I love the new Pope. Love him. He is--very simply--a good person. I would totally sign on to being Catholic, if it wasn’t for that whole believing-in-God stumbling block.
I will never understand why some people equate being a good person to being a religious person. I know many people who don't just talk the "holy" talk, they walk the walk. I know many, many deeply spiritual people who are wonderful, kind, loving people.
My amazing friend Mary Pat has worked for many years as a Legal Aid attorney, forgoing a large paycheck to help families that need to negotiate the tangled court system in order to find safety and peace.
Sweet Jane Accostin’ fosters dogs that are waiting to find a new home. She gives them a temporary home that is full of love and care. Then, she loves them enough to send them to a permanent family.
Marni has worked for social support organizations most of her professional life. Actually, her working to help people started before she could even drive. Her amazing brother David has also served his community in both the public sector and in state government. He is one of a handful of State Congressmen that cared about people in our community, not about forcing people to live by an artificial moral code.
The Derby girls skate every bout to raise money for local charities. These amazing women will rally to help a fellow Derby girl with medical bills. They will always find a bed for a traveler, and they will always recognize when someone needs help.
My cousin Jan and her partner Anne spend huge amounts of time saving the beautiful island they live on. My dear friend Joe put off medical school to work as a PA in remote areas that needed basic healthcare. Jeremy and Nathan have channeled their passion for creating into teaching kids that they too can be artists.
These are so-called Christian values, aren’t they?
Sometimes, I covet people’s faith. (I know, I know... Thou shall not covet.) I envy their belief that something better awaits us. I wish I could believe that. I so want to know that all this will be worth it when I reach that something better. But… I’ve known too many “Christians" to believe that. I'm not talking about people that deeply and sincerely believe in Christian tenents. I'm referring to the people that throw quote marks around their religion.
Mr. Earthquake so wanted me to be Christian. He used to call me “pre-Christian.” I was his little theological project. But I have never met anyone-- smart as he was--that was so blindly and hypocritically dogmatic while acting so markedly un-Christian. He cheats, he lies, he betrays. Just like Jesus. Oh, wait… No… I don’t think Jesus likes that stuff. I think Jesus would call him a dick. (Broadway reference! Go see Book of Mormon musical! Right now! Or at least download the soundtrack. I'll wait.)
Mr. E would take me to his church, where I would sit uncomfortably and listen to the sermon telling me how to be a good person. E would sit next to me, singing hymns that I didn't know. Taking lessons that escaped me. Then he would say goodbye to me and head out to seek female adoration. Because that was the only way he could feel good about himself. So much for that sermon making us better people.
Mr. Earthquake was talking the “holy” talk, while I was the one actually walking the walk. I’m way more Christian than he ever will be. And I am an agnostic Jew that is only in it for the matzo balls.
I’m no bible scholar. Mr. E used to send Bible references my way when I was struggling with something. But they were mostly meaningless to me. I couldn't find how they fit my life. For this post, I had to Google “Christian values” to see what they actually were. The common threads through most sources were the following ten themes.
1. Worship only God
OK, so right out of the gate, I stumble on this one. But to be fair, I’m not worshipping OTHER gods. My kid told me he might believe in Zeus. I support that.
2. Respect all people
I think I give all people the benefit of the doubt. My default is to respect them, until they show me why I shouldn’t. I think the basic idea of this one is simple: be nice. Unfortunately, Mr. E was taking that whole “love thy neighbor” thing a little too literally.
3. Be humble
I am humble to a fault. I don’t “sell myself” very well. I never counter a job offer. I always apologize for taking up someone’s time. I don’t have swagger. But, I can actually live up to my own hype. I don’t hide behind false swagger.
4. Be honest
I’ll just refer you to previous blog posts on this one.
5. Live a moral life
I don’t always do the right thing. I make plenty of mistakes. But when I recognize a mistake, I work to correct it. That is my definition of being moral.
6. Be generous with time and money
People know that all they need to do if they need help is to ask me. I don’t have a lot of time or money to be generous with. But I will help out at a fundraiser, buy something I don’t need from a silent auction, or subscribe to magazines to help my nephew's school.
Here is a story in the news today. Yesterday, in her infinite wisdom, the principal of Uintah Elementary watched as cafeteria workers served the children, checked the amount of funding in the children’s lunch accounts, then took away the food from the 40 children that did not have money in their accounts. They then threw away that food and handed children an orange so that they “didn’t go hungry.” How very Christian.
7. Practice what you preach; don't be a hypocrite
This is where most “Christians” stumble. It is certainly where Mr. Earthquake swerved off the rails.
8. Don't be self-righteous
Mr. Earthquake’s family didn’t like me because I was—GASP—not a “Christian.” His mother would pat him on his head and tell him he was a great catch. He is actually as great to catch as herpes. I was marginalized, disrespected, and excluded by his family. But the greater transgression was from him. He allowed that to happen to me. And then tried to explain to me about love and tolerance.
9. Don't hold a grudge
I don’t hold a grudge, but I also don’t forget. A grudge is not the same as processing and retaining the lesson that is found at the core of a transgression.
10. Forgive others
I forgive too often and too easily. And I'm not sure that is worth changing about me to save me from some pain. I can take the pain. I am a warrior.
I guess my point here is: Mr. Earthquake needed me to claim to be Christian. For some reason, I was not going to be good enough—for him, for his family, for his children—unless I claimed that Jesus loves me and got dunked in a swimming pool. But I think that I am doing a better job of being Christian than he ever will.