Monday, June 28, 2010
Faith and Reason
Most days on the drive to and from work, I occasionally switch to the Christian radio stations broadcasting out of central New Jersey. Typically it is Bridge FM. I like to tease a brother of my lodge that I am “monitoring” his church like his church monitors the Freemasons. Most times I enjoy listening to the broadcast and try to glean some insight into the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. But as of late, I have been noticing a trend that I find disturbing on a couple of levels.
Now, I know that some of the “modern” Christian churches that have been popping up around the country have a little different take on the “tried and true” Christianity that most Christians have been baptized and raised under. The standard Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, faiths etc., own the monolithic church structures that landmark any major town in America. But these new churches are very small for the most part and occupy school gymnasiums, fire houses and lodge buildings on Sundays. I don’t have a problem with that since I believe that these church-goers are reacting to the failure of organized religious institutions to answer the hard questions that a “questioning” believer might have. I find myself grouped into that category as well.
I count myself as a “Christian” because I was brought up in the Protestant Church in my neighborhood as a youngster. I was married in a Methodist Church and when I do go to Church on “special” occasions, as many “Christmas Christians” do, I have chosen a church where the Pastor answers in his sermons, for the most part, some of those questions that I have. But not always.
To get back to my original point, I have found it a bit unsettling to say the least, how much time, thought and effort is paid to discussing and re-discussing the “Rapture” and the “End of Days” from the book of Revelations. Every time I listen to this radio broadcast of sermons, they speak in depth and answer call in questions from listeners and members. All of which is OK with me. I guess my real problem with this is that they seem to me to be wasting their lives looking to the “end” of it. They speak of how the “Rapture” will occur and how all true Christians will be “raptured” and in an instant, will vanish, bodily from the earth to be with Jesus in heaven and that all the rest will remain on earth to deal with the “end of times” and the Anti-Christ and his evil doings. All will vanish bodily in an instant. Poof !
Now, as a Freemason, I have learned that all religions have validity and that every man finds his path to God in his own way. Just because I am not on the same path as you, does not mean that I am lost. I am just on a different path to the answers in life.
My real problem with this extreme focus on the “End Times” is that is detracts from the art of living. It detracts from the zest that people should feel for life and the fullness that it can provide if God so wills it. It seems to me that someone that fears that God will separate them in an instant, from all their loved ones, is truly missing the real essence of the Christian faith as taught by the Christ. I feel that this view of Revelations is particularly disturbing to the children that inevitably call in to the station with questions about the rapture. “What will happen to my dog Fluffy ? Will he be raptured with me ?” “What age will I be in Heaven?” “Will I every see my Mommy again if she does not get raptured and I do ?”
These questions from kids make me mental. The commentators then have to make a long drawn out explanation and basically say that they do not know and that you must have “Faith” that all will be right. Seems to me they are putting all this unnecessary worry into the child’s head about an event (the rapture) that seems to me to be completely made up. They make the children “fear” God and fear God for their whole lives.
As far as I can tell, there is no mention of the word “rapture” in the Bible whatsoever. Never mind not mentioning what will happen to my dog and my Mommy. All the verses in the book of Revelation point to a time (they say) when the world will come to an end. I am sorry, but I don’t believe that. Call me a bad Christian, but I don’t buy it. I am a questioning Christian. I admit it. But Christians have been looking for the “Second Coming” of Christ from the moment Christ departed. Every age in Christianity, looks to the heavens and holds hope to see Christ coming down in a cloud of “Glory” to reclaim his faithful and bring them to the “Kingdom of God”. From Christ’s own mouth, he has spelled it out to all Christians that the Kingdom of God is not “out there” someplace. It is not some up in the clouds place that all believing Christians will someday meet to be together with God and be reunited with their dead loved ones.
In the book of Luke 17:20-21, it says directly, “The Kingdom of God is within you”.
To me, that one verse, puts to rest all the debate over the rapture and the end of times. Yes, maybe Revelation is speaking about the end of times, but not as a earthly civilization, but as an individual and our personal battles with our egos in our search for light and meaning in this life. But hey, it’s only my half-baked opinion.
I think it is our duty as Christians, Muslims or whatever, to question the faith that is drawn out of the well for us by others. The late Pope John Paul said it best.
“Faith and Reason are like two wings on which human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”
I pass by this quote every day when I go to work. It is a bronze plaque on the University library wall.
Stop it already with all this looking to the end. Stop looking for the Temple of Solomon in Israel to be rebuilt. Think about the origin of the word Israel (“he that striveth with God”) and maybe you will have a different opinion about what the Bible is talking about when they are “rebuilding” the “Temple” or talking about "Israel" or the "Israelites". Stop it already looking forward to Armageddon and hoping for it. Stop it already hoping for hell on earth. You will surely get what you ask for.
Look to each day with excitement and thankfulness for this greatest of gifts that you have been given, Life. You were not put here to live out some man-induced notions of the end of times. You were put here to make this heaven on earth a better place. Find the Christ in you.