Today the entire eastern seaboard of the United States was all abuzz with the news of an earthquake that hit Virginia and shook the walls of homes and buildings as far north as Montreal, Canada. At the time of the rumbling I was in my car on the south shore of Long Island heading towards Jones Beach and can honestly say I didn’t feel a thing.
My wife and I plopped down into our beach chairs, stretched out under the mid-August sun when the vibrations of my cell phone deterred me from drifting into the tranquility of twilight sleep. It was my good friend and band-mate, Bob, who called to ask me if I felt the walls of my house shake. At first I thought he was referring to the band practice we had in my basement the night before. “No?” he questioned in disbelief, “Didn’t you just feel the earthquake?” I had no idea what he was talking about but then he fully explained the day’s events. “Holy smokes!” I shrieked, “You’ve got to be kidding!” and for a brief moment, all the warnings about God’s wrath that hailed from the pulpit during the years I occupied a pew in a Pentecostal church haunted me. “Oh crap,” I wondered, “What if they’re right?” There’s no denying that in recent years the weather has been very strange and the occurrences of natural disasters have been more frequent. If I were a Bible enthusiast I’d probably be out in the streets shouting, “Repent! The end is near!” But I’m not, and I try to use logic, science and common sense to explain why we repeatedly seem to be feeling the fury of Mother Earth.
As my wife and I were leaving the beach later that afternoon, we ran into an old acquaintance from the church I had escaped from nearly ten years ago. “Did you feel the earthquake?” she asked with an expression that was a combination of heightened concern and cautious exuberance.
“Get ready!” she smiled pointing towards the clouds, “Jesus is returning soon!”
I don’t quite know what it is with me, but whenever I hear certain folks sounding joyfully anxious over tragic events and relating them to a vengeful God, I tend to lose my tolerance. What exactly are they hoping for? It seems clear to me that according to them, before Jesus gets here, God’s children are going to have to face some cataclysmic events, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, economic collapse and all the wonderful incidents making today’s headlines. Those, however, who have made a conscious decision to make Jesus their personal savior, will be mysteriously removed from the planet in a twinkling of an eye and join him in the clouds as they embark on their way to eternal bliss with the angels and saints. Do these people really and truly believe this or have they simply convinced themselves that this extraordinary event will take place only to put their own fears to rest?
Not for anything, but it sounds to me as if their fear of death has them hoping for an improbable escape. It also sounds to me like they have an undeserved tremendous regard for themselves; like they are so special that God would hand select them to magically ascend into the heavens leaving behind millions of people who probably lived more Christ-centered lives than they themselves have lived. Everybody, sooner or later, has to face a physical death. If there is any truth to the presumption that humans have spirits or souls, then there should be no reason to fear death or no reason to want to physically escape death because spirit is eternal; it does not die. Truthfully, I think Fundamental Christians have done a great job of ruining Jesus’ reputation. I see Jesus as a gentle, caring, non-judgmental, compassionate soul who saw the hypocrisy in the arrogant, self-righteous religious hierarchy who thought they were holier than thou. I see Jesus as a deep teacher of Truth; someone who saw way beyond dogma and silly doctrines. I see Jesus as an enlightened avatar who knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that only love and humility could save humanity from themselves and not from the wrath of a jealous tyrannical creator. I see Jesus as someone who definitely would not approve of a belief system with his name attached to it. I do not see Jesus as the self-appointed leader of a club of do-gooders.
When a child dies due to a natural disaster do we blame God? When a tree just so happens to fall on a car and kill the driver is it God who made it happen? When earthquakes hit Japan and Haiti was it God who caused them? I seriously doubt it. Earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes have been occurring since the beginning of time, the only differences are, we didn’t have as many people on the planet and we didn’t have 24-hour CNN coverage. There also weren’t nuclear reactors built on fault lines, so when radiation spills into our oceans do we attribute it to God’s wrath. Humans continually screw themselves. If and when civilization is obliterated, it wasn’t God saying “I told you so,” it was our own reckless and greedy behavior. The earth is a living thing. How much longer does anyone think we can poison her waterways, put toxins in her soil and cut down her forests? Eventually, just like a woman scorned, she will take revenge.
We were given safe, natural and efficient ways to produce energy. We have the options of wind, solar and water power yet we continue to drill the earth for her lifeblood, oil, and kill each other in bloody battle in the process. We continue to annihilate hundreds and thousands of men, women, children, not to mention animals and plant life, over the illusion of money and wealth and unfortunately the church that bears the name of its central figure is caught up in the same illusion. Churches are forever campaigning to raise money to build more and more churches to perpetuate more and more lies about how one faith is “truer” than the next. The God we choose to serve is usually based upon what suits our needs. It’s too bad we haven’t figured out that we are all one and have the same needs.