A friend on Facebook reported the death of a close woman friend. The poster commented on the woman's kindness, generosity, loyalty, and decency. And someone subsequently posted a response asking if the friend "had been saved" before she died! I'm afraid I went off like a rocket, as I am far too often wont to do when faced with such astonishing lack of thought or compassion! The implication, to me at least, was that if the friend had not been "saved," she had no worth, no value, and deserved to be condemned to the fires of hell for eternity.
I go through life as an exposed nerve end: just the slightest touch can send me off into an all but uncontrollable rage. Granted, this rage is often unjustified or the result of a misunderstanding on my part, but that doesn't shield me from it.
Why this particular Facebook exchange was so like chewing tinfoil rests in a never-forgotten personal experience which still rankles to this day.
My maternal grandmother died in the flu pandemic of 1918 and my mother, then only nine years old, was subsequently partially raised by a housekeeper, Bessie Whiteman, whom Mother adored. Bessie was a truly marvelous human being, and was well into her eighties when I knew her. Tiny, with beautiful white hair, and flawless, unblemished skin, her face had no wrinkles or crevices, but rather soft, gentle cake-batter folds. I'm sorry I didn't have the chance to know her better. Devoutly but quietly religious, she never missed a Sunday at church, and exemplified to me what every true Christian should be, and so few are.
Bessie outlived my mother, and when I heard she had died, I was truly sad. That Christmas, I sent a donation to Bessie's church in her name and wrote a letter to her minister, saying that while Bessie loved her particular church, she would still have been an example of the best of humanity no matter what her religious beliefs.
I received a letter from the minister shortly thereafter thanking me for the donation but saying that I was completely wrong: Bessie was a good person only because she was a Christian. My reaction then was identical to my reaction to the Facebook note. It made me heartsick to realize that people who are supposedly devoted to love and kindness and mercy and decency and honor have the unspeakable gall to put qualifications on these best of human qualities.
Religion and I have never gotten along. Hardly surprising considering I was raised in a society which considered me an abomination in the eyes of God, and which routinely uses hypocrisy and false piety to condemn people they do not even know.
How can any human being so readily and harshly pass judgement on others...and not merely on individuals but entire ethnic, racial, and religious groups...who they do not know and who have never done anything to harm or interfere in their lives? How can they hate with such utter irrationality and virulence?
Humans have a need to feel superior to others, to cover their own insecurities and self doubts. Banding together with others who think as they do gives them a sense of power they cannot find in their individual lives. They feed on negativity, on hated, on mean-spiritedness. When is the last time you heard leaders of the Tea Party say one single thing positive, or offer one truly constructive suggestion of how to right their perceived and pervasive wrongs? It's one thing to rant and wave the flag and demand that we take our country back. Back from what? Back to where? How, specifically, can it be done? What positive steps can be realistically taken? It takes far less effort to set a forest fire than to put one out once it has gotten out of control.
We are becoming, as a society, like a wolf with its paw caught in a steel trap and, like the wolf, in pain and confusion we seem determined to chew off our own leg. We are flaying our humanity to the point where we are little more than a pulsating mass of exposed nerve endings.
This is not a happy blog. It is not meant to be.
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