Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Give Me that Old Time Religion

I am sitting here waiting for God to speak to me. He hasn't yet, and I'm not sure why. I mean, I'm here every day, listening for his voice in my head, or on the phone, maybe. I even cast a hopeful glance at my e-mail now and then in case that's how God reaches people nowadays. How much trouble would it be for him to call and say, "Just wanted to let you know, Tom, that you're soooo, soooo special, and I have endowed you with special powers of understanding, prophecy and insight"? He's awfully busy, I know, assuring each of the Republican presidential candidates that only he or she can save the country from perdition. But, come on, he's God, isn't he? Surely there's an angel available to take over pumping up Rick Perry's ego for a few minutes while the big guy gets in touch with me. Besides, Rick's well-coifed head might explode if the pumping doesn't stop soon.

I know I won't be an easy case for the angels and archangels, the cherubim and seraphim, and all the heavenly hosts. I've been a happy heathen for decades, and it's been a very long time since my shadow last darkened the door to the sanctuary. So much has changed, and I'll require a considerable amount of remedial work. 

You see, as a lad I donned a white shirt, coat and tie each week for the trek down South Park Road to Sunday school. And as I recall, at least one Sunday a year was given over to a discussion of the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. In that story, the Pharisee stood in the middle of the temple and, with great gusto, thanked God for making him wonderful and awe-inspiring. One of Pharisee's more notable gifts from God was a great set of lungs, which he used to let the less blessed know how proud he was to be him.  Meanwhile, the publican sneaked into a broom closet, mumbled a humble word or two and went on his way to stumble and bumble through life. This annual lesson ended with the admonition to go forth and emulate the publican.

Even to one such as I who has not been paying close attention, it is obvious the theologians have had a change of heart. It is the Pharisees who are favored by God. And if you don't believe me watch FOX News for a few minutes. Everywhere you turn the modern Pharisees are ecstatic because they're sure that voice they hear is the voice of God. And why does God speak to them? Dah. Because they're so wonderful. God doesn't talk to just anybody, you know. There are six billion people on the planet, and God can't very well talk to them all. As a result, he limits his conversation to those who are well off, well groomed, well spoken and who have marvelously self-satisfied smirks. 

And there's that thing about the meek inheriting the Earth. Like all the other ancient wisdom that makes the 21st-Century Pharisees uncomfortable, it is, they say, a faulty translation. Remember, God loves those who love themselves. Meek means weak, and God doesn't like the wishy-washy, full-of-doubt types. That's what all the blessed and wonderful people say, and they know because God told them they are blessed and wonderful. 

But, wait a minute. If all the exceedingly blessed, wonderful and outrageously proud are going to spend eternity at the right hand of God - and they are because God has told them they will - then inheriting the Earth won't be such a bad deal. All those swelled heads will make Heaven awfully crowded.

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