Some family members saw fit to email this touching story to me along with a reminder that I should "get right with Jesus" quickly, since he'll be here soon and they want to be sure I'll be hanging out with them in heaven when the time comes. (The fact that they plan to be in heaven, by the way, is not heaven's best selling point.) To be honest, the same family members are constantly sending me sickly sweet religious chain mail. Normally, this kind of thing pisses me off for a minute and then I trash it, but this one was different. It pissed me off so much, I saved it so I can go back and stew over it from time to time.
Haven't people been squawking about the Second Coming since the First Coming? That's 2000 years of people sitting around thinking Jesus is going to come back any minute. If I had a friend who said he was coming by and he failed to show up after 2000 years, I'd stop expecting him. I'd let somebody else stay in the guestroom, you know? But I guess that makes me unfaithful and blasphemous instead of merely pragmatic.
Next thing, why does anybody think it's his or her place to tell me, or anyone else, to get right with Jesus? For all anybody knows, Jesus and I are kicking back on my front porch right now. These people just think I'm not right with Jesus because I don't go to church. Which is a load of crap; I've been to church and I'll tell you this: Jesus ain't there. Unless you think Jesus is a gossiping, hypocritical, backstabbing so-and-so, he isn't a member of the vast majority of churches I've ever been to. The only reason I can think of for going to church is to be a good role model for some of the sorry S.O.B.'s who go there because you're certainly not going to learn any good behaviors from your average churchgoer.
All that is aside from the fact that "being right with Jesus" is a strictly internal kind of thing. True spirituality isn't a Sunday coat that you wear over your best Sunday clothes to show off to your more materialistic Christian friends. Spirituality is about your individual soul and relationship with whatever higher power you believe in. That's why I find the admonition to "get right with Jesus" so condescending.
It's the same thing when anybody says they're going to pray for you. They think you can't handle it for yourself. I don't like to be prayed for; it's rather like talking about somebody behind her back. ("You know, God, what I heard about Lucy? Well, it turns out she doesn't have a moronic fish decal on the back of her car. See if you can do something about her secular ways, OK?") No thanks.
What it all comes down to is that these evangelical Christians think they know who's been naughty and who's been nice by checking their churches' attendance rosters. They're operating from a twisted belief system that seems to indicate that it's OK if you're a hit man during the week as long as you go to church on Sunday. They don't really care about the good a person actually does in his or her daily life. To top it off, they have the nerve to be condescending about their ass-backwards system of morality that values style over substance and appearance over reality.
Couple all of these personal religious issues with the big picture and it gets even worse. Religion is the whole reason we're involved in this fracas in the Middle East, anyway. The religious fanatics who destroyed the World Trade Center and ran into the Pentagon were thinking about the world in exactly the same way as my crazy family, and in fact the same way as most fundamentalist Christians in the United States.
Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers and the other Islamic extremists think that people who are infidels and live as materialistically as we do deserve to be killed. That's their worldview and they don't care to look beyond it. How is that any different from American Christians who think that if you don't go to church you're going to hell? To be honest, from my seat in the bleachers, I can't tell one team from the other.
Both teams certainly have one thing in common: hypocrisy. They talk about divine justice, but practice human justice (which you then rationalize by saying, "Kill them all and let God (Allah) sort them out").
All I know is that if my crazy family and Osama bin Laden are going to wind up in heaven, I'll take hell. And least the company will be better. *