Sunday, December 11, 2005

A long, long time ago...

I just dug out a post that I started, thought about posting and decided to research more. Good thing I didn't, it would've become a book.

I had a thought this morning (June 25th) about The Church. I'm not talking specifically about the one down the street from me, or a certain religious sect, but about religious groups in general. A generalization obviously does not apply to all groups or in all situations but this is simply what I have observed concerning the larger and better-known religions, including most branches of Christianity.
Many of the great masters of religion spent their most spiritually fulfilling years in poverty.

We start with Abraham, the man from whom three major religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - are said to be descended. He was told to give up not his material possessions, but something more dear: his beloved son Isaac. This is obviously because material possesions aren't worth much to God.

Jesus was the son of a carpenter, which at that time was a middle-class job, but his mother obviously couldn't bribe the inn owner for a room. He grew up learning a trade and working for a living, not living off the wealth of donations from those who would have his blessing. So he didn't teach from a golden throne, he taught from a rocky hilltop, and it was what he said that mattered, not what he wore or how much money he made.

I know most people associate white robes with purity and holiness, but it's probably just as true to say that Jesus wore "white" (If I'm correct, it wasn't bleached white, but the typical creamy white of unbleached wool) because dyed material would have cost more and he didn't care about appearing royal.

Muhammad, prophet of Allah and founder of Islam, left his followers with the commandment to share with the poor and be humble.

Even the Buddha, who was born a prince, found enlightenment after he left the material world of the palace and lived as a beggar. He spent his days teaching under trees, not in the courtyards of palaces.

Confucius? Confucius say, he who fart in church sit in own pew. Okay, so Confucius didn't live a beggar's life but he was pretty damn smart.

It isn't only the Christian scripture that tells us how difficult it is for the wealthy to get into heaven or reach nirvana. There's a lot out there instructing us to get rid of our possessions and attachments before we can really get onto the path toward spiritual truth and awakening. However, I'm most familiar with the Christian type of hypocrisy. Matt 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25 - "It is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Funny how that same line is repeated over and over through the retellings of Christ's teachings. And yet most of the self-labeled "Christians" I know have good jobs and expensive SUV's and HDTVs, and wouldn't easily let go of their comforts.

So why does the Church "need" (and have) so much money, land and material goods? They obviously don't need it to spread the Word, because their founders/masters/inspirational figures didn't need it and they managed to start large followings all the same. They shouldn't care about material goods as a base for having power, because the power of God should be the main force of the Church, not the power of a few thousand acres of land and two or three billion dollars. The Church essentially does not even need to own a meeting place, although it is more convenient for them to do so. The bible states that as far as worship goes, it can be done at home and without ceremony (Matthew 6), but many people find that finding the time and privacy to worship in their homes is inconvenient and sometimes just uncomfortable.

Wait. Convenience and comfort! It's a driving force behind almost everything we and the Church do today. Look at how most of us live. We shop at Wal-Mart or its equivalent, we take hot showers for granted and when we want food we don't even have to inconvenience ourselves enough to cook - toss a premade pizza in the oven and you're good to go. Instead of focusing on how we live and what we believe, we focus on fitting into the crowd - being another of the sheep. Following blindly is easy, it requires no thought and uses the time we would otherwise use to think for ourselves. And besides, if you look good to everyone else, where's the sense in actually working to be good? Nobody can tell the difference, right?

Apparently for a religious group to be successful, it doesn't have to tell the truth or explain the mysteries of the universe; it's the presentation that counts and not the backstage work. So Churches are large and beautifully decorated, most ask for donations or support from their members and all of them hold some kind of power that allows them to advertise the comfort and convenience people have come to expect from life. The Churches gain members not by seeking those who willingly come for the truth, but by seeking those who willingly give up the truth for a life of comfortable materialism. There's a lot going on behind the scenes, but it's hidden to those who aren't paying close attention and that means most of the congregation will look at the surface, see their reflection shining prettily back and never bother getting wet to check if the bottom of the spring is as clear as the top.

That's all for tonight, folks. Thanks for tuning in to another session of Thoughts by Fae.

*Scriptural quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and BlueLetterBible*