Sunday, August 19, 2007

Brownies, Burning, and Bumbles

Currently I find myself in Starbucks enjoying a Caramel Macchiato, and get this, a "low-fat vegan brownie." Doesn't that sound appetizing? It just sounds wrong, like "jumbo shrimp" or a "straight Clay Aiken." But alas, I bit into it and it's pretty good. One of the barista's - I never used to like that word - informed me that they use apple sauce to replace some of the bad stuff in the brownie. So it's like I'm eating baby food, however, so far I have no pablum with the taste.

Moving on, just a bit earlier tonight I was at the bus stop, one that is near this Pentecostal church. I thought about going to the night service, but it probably would have just upset me, and it was too late. I looked over and there was a woman sitting with her bible waiting for the bus. I had my iPod with me. Then up walks this other lady in her 50's or 60's wearing red, trying to hand me a small piece of paper. I removed my earphones and it didn't take long to realize that she was trying to share her beliefs with me. Now, normally I would politely smile and take the paper and say thank you. But instead I found myself saying "No thanks, I've tried that before." She started saying things about Jesus, and I started on about Hell. "What is Hell?" she asks at one point. "There is no Hell," I reply. I try to give her some indication that I know what she's trying to accomplish. "I was a Christian for 20 years," I say. She says at least once that I've been deceived. "God wouldn't send anyone to Hell," I say. "Oh, yes he does!" I replied with something like, "The Muslim, Jew, Buddhist (aren't going to Hell)."

I didn't yell, but instead of smiling and nodding to what she was saying, I eloquently came out with "that's a bunch of crap." The short exchange ends with this lady giving me the good news that "Tonight if you die you'll be in the lake of fire." She tried handing me more pamphlets which I didn't take. She told me she'd be praying for me, and I think she started praying for me there, and bizarrely she said I'd see results in three days or something. (Admittedly, a lot of Christians with the same beliefs aren't this odd.) We got on the bus, where she proceeds to hand these papers out to people.

I find it interesting that at the time she approached me I was listening to either the old Christian group 2nd Chapter of Acts' 1980 album The Roar of Love, based on The Lion, Witch, and The Wardrobe, or a Neil Young song called When God Made Me.

The other lady at the stop made some remark to me as we got on the bus which made it clear that she was embarrassed by the other lady. She, like many Christians, would never take this approach; it feels wrong to them. But inside they truly believe this, that if you don't believe that you are bad and ask forgiveness from Jesus that you are lost, eventually forever.

Spirituality, or an awareness of spirituality has been prevalent all throughout my life. It is something I have never been able to shut out, nor would I want to. But I don't think that I can ever again subscribe to the belief that God sends people to Hell. In some ways it is a scare tactic, and you don't get people to love you by scaring the crap out of them. If I ever again use the word Christian to describe myself, it will be because I have learned or I can identify with some truth from the teachings of Jesus, rather than because it is the only way I can know God. Some may say that a Christianity without Hell is like a low-fat vegan brownie, or the abominable snow-monster without teeth. But the brownie was actually edible, the snow monster could still bounce and place a star on top of the Christmas tree, and so too can Christianity exist without such threats.

I think that the divine is present with me and in me during each and every moment. The power of God is coursing through my veins, and "he" is in the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, and yes, the woman at the bus stop handing out pamphlets, however much I disagree with her. We can learn from each other rather than condemn each other. We don't have to believe and understand life the same way, nor do I think we were meant to. We can love each other with our differences.