I have to be careful now. I'm in one of my moods. I've taken up the utterly grueling sport of Brazilian jiu jitsu, and I continue to ache like I've been stomped by elephants. But every man should grapple. Word. And I came home and to relax I've been -- how do they say it? -- cruising the cyberway? -- luging the W? -- gleaming the motherboard? -- googling the ladder? I don't know ... does anyone else remember card catalogues? Ooo, look out! Skylab might hit you! I've been exploiting the resources afforded to me by ready access to the Internet. Upshot? The wasteland has become global. This isn't news, even to myself, entowered as I am like Rapunzel. But the mood, belying my airy tone, is dark.
I've been reading on this blogoglob people's, um, diaries. Particularly their ponderings -- how close that word is to ponderous -- upon religion. (No, M, it's not about you. Sheesh -- what an ego. Who does he think he is? Me?) It's understandable, given this eternity thing God always seems to be yammering about. I mean, gee, it's like a retirement plan -- gotta be responsible. And considering that there are boys who've memorized every Hardy Boy book, or dudes who can name every model from every issue of Playboy -- I myself can tell you the year of Noah's Flood ... wrote a book about it, in fact ... in fact, two books -- well, to immerse ourselves in trivia is so inevitable it may even be necessary.
There's some wise and funny stuff out there. (Yeah, right, M -- this MUST be about you. Wisdom will die with you.) But I've observed, in my varied sojourns, a universal phenomenon. The guys who never read, or who simply cannot read, have the loudest voices. Literally. Uninflected, dogmatic, and loud. With an edge of authority -- I shall brook no argument, here. Okay -- I won't argue. And far be it from me to say that details -- or actual, real, facts -- aren't important.
But so many Christians -- so earnest, so devout, so ... I wouldn't be unkind here, so I can't say empty.... It's like repeating something you've been told is true, and you believe it, because it's true, so you repeat it. And I have to be kind here, especially since I'm in one of my moods, so let me just say, surquedrously, that not everyone's intellect scintillates. (I feel safe in saying that, since no one, or hardly anyone, will read it. I wouldn't have anyone know it, but I'm a bloated monster of, among other things, arrogance.) It's not that their words are untrue. Their words are true. But there's something missing.
One of my masterful poems deals perfectly and brilliantly with the uselessness of words. Or maybe it's me -- I wasn't breast fed, you know.
So I'll repeat something I heard, that's true and I believe it, so I'll repeat it. Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. Is that true? No. It is a religion. That's the part that is so easy to get, so easy to talk about in a loud monotone. But that relationship part -- that's where I hear the echo of emptiness.
Years ago I read an ancient Egyptian proverb, something like, "Be kind to your wife, and love your children, obey the laws of the land, and perhaps the gods will have mercy on you." How very very true. That's religion. That is, really, true religion. No, really. What, you want a proof text? Okay, tough guy, I'll give you your proof text, and you'll like it, see? How about James 1:27? Pure religion "is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Throw in visits to the sick and imprisoned, and you've got it.
So. Is there any real difference between James and that old Egyptian? No, not really. Be kind, don't be depraved. Isn't that what, um, EVERY religion teaches? Islam, Judaism, Buddhism ... make your own list. Frankly, the one true religion is all of them. And there is no embarrassment to any Christian in this, since religion doesn't and cannot save anyone. I think it's the Calvinists who say that the unsaved should still act rightly, since it's less displeasing to God. Maybe it's the Catholics -- I keep getting those two mixed up.
What, then. Practice your religiousness. It makes for good citizens. And while you're at it, in all the details of doctrine, in all the familiar homilies, in the echoing emptiness of your prayers, you might feel a hand on your shoulder. Look to see who it is. If it's Jesus, grab hold and don't let go. That was Jacob's religion. A masculine, sweaty relationship. Desperation like the need to breathe.
A metaphor, of course. A metaphor for a relationship. Grappling is a metaphor, like religion is a metaphor -- they are ways that might be used to come into contact with God. Neither wrestling nor religion is the point. But if you get submitted in either, then the metaphor is over, and the relationship begins.
I'm still in one of my moods. But I've taken a lot out of this, because I'm being careful. Have I said anything here? Or am I repeating truisms, like some blogger on the internet, empty, obvious, and loud.