My wife and I just returned from our biennial trip to Amish country: buggies, black hats and horse manure. We needed some time away from the 21st century so we spent two days in the heart of the 15th century. Well, not exactly- we drove there. I am always struck by the ‘fear’ of electricity in the Amish. What exactly is it about electricity that some preacher long ago condemned? Interestingly, they use battery-operated lights and many use cell phones. Apparently it is the cord, the snake-like electrical cord that scares the Hell out of them.
At the B&B, the hosts, with the constant sound of clip-clop in the background, spoke of a funeral down the road earlier this year during which there was a quarter mile of buggies in-line waiting to turn into the home of the survivors. The host explained that there was no talking at all- only the family sitting on long benches shaking hands as the guests passed by. Silence. Sombre. Morbid.
It struck me that the stoicism of their entire life was repeated at death. Was the reward in the next life? Do the Amish hope, like many Christians, that the ‘next life’ would be better than the one they left? For the Amish, would that mean driving a car and turning on a light switch? Milk and honey flowing down roads paved in gold? Did they sacrifice enough during their lives to ‘earn’ such a blessing after death?
Did Jesus’s death on the cross thoroughly ‘wash away’ their sins? Was he the proper scapegoat for all of mankind? Was the Deity thoroughly and completely satisfied with his Son’s agony and death? Was his anger sated?
I’m reminded of that tragic short story, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson.
My current Kindle book is, Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus, by Rev. Robin R, Meyers. This is my Nth book on this subject and my wife often chides me, ‘Haven’t you read enough of that type of book?’ She prefers fiction; so do I.
Meyers, like Bishop Spong, detests the literalism of fundamentalists. I use the word detests although they do not, perhaps because I do. I’ve never cared much for charlatans and shysters which is why I am perhaps obsessive about religious quacks. And the best example of religious quackery is bang-off In the beginning- the myth of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Good and Evil. Of this, Meyers says:
Original sin is a theology of entrapment, not liberation; it is a “recent” theological exception, not the rule; it is an interruption, a detour, an artificial formula, not the timeless flow of creation spirituality that preceded it and will succeed it. Long before the church created a sickness for which it alone had the cure, mystics, poets, and wise ones all agreed on this: we are not apart from nature, and nature is not our enemy. We are part of an insurgency of life whose arc is long and whose future is mysterious. We did drop from the sky to do battle with our fallen nature; rather, we have crawled up out of the sea to work the garden, to protect our young, and to contemplate the gifts and obligations of higher consciousness. What does it mean to be human, to ask questions, to solve problems, to make art, and ultimately to discover the most sublime gift of all—love?
But no; the fundamentalist-literalists would have their followers ‘believe’ some mind-skewing tale of an apple and a snake, temptation, nakedness and shame and enduring sin. That baby born yesterday has a stained soul that needs ritual purification lest it remain an evil one. Metaphor be damned.
Meyer warns us of the literalistic presentation of the deadly false dichotomy: ‘a closed loop of original sin and exclusive salvation through Jesus.’ And who alone offers the way out? The church, of course. “We cannot help what we are, but to be saved from this inherited doom will require someone else’s sacrifice. Thus every human is in a state of total spiritual dependence. We are lost at birth, with only one hope of being found, so salvation is a closed system, a cosmic bargain initiated to save the helpless from being hopeless.”
A perfect scenario for adults who never grew up. Who see things in black and white, no gray. You are either lost or found, fallen or saved. With us or with the terrorists. We’re not, as Meyers puts it, binary thinkers with on-off switches in the brain. ‘Dualism is deadly, however—whether in biblical studies, human relationships, or foreign policy. The tendency of human beings to see life as a simple choice between opposing and irreconcilable states is, at best, falsely comforting. At worst, it is apocalyptic.
My friend UptheFLag wrote a comment yesterday about the red states of the South as well as the red Mountain states: that they are already ‘decided’ politically because they are all fundy states. On-off switches; fundamentalist biblical reactionaries. No gray, no purple.
Has the Unites States become a set of ‘opposing and irreconcilable states?’ If so, are we doomed if not apocalyptic?
And how much of this rests on biblical metaphors taken literally? Garden of good and evil. Blood atonement. Original sin. Helpless and hopeless creatures.