inferior in some magnificent way? How many people are going to burn in hell for ignoring the bullhorn? Betcha it’s more than you think. Save me a glass of very dry red wine, please. I’m probably going to be thirsty.

Religion is funny on so many levels. I mentioned my mother previously. I think the way she looks at religion, however, is not funny. Not to say that she doesn’t appreciate those things that are funny, just not church. Why, you ask, is religion funny? Because people go out of their way, one way or another, to embrace it like one of those orange and white ‘your dumb ass fell overboard, so you’d better cling to this thing so we can save your life’ Styrofoam floats; or they go the complete opposite direction and make it their life’s work to renounce God, Jesus, Mary (why doesn’t Joseph get any props?) and all of the Prophets and Apostles, not to mention the stories and oral traditions that give meaning and purpose to many.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the Republic for which it stands. One nation. Under [insert least offensive non-religious reference that will both please the masses and irritate that one lonely asshole hell-bent on grabbing his fifteen minutes of fame at the expense of his dignity and the reputation of his child, the little girl for whom he claims to have undertaken this mission of anti-Christian, anti-patriotic insanity]. [Insert alternative for ‘Amen’. Perhaps: “Git ‘Er Done.”]

But I digress. There is so much love inherent in what religion offers. Christianity, in my unskilled viewpoint, is based on the ultimate love a parent can have not only for his child, but for others.

Past my ramblings, religion can set the tone for the entire familial relationship. I have neighbors who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are a wonderfully close family with two children, one boy, one girl. They regularly attend meetings (services to the layman), they are active in their community and they have a very profound understanding of where they fit into this life and the world around them. Their religion does that for them. And they are grateful for it. Their religion makes them who they are, good or bad, and it grounds them to an exact center around which they know that deviation is not acceptable. Their religious orbits do not wobble. Birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, etc., pass without mention. It is their religious commitment not to recognize those events. As a family, they are passionate about their beliefs. As individuals, they adhere to the lessons and teaching they absorb in order to more fully attain the religious and spiritual harmony they seek. And they’re good people. Religion has done that for them.

On the other hand…

The people who covet religion as their form of income absolutely kill me. Pulpit Pimps. The 700 Club? Really. The folks who lord over (or should that be under) the Crystal Palace? Uh, right. Don’t get me wrong, there’s great money in preaching the Word. It’s great work if you can get it. How many Baptist preachers have you seen drive away from their inner city parsonages driving used Hondas? Somewhere in the preacher code, it is bespoke to pilot a Lincoln on the blessed highway to the Lord. If only they drove Hondas, they could afford even more expensive suits.

What was that guy’s name who was a very popular televangelist who had an affair with someone in the church, of course after whole-heartedly denouncing adultery as a sin, and made an emotional (contrived) apology to his flock on national television, saying how he shamed the church and how wrong he was to have been overtaken by Satan and his plan to corrupt the soul of a preacher (millionaire who made his money from the donations of old people too mentally malleable to understand that he was bilking them for their retirement savings as he laughs his ass off driving his Lincoln to the bank)? I am searching my brain, but I think there are too many examples of them for me to pin down just one. I’m still trying to figure out what his public apology was trying to teach me about religion. Was it that I should pray to God that I am not besieged by and fall victim to Satan’s temptations of the flesh? Or was it that I should pray to God that I don’t get publicly busted for having been having been besieged by and fallen victim to Satan’s temptations of the flesh? Like I said, I’m still working that one out. The crying was a nice touch, though.

What about all of those people who have been deluded into believing that killing thousands of people will get them into Heaven? How do you spell Infidel, exactly? It is capitalized? Or spelled in lower-case? I’ll have to check dictionary.com. Come to think of it, am I one? I must be since I don’t even know how to spell it, right? I’m not saying you have to be a non-Muslim to be an Infidel by any stretch of the imagination. Those poor Muslims who have zero connection to the madness (is that a Christian perspective, or what?) are getting the shaft. So what if their skin is darker than your average Caucasian? The fact that their form of dress may sometimes include long flowing robes and ornate jewelry does not signify that their husbands are part of America-hating organizations bent on the destruction of the people amongst whom they live and work. You don’t even have to be Muslin to be labeled as a traitor.

The Middle East, a potpourri of wonderful and peaceful religions, just happens to be one of the many places around the world from which people of varying economic and social classes are fleeing, seeking a home in the Land of Freedom and Tolerance (I remember something about the Statue of Liberty and “huddled masses” from my high school social studies classes). Those people, religious and familial, seeking the American Dream, have taken the place of blacks in this country, in this case, lionized at first sight for what their beliefs may or may not be. Shame on us.

“Arabs Are The New Blacks” does make a catchy bumper sticker, though. Somebody call Al Sharpton.

The fact is, there is a torrent of religious activity in the Middle East that constantly threatens to piss somebody off. Anti-American, Anti-Christian, Anti-Arab, anti-yours is not mine religious sentiment and fanaticism is everywhere. The area boasts many different religions, not just a sect of the ones that people blindly associate with having flown jets into the Twin Towers and the madness that is killing mothers and the elderly and children and people at wedding receptions and the corporate coffee snobs who must silently practice their order under their breath as they stand in line so as not to make a fool out of themselves when it’s their turn to order at the Starbucks in Beirut.

I wonder if the Christian Crusades in medieval times bore the same brunt on those who did not believe. If one of the Ten Commandments says that Thou Shalt Not Kill, how the hell can you justify killing in the name of God? Talk about hypocrisy. Picture this scene: A sunny day, the breeze rolling across the green pastureland of medieval Britain. A gentleman on horseback, resplendent in his gleaming gold-embroidered outfit pulls back the reigns of his trusty steed and stands in the footpath of a woman in a dirty dress carrying a bucket of potatoes.

“Good day, young peasant woman. I am the brave Sir Finklebutt. I am on a mission handed down on virgin parchment paper, written by the hand of the aide of the King, himself.” About
now, the peasant woman is looking around to make sure that she is the target of the words from this beautiful man sitting atop his beautiful horse. “I am charged with spreading the word of God to every person in this land. You, dirty little woman carrying a bucket of potatoes, must answer but this one question. Do you believe that God is the ruler of Heaven and Earth and that our King is of divine instruction and lineage?”

“That’s two questions, actually,” the woman replies.

“In either case,” the knight retorts, “what is your answer?”

“I think I’m going to have to have go with no to both. Is that bad?”

If a bucket of potatoes and the severed head of a woman in a dirty dress fall to the ground from the same height, which one will hit the ground first? Obviously, she didn’t get the ‘You’re a Christian or we’re going to kill you in the name of God’ memo. Shame.

I love my mother more than anyone could. With religion on her side, she can probably do just about anything. But I’ll just bet she can’t use left-handed scissors, either.