by Elizabeth T. Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
April 29, 2008
I JUST DON'T GET IT
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- If you have two coats, give one to your brother who has none. Feed the hungry. Visit the sick. Take care of the widows and orphans.
Was Jesus a socialist? If churches were doing their jobs, would there be any forced-by-taxation government welfare system - or babies dying daily for want of a simple bottle of milk?
Can a malnourished, starving child rouse itself enough to stand, bow and kiss a gold ring? How many loaves of bread could be bought with the sale of the gold crosses that swing from the necks of millions of Christians? Does God prefer to hang out in a $30 million church building as opposed to a backwoods brush arbor?
It's a God-blessed spring morning in Georgia.The cardinals are screaming at the bluejays, the morning glories are still sleeping, the cows in the pasture next door are munching the green, green grass of home, and it is difficult for a poet to set aside bitching time.
But I don't get it.
I don't get the spiritual connection between extremely wealthy churches, world hunger, wars ancient and current, the idolizing and worship of imam, priest or pastor, rabbi or self-appointed prophets, the silence of spiritually oppressed women, and the need of men to define God in their own image.
Just because I don't get it doesn't mean it can't be got. If you are comfortable with a world portrait of food shortages, mass starvations, Group A bombing Group B because they don't like the way they part their hair, along with the fat and pompous pastors of wealthy churches posing as God's true messengers, rich and well-fed chauffeur-driven presidents and heads of state, and trickle-down wealth that runs out before it reaches the soup bowl of the hungry, the heart-pill bottle of the sick, the cry of the forgotten elderly - if you are content with that picture, feel free to call me economically paranoid, socially out of step, and religiously lacking a velvet-cushioned bench to squat on come Sunday morning.
Perhaps I am just still cross-eyed from the Pope's recent visit to America. Great ado about not much. Or perhaps I'm too stubborn to admit I understand the human need to find something holier-than-me in another mere human being. Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe rich churches have found a way to poke a chauffered Cadillac through the eye of a needle. Maybe God blesses rich folks with more riches and hears no cries of suffering from the poor.
Maybe. But I doubt it.
Blessed are the poor for they give rich folks an opportunity to grapple with the spiritual asininity of wealth.
Let none misunderstand. I am a devout capitalist who knows money makes the world go 'round. It is not the individual making of it, the having it, the enjoyment of getting it honestly and spending it wisely that I question. It is how churches got into the money business and how big government got into the big brother business that confounds me. It is trying to make sense of the senseless that steals my sleep.
Jesus was a socialist in the way of true spirituality. Give out of love. Share without being asked ... or forced. Love your brother and sister as you love yourself. (A healthy self-love admonition ignored by churches who need a sinner in order to have somebody to save.)
No, that is not the part I don't get it.
Near my home is a Baptist church building that cost so many millions of dollars I cannot write the zeros. I was told by one of its members that they have a Catholic room and a Jewish room and a Muslim room and a Mormon room for teaching young children about these different faiths.
I wish I could salute such teaching, wish I could say "How great thou art!" But having thumped up against Baptists through childhood and having been censored from a Georgia newspaper for constantly harping on their spiritual inequality of women ... and currently living right smack in the middle of the Baptist-dominated Bible Belt, I am afraid I must decline the saluting of one of their nefarious practices.
You can bet your Aunt Bonnie's Bed and Breakfast those classes on other religions do not conclude with "Now, if any of you little darlings want to become a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim or a Mormon we will be glad to help you do it."
No. Baptist churches, like almost all organized churches, believe and practice that there may be many roads toward the same divine gate but theirs is the better road - well-patrolled, and paved with gold.
So where do I hang my headscarf on a sweet Sunday morning?
Out where there is no need for conversation. Out where the best of hymns is sung by the mocking-bird. Out where there is nothing to argue about or prove. Out where the lowing of cows on a distant hill brings more joy than the braying of mules and sheep in a building with stained-glass windows so high they must give God myopia. Out where there is much evidence and assurance of things eternal.
There the morning sun can be counted on to kiss the birds awake. There the moon can be counted on to dust the daffodils with night mist. There the universal cosmic laws call us to awe over the working necessity of worms. There we are made humble by the tenacity of ant palace builders. There, if we bid the ego take a hike, we know the beginnings and the common sense recognition of personal peace and divine lineage.
God as the grand Gardener? Yes. Nature as great teacher? Yes. Essence beyond understanding? Yes.
Room for the world family? Well, it might get a little crowded as my garden is small, but I bet in these days of world food shortages we could help build other gardens.
And from as far away as Syria, I will know that my Muslim sister has thrown away her hot headdress and is hoeing the weeds out of her long rows of potatoes. As she works she is making plans to trade me her potatoes for my green beans.
Before the Syrian sun goes down she will, no doubt, be picking the bomb-damaged leaves off her peace rose bush and sigh with satisfaction in knowing that God is not a Muslim, a Baptist, a Catholic, a Jew, or anything that can be packaged, labeled, and sold.
AR Correspondent Elizabeth T. Andrews is a newspaper columnist now living in Cartersville, Ga. Her A HREF="http://www.treefamilyfoundation.com>Website, offers her columns and poetry. Write her at email@example.com.