Sunday 30 June 2013

the shelf life of faith

The shelf life of Christianity…

The founders of Christianity took many years to settle on which “holy books” were going to be included in the Christian Bible. So they had plenty of time to decide what the message of Christianity would be. During the course of this examination they considered and rejected a number of texts for the Bible. But still after all that effort, they made a tragic mistake which, among the monotheistic faiths, is unique.

The predicted the end of the world, and they said it would happen soon.

Jesus told his followers a lot about the kingdom which God would create, when the End Times came. He gave detailed explanations on who would be welcomed into the kingdom, and who would not. And, most significantly, he specified that it was coming any day, in a man’s lifetime,  and that everyone needed to prepare for it, even if that meant ignoring your family and everything else. John in the Book of Revelation echoed that sentiment, warning right off the bat that the End Times were coming soon. The other major religions ruminate about the end of the world, but only Christianity made it that specific – it’s coming soon, so get ready!

Coming soon.

On the basis of that prediction, many disciples abandoned their families to go preach the word – if the world was ending any day, what did their wives and children matter?

Then the disciples got old, wondering why the kingdom hadn’t come as promised, and then they died. How disappointed they must have been – like Red Sox fans of the last century, they waited for decades, confident, positive that paradise had to be coming to them….and then nothing.

And then new Christians came along. Year after year, generation after generation, the new Christians predicted that Jesus was coming back any old day now. Twenty eight separate times the faithful got excited over a prediction that “this is it!” They offered many explanations for the dates they chose as the end of the world; less often they offered explanations as to why their predictions failed.

So like Vladimir and Estragon, the Christians wait for Godot to come, and he never comes. But do they question whether he’s ever coming at all? Do they wonder what he could be waiting for?

According to the Bible, a huge proportion of mankind will be killed in the End Times. Is that the problem? Back in the time of ancient Israel God killed in large numbers at the drop of a hat – Noah’s flood, Sodom, the Egyptians, the sinning Israelites in the Sinai desert – and then ordered the Israelites to do even more mass killing in his name. Has God lost his Mass Murder Mojo?

How many centuries does Linus sit in the pumpkin patch, before he realizes that the Great Pumpkin isn’t coming? It’s been two thousand years, so….Another thousand years? Another ten thousand years? At what point do we openly declare faith to be insanity? When can we publicly laugh at the Bible and the people who read it?

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