God has come a long way from being a tribal war god to being the god of unplanned pregancies, birth defects, and natural disasters. It used to be Yahweh specialized in slow attrition with the neighbors. He's since branched out, and has a hand in everything from comas to Down Syndrome. Cerebral damage and extra chromosomes -- if the brain's not working properly, you can bet God's behind it.
Mind you, God's lost some ground, too. His domain seems to be riding the crest of the medical and social status quo. Influenza wiped out a good chunk of the world back in 1918, taking way more lives than the Angel of Death, who knocked on every door than didn't have sheep's blood on it. Today, we get a flu shot every year and hope the mutations remain minor this time around. These days the only people prone to plague are the ones who live around prarie dogs. Again, no big deal. We don't pray for deliverance from this trivialized scourges.
But get pregnant, and half the unwelcome advice comes with divine backing. Can't get an abortion. God's been against it since the 1850s or the 1970s, depending on whether you're Catholic or just a Reagan supporter. Amnio reveals that the fetus has no brain? Well, it's in God's hands now, better deliver the mindless little angel or God will be thoroughly displeased at your interference. He has a plan, and it involves earthquakes, tornadoes, and the brain-dead. Don't ask for details. Mysterious ways and all.
If you're dying of some slow, painful illness, you'd better scramble for whatever medical measures, no matter how bankrupting, that'll keep you on this earth one minute longer, so you can grimace in pain at the grandkids and leave them traumatized forever. Sure, we could have universal health coverage, so you wouldn't have to bankrupt your family, but that would take away your personal choice as a consumer. If you want to off yourself in some painless and relatively dignified way, you're thwarting God's plan out of cowardice. Now have another shot of morphine and smile for the family.
God has been reduced to being the enforcer of the status quo.
I can understand the Old Testament God way better than the New Testament God. Old Testament God you could predict, kind of. Cross him in any way, and you're screwed. Old Testament God, you turn around to watch your house go up in flames and you're turned to a pillar of salt. New Testament God, you nail His Son to a cross and He darkens the sky a little and tears a tapestry. That'll learn 'em.
Still, I like God way more than Jesus. The world is full of Christians who love Jesus but fear God, and pray to Jesus to save them from God. Some of them pray to Mary just in case. Others pray to saints when they lose their car keys. I used to feel sorry for St. Anthony, patron saint of lost causes and, by extension, patron saint of lost items. The man endured picturesquely grotesque temptations and torments, and for this hey gets to help forgetful Catholics find their car keys. It's under the cushions, you idiots, he must think back to them every day, It's always under the cushions.
One saint was killed by lightning. His reward? Being made patron saint of electricians. Every day he's reminded of how he died. Some reward. Some inspiration to electricians. I'd feel safe under the watchful eye of someone killed by exactly the same force I seek protection from.
I fail to see the appeal of a religion whose heroes all seem to be clamoring for the most painful deaths imaginable. One of the gloomiest hymns I remember from church had the line, "Blessed are they who are meek and humble, there's is the Kingdom of God/Bless us, oh Lord, make us meek and humble, bless us, oh Lord, our God." Excuse me, no one makes you meek and humble; you either are or you aren't. And if the sole reason you want to be made meek and humble is so you'll get eternal award, that isn't meekness or humility. That's self-interest. And these were some of the wealthiest people in town singing this.
And the song goes on: "We are the light of the world." How humble is that?
This is the same church that had catechism (it's like Sunday school, except it's after-school rather than Sunday morning. You have to go to church and catechism.) with a teacher who told us that when Jesus said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven, He was referring to a rocky pass called "the Eye of the Needle" that, although narrow, could accomodate a camel. So it was a little difficult, though not impossible, for a rich man to get into Heaven.
Although I personally like the original camel analogy, Jesus is one of the most annoying fictitious characters ever to appear in print. For someone on the high road to omnipotence, he's way too passive-aggressive.
The pharisees ask him if he's the Son of God.
Jesus replies, "Who do you say I am?"
Great playground response, Jesus. I know what you are, but what am I? If this fella's the Son of God, then Pee-Wee Herman is Solomon.
And he really has it in for Judas. It makes you wonder why he even lets Judas hang around, much less handle the books. Judas makes the teeniest suggestion that the money for the expensive perfume a hooker is rubbing on Jesus' feet might have been better spent on the poor, and Jesus lays into him. Now form this image in your mind, if you have any righteous anger building against me at this moment for my blasphemy. Here's your messiah, looking an awful lot like a '60s guitar hero, and a "recovering" hooker is washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair (there's an adult online chatroom devoted to this scenario, I'm sure of it), and He says, "Sure, you'll always have the poor, but how long will you have me?"
And we're supposed to think that Judas is in the wrong, because he's just being materialistic. Yep, the best things in life are truly free: ex-hookers washing your feet with their tears and drying them with their hair.
At the last supper, Jesus starts off with his "One of you is going to betray me," speech. Great way to inspire loyalty, Jesus. Even Adolf expressed greater faith in his subordinates. One of you is going to betray me, but don't worry, I've already forgiven you because I'm such a great guy. Who wouldn't want to turn on a fella like that?
Then Peter tries to reassure him, and Jesus turns on him, too. Jesus says Peter will deny him three times by morning. Later, in the garden, when Peter tries to defend him, Jesus criticizes him again. So the only way to show his loyalty is to be put to slow painful death, too? Who wouldn't disassociate himself from someone who accused you of disloyalty for something you didn't do yet, then criticizes you for trying to defend him? You just can't win with Jesus.
By the time he's being crucified, he's making all kind of grand promises to a thief on another cross. Now there's bonding for you. Those apostles, they can go stuff it, but you, you're being crucified, too. Small world. I can relate to you.
They have just a grand old time up there.
But then he turns on his Dad.
"Father, why have you abandoned me?"
Well, hey, He sent Peter to lop off ears, didn't He? That's the way the Lord usually operates. He sends one of his chosen to lop off body parts. What else do you expect? Didn't you read the book? But no, that's not good enough for Jesus.
And poor Thomas gets stuck with the "Doubting" title. Well, what would you think? Last week, Jesus is accusing everybody of disloyalty. Peter tries to save him from the Romans, and gets yelled at for it. Up on the cross, Jesus questions God's loyalty. Would you expect to see this guy again? Would you want to?
© 2000 Randel Shard.