Self Doubt pt. 1
No matter how good you are at something, someone will always be better.
My father taught me that.
The same goes for intelligence. As smart as you might be, there’s always someone smarter, or wiser, or someone more apt to understanding a certain concept.
Remembering that we don’t know everything tells us to remain humble throughout life. Despite all that one may learn along the way, we still know very little and shouldn’t grow too haughty.
For all I can say I’ve learned in the world, I always wonder if I’m missing God, you know? I’m terrified I’m missing what’s important.
I often ask myself if I would recognize Jesus if he was here today. I’m not talking about the second-coming mumbo-jumbo, I’m talking about if he were to come today like he did before.
Jesus was born into a very strong and very structured religious culture. There were scriptures, given to man by God himself; from which the customs of life were derived. Men by the thousands diligently studied the sacred texts and guided the people through their day-to-day interactions with the world and God.
Ecclesiastes, an ancient Jewish book of wisdom, says “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Everything has been done before. Now we’d say something like “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Doubt and uncertainty are constants in life.
Jesus’ culture was rife with political and ideological splits, exactly like today. Factions and political parties vied for the support of the people, and interpretations of sacred texts were just as contested as are now. Instead of “Are you pro-choice or pro-life?” you had “Which commandment was the greatest?”; instead of “Do you support the war in Iraq?” you had “Is it right to pay taxes to Rome?”; instead of “Should women be pastors?” you had “Where is it right to worship, the temple or the mountain?” With each rabbi, there was another take on the issues of the day, just like with each religious denomination.
So, if the Messiah were to come today as the first time, would I recognize him? Would I have ears to hear, or eyes to see?
Firstly, just where would he be, were he here now? Church? Jesus didn’t spend too much time in the synagogues, and when he did, it usually wasn’t pleasant, confronting and arguing with religious leaders. He was constantly living among the broken and outcast people of his culture.
Moreover, he was considered someone who “ate with sinners.” That phrase doesn’t have the sting it used to have. Nowadays we could say he was someone who hung out with drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes. And not just hung out, but was close enough to share a meal with them – close enough to hang at their houses and be in their lives.
He was real, and chilled with the broken people – the people not good enough, the people not pretty/smart/rich enough. He was there when religion had turned their back on these so-called “sinners.”
To bring it to today, you might have seen Jesus at a gay-rights march, showing his support for the dignity of human beings – standing against the “God hates fags” signs and vicious hate-mongering that breathes threats of hell and judgment from bullhorns. He would have been at the AIDS shelters, embracing the weak and the sick. Basically, he would have been everywhere the religious weren’t.
Another thing is to remember Jesus wasn’t “Jesus” back in the day. He didn’t walk around with a halo over his head; he was just a guy, saying some unbelievably harsh and revolutionary things – calling into question every preconceived religious notion of the day. It wouldn’t have been so easy to say, “Sure I would have believed him, he was Jesus.”
Picture him today as a guy who lived with the homeless. He’d have ripped jeans, a faded, stained sweatshirt. He’d be a bit unkempt, in need of a shower and a shave. You’d see him at prominent churches and in the homes of the rich every once in a while; invited because of his popularity with the people, not necessarily because of his character or reputation.
People would whisper about him, saying his mother was a whore or a crack addict and that he was born in a dumpster in some back alley behind the hospital. You’d see him with a drink in hand – spurring rumors that he was an alcoholic. His entourage would be a little unruly, young and a bit brazen. They’d track some mud into the house and put their feet up – that sort of thing. The hosts would be indignant, and the party-goers would be embarrassed. It would all be a bit awkward.
And then there would be the things he taught. Jesus took most of what the religious thought and said, “No.”
Living for nothing else but to fulfill the law? Live for God. Exclude Jews who don’t agree with the XYZ faction and all gentiles? Include everyone. Fight against the invader: Rome? Tolerate their rule and persevere. Hold out for a physical kingdom? Embrace the spiritual one. Remission of sins through strict rituals? No rituals needed anymore.
It was notion-shattering, unbelievably subversive and dangerously revolutionary stuff came from this guy’s mouth.
How many times did scores of followers leave him because of the crazy stuff he said? Good Jewish boys and girls, confident in their knowledge of God, couldn’t bring themselves to follow this guy. He was just too out there. Moreover, how many times did the people he talk to try to kill him because of what he said?
Would it be the same today? If he said, “the new testament is just a collection of letters, there are gaps and errors, don’t worry about it,” would I be able to go along with it? If he said, “Sell your church buildings and go into the world, church is in the heart, not in bricks,” could I agree? What about, “Stop campaigning, America will eventually burn.” Think of the most whacked out and out-there sentiments that could be said, and you’ll start to get how crazy his teachings were to the religious.
What if the revolution kept going further? Would I be like those very few remaining disciples that when Jesus asked, “Aren’t you all going to leave too?” they said, “Master We have nothing and nowhere else to go”?
Or would I quote the Bible and condemn him, just like the religious did back then? After all, they had mountains of verses as to why he couldn’t be the Messiah.
They were too confident in their understanding of God. They couldn’t live free. They were slaves to their religion, unable to see the movement of God.
That movement continues, but am I too tied down to see it? Is it possible to move past religion and into the real?
Don’t fret peeps. There’s always hope and, in this case, a part 2.
You ask tough questions. Looking forward to part 2.
Be good to yourself,
Beautiful. I am eagerly awaiting the second part and I am going to link to this from my blog.
Deep but dead on. Waiting for part 2.