A little over a week ago, I drove back to Chicago alone to photograph a home so that Tina could stay in North Carolina to oversee the final renovations of our house we bought … here in the Yeshua Fog.
While I was gone, the painter who worked on the house stopped in to fix a window that broke while a contractor was scraping excess paint from around the glass.
The painter, let’s call him Oliver, is a really sweet guy. He’s one of the first of the contractors I met, and he’s probably the first one I learned their name. I’m pretty sure all the contractors who worked on our house were Spanish speaking.
Oliver and his assistants, though, were always listening to either religious music or sermons while they worked. It took me a minute to figure out. They were listening in Spanish. But after a while, I could make out that the people speaking or singing were definitely pastors or religious. The cadence of preaching is the same in any language. There’s only so many types of people who repeat the word Hallelujah. And hymns are unmistakeable in any language.
Oliver came over to fix the glass while I was away, and Louise text me soon after to say, “Remind me to tell you what Oliver told me.”
The next time we were on the phone, Tina said, “So Oliver was here, fixing the glass, and he said, ‘”Do you go to church?”
It was a Sunday, so Tina thought he was referring to that day, not in general. “No, not today.”
Oliver has a way of pausing to speak. He looks at you with a grin and soft eyes.
“You know he’s coming?'”
Tina did a double take. She thought he was talking about another contractor. “Who’s coming?” She asked.
“Jesus,” he replied.
“Oh,” Tina was taken aback.
“We don’t know if it’s today, tomorrow or next week,” said Oliver. Oliver explained that the Bible predicted that — with all this crazy weather — it would issue forth the return of the messiah.
I remember falling for that story about Jesus’ return when I was a kid. It kept me up at night. I was a child. I had no concept of time and it caused me to panic in the minutes and hours before I fell asleep. The thought that he could come back and that I might forget to ask for forgiveness of a sin I had committed, that was horrifying! Sins could put me in hell, forever. And ever. And ever. And that thought was excruciating. It was nauseating. It created an atmosphere of endless anxiety. I hated it.
I was taught to “fear” God. And that fear, the fear of God was somehow a “good thing.” The bullshit some people teach kids is just awful.
But people keep doing it. They keep saying it. Jesus … He will come like a thief in the night. We don’t know the hour, but he is SURE to return. And the day is nigh because look at all the evidence. Look at all the fulfillment of scripture. What, there’s weird weather and earthquakes? Now the supernatural will become natural?
What kind of gullible Joe believes that stuff? Especially when — according to scripture — Jesus said he would return within the lifetimes of all those who heard him fucking say it?
The mental and verbal aerobics that Christians go through to say, “No, this will be the generation he referred to. He didn’t mean what he said. He meant this.”
Jesus. In all his glorious wisdom, came down through the birth canal of a virgin girl who was impregnated by his father (and himself and the holy spirit — the first documented supernatural fourway). Jesus grew up in a tiny area of the middle east as a Jewish man, a carpenter, who performed so-called miracles (this water tastes spectacular!), pissed off the government enough to torture and hang him on a cross, came back to life after 48 hours, but claimed it was three days, is touted to be all knowing, past, present and future, and he couldn’t figure out when his return would be so it keeps everyone guessing for all time?
That is some brilliant marketing.
If Jesus lived, he’s not coming back. If he does come back, do you really think anyone would recognize him? There isn’t one believer in this world who would know Jesus if he walked in the room, feet in leather sandals, shorts and wearing an “I am THE Trinity” T-shirt, brandishing his scared hands and feet, sporting a halo and sipping a glass of pinot grigio.
Based on what he looked like, a short, brown, dirty Middle Eastern Jew, he’d be arrested and locked up by dude’s wearing red hats with white letters.
“BUT SHACKLES COULD NOT BIND HIM!”
The story of Jesus and his miracles, that’s what gets people’s attention? Making the impossible possible. The current world of science is jam-packed with more notable achievements than Jesus ever accomplished in his short stint as a memorable man, and we all are to think that he’s the messiah?
He conquered death?
We’re conquering death left and right. Every time you exit a goddamn airplane unscathed, you conquered death. Every time you walk away from a car accident, you conquered death. Every time you drink water, and don’t lose your bowels to an acute gastric parasite, consider yourself the he-men and she-women of all time!
The messiah is now. The messiah discovered how to treat cancer, diabetes and heart conditions. The messiah sat in a lab and discovered how to outfit legless people with faster feet than the Olympics can allow. The messiah figured out vaccines. The messiah learned how to transplant organs into people. The messiah invented ways to transfer information faster, more reliably and productively.
We crucify the messiah every time we claim a little man named Jesus is more important than progress, scientific achievement, of plain logic.
“But, but, but … Jesus guided the hands of the scientists, the lab rats, the artists, the geniuses …”
Jesus. In all his fucking brilliance, made sure to wait 1900 years before he gave us vaccines. Before he gave us the understanding of treatment for AIDS, before he gave us clean drinking water and food preservation … that guy? That guy is the all powerful, all knowing, all present guy you want me to invite into my heart?
Fuck the fuck off.
But he’s coming back, you know?
Is he? Is he? Is that your argument for belief? What a silly, silly argument.
Just because you benefit from science, progress and evolution, doesn’t mean you get to say, “Yeah, but Jesus is the most powerful being of all time.”
I would love for each Christian to go and live like Christ did, in a backwards society where the best stories were confusing parables, where legends about walking on water and healing the blind were the best anyone could come up with.
Meanwhile, I live in this world, with movies that blow Jesus’ story out of the water, where books feed my brain, where more people are literate, and able to think for themselves. Where technology, science and advancements can put me in Paris in eight hours sipping a glass of wine, eating a pain au chocolat and enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower. That’s something I could invite in my heart over and over and over. And I do.