“I’m no atheist – I’m lazy. I really do like hassle-free Sunday mornings. I have a problem with organized religion, so I’ve simply opted out. Live and let live, I figure.”
– Lynn Coady
So, I accidentally went to church this morning.
See, about a year ago, for a plethora of reasons, I kind of gave up on the organized religion thing. Many in my world don’t agree with that decision, but it’s my life and it is what it is. (Disclaimer: I do still go to church with my grandma on occasion. That’s because my love for her is just a smidge stronger than my stubbornness.)
So, generally on any given Sunday morning, you’ll find me lounging at my house doing as little as possible. (You know – that “resting on the seventh day” thing. I’m still a big fan of that one.) So, this morning, in keeping with my new Sunday ritual, I groggily woke up a little past 8:00 a.m., stretched, yawned, realized no one else was awake, and proceeded to turn over and go right back to sleep.
But something interrupted my plans.
My husband likes to have the tv on while he sleeps. [Insert huge whiney *SIGH* here. Grrr. I hate that thing.] So, as I attempted to drift off, the sound of the television distracted me. It was turned to the history channel and a show called “The Bible’s Biggest Secrets” was on. Greeeat. Here I am purposely not going to church and what’s keeping me from falling back to sleep? Church.
So, realizing that going back to sleep was not going to be in the cards, I rolled over to look for the remote. But, alas, as is usually the case, it was nowhere to be found. (I’m convinced that my husband snuggles with that thing and then tucks it safely under his body so I won’t be able to turn the tv off in the middle of the night. He knows me well enough to know that getting up and going across the room to push the power button on the device itself is just totally OUT of the question.) So, realizing that churchin on the history channel was how it was gonna go down, I grudgingly started checking it out.
Okay, so first off, the name of the show itself was The Bible’s Greatest Secrets, so I guess I should have known that this wouldn’t be the typical Sunday morning service. And this particular episode was about Jesus himself.
Now, let me break right here just a second. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, surely you can see that Jesus was pretty cool, right? I don’t think there’s a whole lot of doubt about whether the man existed – he’s pretty much a staple in historical figures. He was here, he did some stuff, then he died. Was he divine? Did he rise again? Eh, that’s for you to decide for yourself, I suppose. But he was here. That part is a fact.
And, in my opinion, dude was awesome.
So, I started watching this show and they were talking about the parable of the Good Samaritan. Now, even if you’re not the church-going type and never have been, you’ve probably heard about the good Samaritan. We still use that term now to refer to anyone who helps another out. But on this show, they dug a little deeper into the story.
A lot of you may already know what I’m about to say, and I guess I did too on some level, but something about the way they told it on this show this morning really got to me. This “good Samaritan” (an actual Samaritan – a man from Samaria) stopped to help a Jewish man lying on the side of the road. The man had been beaten and attacked by thieves and left there to die. Many had already passed him by and left him to suffer his fate, including priests.
Now, I had heard this story many times growing up in my grandma’s southern Baptist church, but I had never stopped to think why these people had passed this guy by and not helped. Frankly, I figured they were just assholes. But, as it turns out, that Samaritans and Jews were sworn enemies.
They hated each other.
Did I know that? Eh, probably. So, why did this suddenly make so much sense to me today?
Back to the story. So, finally, along comes this Samaritan and, for whatever reason, while all of the other “enemies” had passed by and left this guy to die, this particular Samaritan just couldn’t do it. He stopped for him. He helped him. He took him to safety.
This was crazy! Unheard of at this time. Practically impossible.
Granted, this story wasn’t a true story exactly. Nothing like this had actually happened, I don’t suppose. It was one of his famous parables. The stories that Jesus, the King of Metaphors, would tell his followers as lessons – guides so to speak. He wanted his followers to be like that Samaritan. To overlook what society was telling them about this group of people, and look at this one man as an individual. Help him. Reach inside yourself and do what you know to be right rather than what status quo would have you believe.
Gee, sound familiar?
