Sunday, July 31, 2011

Can't Stand It, Part II

If you've read the blog for a while, you might have seen this one. The blog about the fabulous Carolyn and how she is the person I want to be like. At the time, she was merely sick. But her son Frank, my first "date" for a school dance, had just been killed.

Well, it's not quite a year later and Carolyn is dying. Probably soon. Like tonight, tomorrow, sometime in the next day or so soon. If not, then in a few weeks. She knows it. She told my mama, who was there to take her blood pressure and make the call that she needed to be admitted, that "I think this is going to be the thing that gets me." Whatever the "this" was. Side effect from chemo, cancer, whatever.

And here is the part that breaks my heart. Carolyn isn't scared to die. She isn't even scared of Hell, if that's where she's going. She is afraid that she won't see Frank.

She is so convinced of her child's salvation and so unconvinced of her own that she is afraid she won't get to see him again. You know, if there is an afterlife. Maybe death is just the ending of us. And she won't see Frank then, either.

I know with every fiber of my soul that if there is something more for us than this plane, Carolyn will ascend to it. Everyone who knows her feels the same way. Her own doubt (and I know this, because we discussed it explicitly years ago) stems from the combination of intellect and Southern Baptist-itis.

Intellect forces questions. If you are smart and have any imagination whatsoever, it must cross your mind that religion is merely a construct to protect us from our own fear that we begin and end with our time here on Earth. It provides us with the comforting notion that ultimately, injustice will be balanced with judgment. It serves the spiritual need for fairness. Lives filled with suffering are still worth living for there must surely lie a reward at the end of a life lived by a loving, honorable spirit.

But maybe there isn't and it is only our own egomania that tells us that we are more than the sack of flesh that holds our thoughts and demonstrates our will.

Here's the thing, though. If you're Southern Baptist (or Catholic, or Muslim, or Sikh, or Reformed Jew or whatever the heck you are) there is a belief tenet you can't quite let go of. The common thread is that religion, or more accurately, FAITH, holds you to a higher standard than you will ever achieve.

I don't think that is a bad thing. A stretch goal makes you strive for more than you are. Even if we're all misguided nutjobs (except the atheists), if our faith provokes better behavior than our nature, that is not a bad thing. *

I just wonder if we aren't all right, those of us who believe in something more, in our belief. Where we might be wrong is in its application to our own selves. In my own life, I know so many people that I believe are in Heaven or destined to be there someday but I can't see how I will ever make the cut. I actually believe. I believe in the Bible, Jesus, sin, and judgment. I think the 10 commandments are not a bad roadmap for a life, even if nobody is ever going to make it all the way through without trouncing a couple of them. My belief does not exclude people of other faiths, other denominations, or even other interpretations of the good old Bible, but that is an entirely different discussion.

The point is, in my experience, the people who seek the hardest seem to be the most unconvinced that they are worth the grace of whatever higher power might be running the show. The sins we see in ourselves are mere foibles, human weakness and infinitely forgivable, in others.

If I believe that God loves US, all of us, why is it so hard to see how He could possibly love me? I hope that Carolyn has the peace of knowing a benevolent creator, one who sees foibles instead of sins, before she sees Frank again.

* Please note that in my unqualified opinion, Faith, in its truest expression, in any form, should raise humanity in general and the people that you know specifically. If an expression of faith causes pain or hardship to another, then it isn't divine in nature or spirit. It is an abuse of doctrine.