The religion that tickles


A friend from church hosts a women's Bible study in her home every week, and makes an effort to invite women from outside her immediate circle of friends. One of these women, after attending a few meetings, came to her, troubled. "Are you saying," she asked, "that Jesus is the only way to get into Heaven?" The poor woman felt that in this stricture the Lord was being a bit exclusionary. What about well-meaning Buddhists and kind-hearted Muslims?

This woman is a member of a large and well-known Christian denomination, which in recent years has taken to marketing itself as the church with open doors and minds. Thinking it still adhered to the Nicene Creed, however, my friend urged the woman to ask her pastor if she wanted confirmation of this basic tenet.

The woman met with her pastor, and came away with the impression that yes, Heaven's doors are wide and accommodating. This Jesus thing is all well and good, but what really matters is the love in your heart/how much you give back/[insert inoffensive pop psychological aphorism here].

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So the woman stopped attending the Bible study. Apparently her open mind can handle anything but closed mindedness. There's no telling what her pastor actually said to her. At the very least, we can surmise that his teaching ability is less than adequate. I'm sure it has a pleasant tickle, though.

I find, when I think about some muddle-headedness like this long enough, that I am frequently just as guilty of it. So I began to sum up all the ways I put conditions on God, just as this woman did. Don't ask me to do that, Lord. Please don't expect me to believe this. Let's be reasonable.

But the shaper of the earth, the whisperer amidst the storm, the redeemer of fools and bull-headed sinners is anything but reasonable, it seems, at least by my standards. If it were all just a hoax, it would seem that the fashioners of this religion would have done a bit to smooth down its rough edges. But it seems the early church fathers did precisely the opposite, with all this talk of bodily resurrection and a divine trinity and other such unreasonable notions.

I suppose we've left it to their weak-willed and marketing-minded inheritors to make it all more palatable, lest we run anyone off, as if their belief were up to us in the first place.


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