Anyone who knows me personally, or through my writings, is often surprised when I say I revere Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. They’re surprised because I usually keep that quiet. My faith in Jesus is a private matter – as I think all such convictions should be. The glaring opulence of the Roman Catholic Church, for example, sours me almost as bad as their overt disrespect for women. The overt arrogance and verbosity of people like Pat Robertson, Robert Schuller and their ilk literally makes me nauseous.
I know I sound like a Tim Tebow acolyte. But, I have about as much reverence for sports and entertainment figures as I do politicians and televangelists. In fact, devoutly religious people usually chew up most of my nerves. They have the tendency to shove their ideology in my face and think they know what’s best for me. For as long as I can remember, the faithful have asked me to accompany them to (their) church. Yes, I appreciate their concern for my well-being, but I don’t need it that badly. Baptists and Pentecostals are among the most aggressive, but Catholics are not that much better.
In February of 1998, my father’s oldest sister, Amparo, died after an extended illness. She’d been hospitalized for a month, before her frail body finally gave out. Her death hit our family hard. She was one of the strongest people any of us had ever known. She helped care for me when I was a boy. In fact, Amparo cared for most everyone else in our family; taking her older brother to cancer treatments in the mid-1980s, for example, because no one else – not even his own wife and adult children – could find the time. Her burial instructions were straightforward: just throw her in a box, toss it into the ground, say a prayer or two and go on with our lives. And, that’s just what we did. There was no long, drawn-out rosary preceding an equally long, drawn-out funeral. We had a brief service at the mausoleum, a quick internment, and then, we were gone.
When I told one of my closest friends, he was surprised to learn there had been no rosary, as Hispanic Catholics are prone to do. “Oh, oh,” he moaned ominously. “I hate to tell you this, but your aunt’s chances of getting into Heaven are slim.”
I became instantly enraged. “How do you know?!” I screamed at him. Amparo’s commitment to her family far outweighed the pious proclamations of my friend; someone who actually practiced voodoo for a short time in the 1980s, before reverting back to Catholicism. That one statement almost ended our long friendship.
But, it’s that sort of self-righteousness – the sense of ‘I-know-what-God-wants-better-than-you’ – that sends me into epileptic fits. I once worked with a woman who often wore a gold ‘Jesus Loves Me’ pin – while strutting about the office talking behind people’s backs and speaking in a condescending tone to others. I’m just not one to proselytize. Thus, it’s a stretch for me to express my personal beliefs about Jesus even in this forum.
There’s really no concrete proof that Jesus was little more than an influential philosopher from what is now Israel. But, I feel that He was a real person; someone who lived a short life, yet has had a grand impact on the world. I also believe Jesus has manifested Himself in other forms and in other faiths to a variety of people. But, they’re just that – beliefs. I never profess to know for certain who Jesus was or what He plans to do.
Some folks have this vision of Jesus arriving on a gilded chariot, amidst a cacophony of trumpets, and sweeping them up into His arms for eternal safekeeping. They’re certain they know what Jesus will do – and that they’ll be right there with Him. These are the same people who’ll be horrified when science discovers the center of the universe – and they’re not it!
Here’s something else I believe: the “Second Coming” means Christ will return to Earth, look around at the mess created by many of His devoted followers, and say, “You know, I had a really good idea about love and harmony 2,000 years ago, and you people just fucked it all up. BAM!” And, that’s how the world as we know it will end.
If Jesus should return to Earth anytime soon, I’m certain He won’t make his way to visit Pope Francis. We won’t see Him having dinner with Mitt Romney or tea with Queen Elizabeth. No, I’m almost positive – if we do catch a glimpse of Him – he’d be on the streets of places like South Dallas, trying to convince prostitutes life has more to offer than streetwalking. We’d see Him in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, telling kids not to sniff glue; or in the deserts of the Middle East, ordering angry young men to put down their rocket launchers. He might even show up at an atheists’ convention – if they have such things. Wherever He’ll be, He won’t be cavorting with the faithful – the so-called “Chosen Ones.” No, He’d be with the lost souls; the “Forgotten Ones”; the folks the rest of allegedly civilized society declares unworthy and unsaved.
On this Easter Sunday, I only wish for a few simple things – like a few more years with my parents and my dog; to get my novel published; to live as long and healthy of a life as I can. Yes, I wish for peace on Earth and for the blind to see. But, those are such grand aspirations. I can’t save the world alone. Neither can any one person. Yes, it may seem strange to many, but I don’t care. I have little respect for a religion called Christianity, or most other religions for that matter. But, I still have faith in someone named Jesus.