Wednesday 26 October 2011

There But For The Grace Of God

I have always wished that I had a strong religious faith. You know the kind; the one where you know if you live according to a fixed set of rules you will spend eternity playing a harp or being pleasured by naked virgins forever. When you put it that way, it is hard to believe that more western men don’t convert to Islam.

I don’t have that kind of all consuming belief, so I am stuck in this world with doubts and questions. How could an all just and forgiving God even allow a Hell to exist? Wouldn’t that go against the whole forgiveness thing? It certainly doesn’t seem just to suffer burning and torture for eternity for say about thirty years of being a bastard. I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but then I am not God. Well, I don’t think I am, but you can’t be too sure.

When I was growing up I believed in the Christian God and version of the universe, but I really didn’t have too much information to base my belief on as we only went to church once or twice a year. I grew older and began to embrace a more eastern view of life. If it was good enough for the Beatles, then who was I to question it? Even after I gave up drugs, I still felt that the east had a much firmer grip on religion than the west. For a long time I was convinced that reincarnation was the answer.

You live a life and after you die, you view the Askastic records and see where you could have improved. The Askastic record is a record of your life. You then decide just what it is that needs work and are subsequently reborn, only to go through the same process at the end of this life. When you have learned all that you can from this plane of existence, you then go to another plane where the process begins again. This goes on life after life, dimension after dimension until you reach perfection or Godhead when you reunite with God. Pretty cool and pretty neat, kind of like a school for your soul and the graduation ceremony is becoming one with God. WOW!!

My problem with this is that I just don’t understand why we would do this. I get the learning and bettering yourself part, but I don’t get why God would want this. Why go to all of this trouble if you are omniscient? You already would know everything. Hmmmmm. This is my belief system of choice, but there are a few holes in it. Louise has a wonderful saying that applies in this situation. “I could never believe in a God that I can understand.”

When the kids were small we attended church on a regular basis, not because of any strong belief or need to belong, but to give the kids the background knowledge for when they begin their quest to find answers to the unanswerable. We attended a United church where the minister would ask me if I enjoyed my nap after every sermon. I told him that I just closed my eyes so that I could concentrate that much harder to what he was saying. He didn’t buy it.

We attended an Anglican church (the religion I was brought up in) and actually became contributing members of the congregation. I acted as a shepherd in a Christmas pageant, I shovelled the snow for the church and Louise was a member of the alter guild. They were very nice people and it was kind of nice to belong for a time.

I was moved by a sermon once at the United church. The minister decided to tell us his story and how he came to the cloth. His childhood was relatively normal; his family went to church once or twice a year. He wasn’t a very good student, or a particularly nice person. He drank and smoked dope, lied to girls to have relations with them, he even stole money from his parents to buy drugs once. He didn’t care about the poor or starving and his life was centered on just one person, him. This guys life and mine were pretty much carbon copies!

He then told us of an event that changed his life; I believe it was a car crash in which he and a friend had almost died in. He asked God for help and his prayer was answered by Jesus Himself. WOW! From that day to this he knew that becoming a minister and serving God was what he had to do.

I leaned over to Louise and whispered, “There but for the grace of God go I.” She started to giggle, and then I started to giggle. I started to silently laugh and so did she. People turned and gave us the look and we sat in the pew with our shoulders heaving and our stomachs hurting from keeping the laughter in. Tears ran down our cheeks and we couldn’t look at each other. It took a while, but by the end of the service we had it under control.

I could get behind a church that made you laugh so hard every week your cheeks and stomach would hurt, tears would flow and on the odd occasion you would pee yourself.

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