Entire wars have been fought over it, British lords beheaded, Spanish mystics incarcerated, principalities set on fire, and now it travels the internet in search of friendships to destroy.
It is religion.
And then there’s something about e-mail that sometimes erases our better judgment from our brains, we automatically copy and paste and hit send… and sometimes, just sometimes, what we have just catapulted into cyberspace could be…
even more destructive than a virus…
So forwarding an e-mail that deals with religion could forever change our relationships with those on the other end of our electronic tethers.
And in real time…
So… just in case this happens to you… I am going to open up my e-mail and show you an exchange between a friend and I.
This is not a business acquaintance, and not a casual friend—Don and I have known each other since our sophomore year as undergraduate students. We share the same birthday; we went through film school together; and we have the same schizophrenic personality which is at once very ordered and also out there probing the big questions.
So, when an e-mail arrived that Don had just casually forwarded from one of our friends in Germany I clicked on the link, hoping that, as he said, “I would get a laugh out of this.”
The web site in question featured an
image of Christ on the Cross that could be dressed and undressed in a variety of ways… this is where you come in….
Subject: From our friend in Germany
I have to admit that I did not laugh… perhaps it is because–studying theology–i have spent many hours contemplating just what Jesus’ death on the cross means to us human beings who do not know how to love that much and that selflessly.
I will not preach, and I was not offended … more than anything I think I was saddened… that it has come to this… our fear of death perhaps? our fear of the sacred perhaps? our fear that life is ultimately just patently absurd, perhaps?
our fear that it could all be true and God could actually love us, perhaps? Our need to deaden our own pain by trivializing the pain suffered for us?
I will have to think about it… so I thank you for the push to think this through….
You are gracious and a wonderful friend. I can see how
that site would be offensive and I feel touched by your sincerity and feelings regarding it. I didn’t think it would affect you that way, and I wouldn’t have chosen to do that to you. My apologies.
Jesus is not ‘real‘ to me. His story is too abstract in all of its implications. I need tangible experience to believe it. And to say he was the ‘son’ of God… well, the embodiment of the God idea is a better way to put it for me. But to be that selfless is not human, and certainly not in tune with popular learned/taught and acceptable psychological behavior. I need real people in my present life to demonstrate God-like compassion to truly understand it. People I know, see, feel, touch, hear, love.
You are one of those people (and I feel that, at least, when I get to see you). So lets see you ! I don’t mind coming your way. What is your weekend like?
Subject: Re: Urgh!
You would be amazed how “right on” your theology is! What you articulated is precisely the way we do get to know God, in one another… not in abstractions. The thing about Jesus for me is that being human, he embodied God’s wisdom in such a way that he practiced the level of humanity God had made us to live. The overly “pious” traditions have removed that power from his image… that amazing ability for us to look at him and say…. ah…. so that’s what being human is about!
I am sure the website did not intend to cause profound theological reflection, but if it did, like in our case, then God’s hand has managed to create a silver-lining out of it…that’s beautiful.
Yes, let’s see each other this weekend!
Yes, God can work even with e-mail. If we can just stay calm, instead of letting it destroy us, we can treat the “bomb” that just came up on our screen as an opportunity to crack some of the walls that come between us and our friends. So religion doesn’t have to be such a taboo subject after all, it just has to be a conversation.