Friday, September 02, 2005

Searching Back Home

Patmos asked me how I live with my difficulties and remain the way I do. I learned from the Bible and my own experience on how to live, but those were almost my last two choices. Several years ago, I determined that my life was profoundly unjust, and I needed to find a faith that was, so I read. I read the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, The Analects of Confucius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and the other Taoists; I was quite enamored of Taoism for a while, and many other books considered holy by all walks of Men. In the end, I came back and read Job. Christianity and God in general appealed more to me once I'd read that book again than any of the other faiths of which I read.

Admittedly, I have a heretical streak running a mile down my back. I turn to the apocryphal Apocalypse of Saint Peter when I feel the warm breath of Hell breathing down my neck. I don't believe in eternal damnation. I think our prayers to and for others matter in a direct way. I can't be part of a religion where salvation is a mental act: my mind is profoundly inadequate in many areas of thinking when I am at my sickest. I also like Christianity's open stance on laws. I don't see any New Testament books as detailing laws per se; they seem to set examples for a Human conscience to interpret. I suppose the closest are Corinthians, but I see them as specific letters by Paul to a specific church in Corinth; even at that, he's not necessarily right. Corinthians, like the Beatitudes, seem to me to be examples and guidelines, not hard and fast law as found in the Sharia or Deuteronomy. Islam, in particular, sticks out with me; it seems to set harsh judgements and heavy penalties for crimes and misdeeds easily tolerated by a more merciful view of God and his creation. For example, The Sharia and Rape. This type of law is unreasonable in my opinion, and totally unacceptable human behavior. I think we should protect society from criminals in a merciful way: a way where their own salvation is not only possible, but encouraged. I don't like the death penalty, but I don't mind lengthy prison sentences, even when they are extremely expensive. I think any society which would stone a raped woman to death or give her 180 lashes is collectively guilty of murder and malicious wounding if she somehow manages to survive the lash. We're a rich enough society to bring the worst of our own up to an acceptable standard of behavior without threatening prospective criminals with death.

Some complain at the Christian Bible's inconsistencies and vagueness, but I see these as profound advantages. I think there are multiple correct readings of the Bible, and they're all valid. Like I tell the Jehova's Witnesses that come to my doorstep, Peter and his church (Catholics) are the cornerstone of God's House, but are far from the whole thing. I am content to be a heretical fleck in the mortar.

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