This morning while driving to my writing group, I passed a church. The marquee on the church read, “Jesus Still Saves.”
Now I know nothing about this church. Don’t know its denomination, its affiliations, nor its community service. What I do know is how angry I became after reading those three short words. Words that should be uplifting and inspiring in normal times. But, as we are all too aware, we do not live in what most of us would consider normal times.
You may be asking, why did those three simple words make me so angry? It is because my mind started thinking about all the very un-Jesus like behavior of so many of our churches in today’s world. We are all sinners in some fashion, and there are greater sins than others.
It is my humble opinion that all churches, nay religions, should be about helping the downtrodden, whether the downtrodden be believers of a God or not. Religions should be about helping the poor and the sickly, whether believers of God or not. Religions should be about protecting men, women, and children, whether believers of God or not.
We hear of preachers and church leaders often spouting anyone who is different, usually meaning not heterosexual, and sometimes meaning non-white, and at times, even non-rich are less than deserving. Yet Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” He also said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I’m not sure when those church leaders decided gays, lesbians, transsexuals, drug addicts, prostitutes, and the like were not neighbors, or not even members of their own families.
Church leaders should be consistently reminding people they should pay their taxes, something the ultra-wealthy need to hear on a daily basis. The Bible says, “Pay everybody what is due to him: for whom it is the tax, the tax; for whom the tariff, the tariff…” No one likes taxes, and no one is saying we should. However, taxes are what help pay for the roads we drive on, and who likes a pothole. Taxes pay for the fire and police departments, and who do we need if our house is on fire or our family in danger? Taxes pay for our schools and ALL children deserve a world-class education. Taxes pay for health care, housing, food, and clothing for those of us who have fallen on hard times or born in to hard times; we all personally know someone who has needed government assistance at some point in time (but may not know their friend was on public assistance at some point in their lives), and yes we all know the stories of people abusing the system (this will always be the case, but we shouldn’t advocate for throwing the baby out with the bath water, which is what many want to do when they hear of abuses).
And now, in the midst of a pandemic, one that has gone from killing our parents and grandparents, to killing our children, there are church leaders spouting utter nonsense about vaccines and mask-wearing. Here we can fall back on the Bible as well, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and God’s Spirit makes its home in you? If anybody undoes God’s temple, God will undo him. For God’s temple is sacred, and you are it.” So any priest, minister, or church leader who tries to tell you not to get vaccinated, or not to wear a mask to protect yourself, they are asking you to defy the word of God in two ways. The first is in not protecting God’s temple, your body, as he has said to do so. And secondly, when you are not protecting yourself, you are also not protecting your neighbor, which to me, would appear to also violate God’s instructions to love thy neighbor.
So, Jesus may very well still save. However, to my knowledge and experience, he has never said he will do it all by himself. It is up to us to follow his teachings, and for those who don’t believe in a God, that doesn’t mean those who do shouldn’t write anyone off. Nor should we take the word of a man, or woman, who is directing us not to take care of ourselves, and others.
None of us live in a vacuum. We are a global collective. What happens anywhere has an effect everywhere. The effect happens much faster in the modern world than in the world of the past. It would behoove us to remember this, and to remember that, to-date, no one has made it out of life alive. At this point we will all die at some point.
The two questions I continually ask myself, and have for most of my life are these: 1) Do I want to lie on my deathbed with any lingering doubts of did I live life to the fullest extent possible?; and 2) Did I do my best to help those around me in their time of need; I do not interpret those around me as only friends and family, but also those who may be across town or half-way around the world, who may be in need of food, water, or other sustenances?
If I can answer yes to both of those questions, then I will die knowing my life had meaning, that I’ve left the planet better than when I arrived, and can then be at peace.