A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

08 April 2007

Easter Sunday Thunks

In my little town
I grew up believing,
God keeps his eye on us all

--Paul Simon, "My Little Town"

This is a long post, 'cos I been thunking.

As regular readers know, I'm a lapsed Catholic with an uneasy side of atheism. But you don't just shrug off the conditioning of the first seventeen years of your life.

The Church was not the centre of our family life, but it was central. So when a feast day comes along I feel a vague tug in what passes me for a soul to seek a tall building and sin.

Sorry--"sing". But either one works. People totally underestimate the force of Christian guilt. Freedom from Christian guilt, and the transformation of such into smug self-satisfaction is, I am sure, a major element in the decisions of some of my peers to switch churches and go with the more evangelical sects.

To exacerbate matters, I'm currently involved in a production of "The Cotton Patch Gospel". The Harry Chapin tunes, largely driven by stand-up bass, banjo, mandolin and guitar, as well as some lovely harmonies, are catchy, and it's impossible to watch this play three nights a week without thinking somewhat on Christianity. So I'm feeling a surplus of Catholic Guilt, and to those of you who have never experienced it, I cannot explain the force involved.

Wonder if there's a good leatherman shop in town?

Now that the perverts have rejoined us ...

So as I said, it's impossible to not think about gods, the Bible, etc. on this, the holiest feast day in the Catholic calendar. And though it might surprise some of my Avid Fans (all three of them) there are lessons I feel the Bible can teach, no matter what your faith or attitude towards that particular text.

Except for literal interpretationalists, they haven't a hope. Last night two guys in the back of the audience were murmuring sarcastically to one another: "Oh, so the Bible had it wrong all along--Jesus was born in Georgia."
A couple nights ago one man declared himself to be "uncomfortable" with the interpretation.

I assume they've never seen "Cats", and I can't
wait until they see 300.

So in the Easter spirit, here are three short lessons, drawn from the testing of Christ, according to Matthew.

In the Bible, it says Jesus went into the desert and fasted for forty days ("forty days" being an ancient idiom meaning "probably over three/six/ten days probably not six weeks").

The Devil appeared, and said "Hey, if you're God's son, turn these rocks into bread."
And Jesus said "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that issues from the mouth of the spirit."

Lesson 1: There's more to life than eating. Personally, I see that as including elements of a spiritual life, if you have one; or a feeling of community; and/or including art, literature and music in your life. Think about it: what would the human race be without music--particularly that generation conceived in the back seats of station wagons?

Then Jesus was taken up to a high place. And the devil said "Hey--didja know you could jump down from here and God would send angels to catch you so that you didn't splatter? It says so in the bible."

Jesus replied: "Get lost, eh? That book you mentioned also says 'Don't test god.'"

Lesson 2: Don't use your special abilities for parlour tricks. Or as Spider-Man might put it: "With great power comes great responsibility." Jesus only got one shot at resurrection, after all.

(Bonus lesson: I feel in my theistic moments that this also tells us that Jesus a) knew the Torah as well as anyone and b) was fully human and bound by the laws and rules governing humanity. That is, Satan could not test god, sure. But Jesus knew that if he did fling himself into the void it would be him testing God, and not the devil.)

Then the Devil took him up, and showed him "all the world, and all the kingdoms and mountains thereof" or something similar. And he offered Jesus dominion over them.

And Jesus said: "I know you. Get lost. The power isn't yours, but my Father's, and we're going to do things His way."

And at that, the Devil left him.

Lesson 3: Be careful who you associate with, who you enlist to fight in your cause. Because a good cause is poisoned with crooked alliances.

I can think of several political types who could take lesson 3 very much to heart.

Here endeth the lessons.


At 6:40 a.m., Blogger The Nag said...

In the bible it also says, "Jesus tied his ass to a tree and walked to Jerusalem" from which I learned the lesson that skin stretches more than elastic :)

At 8:47 a.m., Anonymous PJ said...

I'm a recovering Catholic myself so I understand the guilt. I think there's more "smug self-satisfaction" among evangelicals than atheists.

As I told your wife, I'm a big fan of JC but very sad that his teachings have been edited, censored and changed so much over the past two millennia.

At 10:14 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Clearly the Olay people need to study their Bible harder.

That was what I meant. Though there are smug, self-satisfied atheists, I find nothing beats an Alliance Church member up here. Paging Mr. Harper?

Since I feel that much of the Bible is allegorical, and I also confess to believing that until the Age of Reason the Church was in many cases a civilizing influence, I don't have much quibble with the way the book's been handed down.

But I draw the line at the free-market churches that claim, for example, that Jesus wants you to be rich. I find the sentiment antithecal to the spirit of Christianity.


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