Sunday, March 27, 2005

Yo creo…

The tackiest full-page advertisement in today’s newspaper is from Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft and seasonal decoration shops: “The promise in the manger, fulfilled in an empty tomb. He is risen!” In a much smaller font is a Biblical passage from 1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (NIV).

Paul, the eternal thorn in my side when it comes to mismanaging the message of Jesus, does seem to be getting at something important later in this chapter:
For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:16 – 19 NIV)
Perhaps if we allow Paul a few more decades, centuries, or millennia, he’ll finally negate himself with his own logic and we’ll be back with the pure and unsullied words of Jesus.

The longer I walk my own spiritual path—outside the walls of any church—the more I come to see that belief is meaningless if not entirely useless. Does it matter what I believe? Is not what I do much more important in connecting with the divine?

In my introduction to humanities course, I reduce the Protestant Reformation to Luther’s privileging of faith above liturgy and ritual. Life becomes a lot easier for the simple-minded if they can just claim to hold some belief instead of actually doing the work necessary to unify their lives to God. From my own practice, I know that I disconnect when I don’t meditate, don’t breathe, don’t work, don’t help. It is only via action that I become a useful part of the universe.

My belief that the fish in the aquarium at Cosmic Café try to psychically contact me every time I eat there is no more relevant than my belief that Jesus most definitely did not walk on water. And no one’s beliefs guarantee entrance into a fictional Heaven.

But everyone’s actions most certainly guarantee union with the sublimely transcendent, as long as those actions are not in opposition with the sublimely transcendent.

My practice works, and for that, I don’t need faith. For those who attempt to intensify their beliefs without fasting, meditating, or helping the poor and disenfranchised, I can finally agree with Paul: you are “to be pitied more than all men.”

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