Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ultimate Healing

Girl at windowIt’s been a rough time lately, so I’ve been laying low. I’ve just been trying to maintain and get back to a place that is a little happier and a lot more peaceful. It hasn’t helped that most of the past week has been rainy, gloomy, and chilly. (Little known fact: there used to be ten dwarves, but Rainy, Gloomy, and Chilly were such boring and depressing bastards that the other seven killed them and buried their bodies in a shallow grave in the forest. Good riddance!) Anyway, when I get into a funk like this, I have to remind myself that it’s a short tunnel, and I will make my way through it eventually. I’ll get there.

I’ve used this opportunity to catch up on some reading, and to mull over a few things. One of the things was a meeting with the preacher who did my stepfather-in-law’s service. He was a fairly young, strapping, silver-haired and silver-tongued Southern preacher, and I’m guessing that he could talk the spots off of a leopard. I had a few problems with some of the things he said, though. Yes, I wrote these things down. What can I say? I pay attention, and I question. It’s what I do.

When someone expressed their doubts about all of it—faith, religion, dogma, the presence of God and/or Jesus—he brought up the story about Jesus going out with the fishermen and telling them to go out and fish...he’d watch over them. This despite the fact that Jesus knew that a huge storm was coming, and the fishermen would be in danger. He sent them out, and sat upon the hill watching them. I don’t really recall this particular story, only the one about Jesus calming the waters in a huge storm. I’m only relating what this preacher said. His point was that although the storms may rage around us, Jesus is always watching. What I took away from it was why the heck would Jesus send fishermen out when he knew there was a terrible storm coming? Wouldn’t a rational person say, “Hey dude, you guys better stay on shore, there’s some nasty shit on the way.” What kind of a weird power trip is that, to send someone out and put them in mortal danger and then say, “You suck. You didn’t have faith. Do you really think I’d abandon you?” Well, why send them out in the first place?! I’d trust someone a lot more if they kept me from doing something dangerous from the very beginning, especially if I found out later they knew perfectly well that something bad was going to happen. Frankly, I’d think that person was a bit of a douche.

The preacher said, “Don’t tell anyone I said this. If you do, I’ll deny it. But it’s normal to have doubts, and I have doubts, too.” This really bothered me. Why wouldn’t he want to be honest with people and say “Yes, I have doubts, too.” I can’t begin to tell you how tempting it is to tag this post with the guy’s name so he’d be attached to these words, but nah, I wouldn’t do that. I just find it very odd that a preacher would admit to having doubts, but would not stand by those words and actually try to help people work through them as much as they could. Beyond spouting the usual platitudes, that is.

When someone wondered about heaven and hell, if they are real or not, another place altogether or actually here on earth, the guy said, “I can tell you this. Heaven and hell are real, and they are not here on earth. Jesus talked about that a lot in the Bible.” I’m no biblical scholar, and I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think Jesus talked a lot about hell. I believe he may have talked about heaven quite a bit (In my father’s house are many mansions, and so forth), but I don’t think he mentioned hell all that much. If I’m wrong, please correct me. I also wondered at the guy’s certainty. Really? Are you sure about that? How do you know this? (For an interesting read about the question of hell, I highly recommend a Time article about Rob Bell, the evangelical preacher who is...well, catching hell...for his radical views on damnation.)

Continuing on the heaven subject, the guy said that he believes that when we all get to heaven, we’re going to be 32. I thought that was an interesting take on it. Of course, it would mean in this case that the departed would be of an age before he met his wife of 35 years. So how does that work? Why is 32 the optimum age? Is it the age when this preacher was the happiest and felt most fit? Most aware and wise? I was very fit in my twenties and that’s when I looked my best; but a couple of decades of experience has left me somewhat wiser and a little more compassionate and understanding. Why is 32 the magic number? If I recall correctly, at age 32, I was still kind of a party girl who didn’t really give a shit about anything other than having a good time. Is that the stage of me that would be in heaven? Even though my physical body isn’t as good now as it was then (although I’m probably healthier), haven’t I learned a lot more and aren’t I in a better place when it comes to knowledge and wisdom? The age of 32 seems a little arbitrary to me.

Used car salesmanFinally, and this is where the title of this entry comes from, the preacher said that my stepfather-in-law had experienced the “ultimate healing.” I stayed as quiet as a mouse, but I seriously felt like raising my hand and saying, “Do you mean DEATH?” That’s right. In this guy’s world, God’s way of ultimately healing someone is to kill them. Well, I guess it’s the end of disease for that person, and the end of suffering. But “ultimate healing?” Isn’t that kind of like saying that chemotherapy is the ultimate depilatory? Or that AIDS is the ultimate diet? Dysentery is the ultimate laxative? I suppose I could go on, but you get the point.

As I said, I stayed quiet. But I listened. And I can tell you that such platitudes make me laugh. They are a comfort to many, and I would never deny them that. But I’ve heard it all before, and I am no longer buying what this guy was selling. I guess you could say that for me, he was the ultimate used car salesman. I chose to not accept his offer, and I walked away.