So, anyway, the guy on the history channel went on to explain how this was pretty much Jesus’s whole intention. He was the new status quo. He was a barrier breaker. A wall destroyer. A curtain splitter.
But what happened to him? Well, things didn’t end so well. He stood up to authority and he paid for it. As the history channel host put it:
“When you attack a barrier, you run the risk of being destroyed by its collapse.”
Now, this doesn’t say you WILL be destroyed. You just run the risk. There’s a sacrifice to be made.
One more thing that was mentioned on the show: turning the other cheek. This is another one of those lessons from Jesus that many of us, religious or not, have probably heard throughout our lives. Here’s the actual verse itself:
“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” – Matthew 5:39 KJV
(Notice I used the King James version for you die-hards who may be reading this. Actually, I probably lost you guys when I used “asshole” up there. Sorry about that.)
Anyway, so most of us who have heard that over the years, probably have heard it as “be a doormat.” I mean, really. That’s what it has always sounded like to me. If someone beats the hell out of you, don’t fight back. Let them beat the hell out of the other side just to keep it balanced. Right? And while I appreciated the whole “be a peacemaker” sentiment, it never quite seemed fair to me. I mean, I’m a redhead. I’m a fighter. This whole ‘standing down’ stuff isn’t exactly my cup of tea.
But the history channel dude made me understand this a little better.
Pay attention to what the verse actually says. That phrase in the beginning – “resist not evil.” Think about what that means. Don’t resist evil. The word “resist” means to “withstand the effect of.” Jesus was saying don’t withstand the effect of evil. Don’t just let it happen. Stand there. Resist it. He wasn’t saying just keep beating the hell out of me and I’m going to let you. He was saying, “I’m not budging.” Keep on throwing your punches, I’m still standing here. Here, throw another punch. Do whatever it is you think that will get me to stand down, but I won’t. No, I won’t retaliate in the way that you are. I won’t fight fire with fire. I won’t abide by the old “eye for an eye” mentality. I am not you. But I will not give up. I’m a pacifist. I don’t believe in that method. But I will not be moved.
I will not be moved.
I don’t know about you, but as I listened this morning, all I could think about was now. Look at what is happening around us. Look at the evil that has come in the form of authority. Look at the status quo of today’s world – the judgment based on who is supposed to be our enemies. We are told that people are different so they must be bad. We are told to judge all by the actions of a few. We are told to build walls. We are told to keep walking by and leave people to die on the side of the street because they are the enemy.
And what would Jesus say about that?
I will not be moved.
I may have to run out and buy myself one of those WWJD bracelets. Because I think I finally get it. And what a crying shame that those in authority who claim to be such God-fearing Christians don’t seem to “get it” themselves.
What would Jesus do?
Well, I can tell you what. It sure as hell wouldn’t be what is happening in our country these days.
Okay, sermon is over. You’re released.
This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
– Dalai Lama
I’m glad you found a story that speaks to you and connects you back to faith. It is difficult, especially when people claim to be doing “Gods will” but without the right perspective or asking, as you said, what would Jesus do, people lose the message in translation and inadvertently turn others away from God by doing so. We aren’t righteous, and it isn’t our place to judge.. We shouldn’t let people tear us away from our faith because of their hypocritical actions. I don’t mean to rant, I’m just really happy to read this after knowing what you’ve been struggling with over the past year. 🙂
I am a religion of one. I pray every day but have no church. I had an unpleasant realization that I’m not a Christian but along the way I read some books you might find interesting. One is Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg. Another one is Jesus Before Christianity by Albert Nolan. Both confirmed my impression of Jesus and a firebrand; not unlike Malcolm X who was martyred for standing up to injustice. [And if you haven’t read Malcolm X’s autobiography, it is a real eye opener.] Peace and blessings to you in this challenging New Year.
Love the way you make us think! Good angles you’ve presented in a humorous yet spot on fashion. I enjoy reading your work. Keep up the good writing! (I do miss seeing you!)
I enjoyed reading your great story and the realizations you shared!
Thank you so much.