Lions to the Left of Me, Christians to the Right, Revisited

Disclaimer:
 
The following is anecdotal and not meant to challenge anyone’s religious conviction or to defame any one of the world religions. The fact that the author is an anthropologist may or may not slightly bias the narrative.
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“Lions or crucifixion”?
“Nothing, thank you. I’m a christian with a small “c”.”

I had always considered myself to be a Christian.  I was baptized when I was an infant in the Catholic Church– a recognized world-class Christian religion.  According to my dearest friend, a member of one of those religions that came out of the Reformation, she was a Christian but I was not.  Being baptized as an infant did not count.  I had not been saved nor made the personal choice to be baptized.  From what I understand, once you’re saved you’re assured of a place in heaven, even if you murder someone (that certainly would explain why a lot of prison inmates become “born again”).  Assuming heaven is a particular locus in time and space, why could I not have a reservation, too?  I mean, could it be that easy? I was never given that option at my Church.

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Each religion has its own criteria for getting to heaven.  I suffered through catechism every Sunday for what seemed like decades.  I endured four years of Catholic girls high school. Surely tolerating Nuns should count for something. There should be  penance points and a tally kept by a neutral party, like Switzerland. I think I just described the Church dogma, except for the Switzerland part (that’s for banking purposes).

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I was six or seven when I began catechism (religious instruction), taught by Nuns from the nearby convent who ran a private high school for girls. I had never been around a Nun before, so I spent most of my first year of catechism staring at the Sister. Over the years, through parental coercion, catechism prepared me for the milestones every good Catholic kid accomplishes.

The last required was Confirmation, sort of Catholic Bar/Bat Mitzvah, boys and girls together.  My confirmation made me a Soldier in Christ, a defender of the Faith.  So, where was my reservation? Would I have to find a scalper hanging around a churchyard to buy a ticket?  If only it were that easy.

Christians, according to Christians, are people who are Saved. They’re separate from the rest of us Philistines christians– the ones who have to earn our salvation.  But if this was Rome in, say, the time of Nero in the first century, I would still be thrown to the lions, because the hated, underpaid, syphilitic  Roman soldier who’s dragging me off, kicking and screaming, to sure death, does not know Christian from christian. I would be better off telling him I was from Mars than trying to explain to him that I was christian with a small “c” and not a member of the group targeted for persecution (since Mars was one of the Roman gods, he might have thought me sacrilegious, so let’s make that Pluto).

Note: I acknowledge that there is some controversy regarding lions’ role or lack of it in martyring Christians or christians but I’m taking a little license in that area.

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What if an angel shows up while I was being dragged away, and smote the soldier and gave me the keys to his chariot?  Now that’s being Saved.Wrong kind of saved?

Same scenario.  This time the angel tells me to die for Christ and I’ll go to heaven. Knowing me I’d want to know what he means by heaven because the literal and figurative architecture of that construct, which could be a destination or some state of spirituality, or an alternate dimension, can differ widely between individuals, especially among religious leaders.  I mean, if I’m going to be eaten by lions, and it’s going to hurt, a lot, I’d really like to have a few guaranties and at least one condition. This is where Faith comes in.

While in hospital recuperating from that total knee replacement, my friend,  RM sent some of her friends from church to visit me. I was wary of her friends–all Christians–Bible Baptists no less, and I, an anthropologist (oh, ye of little faith). One person in particular visited me several times. The fact that I kept falling asleep did not deter him. He was a Pastor at RM’s church and apparently RM wants me to go along on the Rapture and not be left behind to fight the anti-Christ or zombie apocalypse or wrath of God. Yes, the Pastor was on a mission to save me. I didn’t want to insult him but I did ask a lot of questions regarding the writing of the Bible itself. He kept telling me not to be so intellectual. Not to think about it. Just do it. And therein lies the rub.

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The above is an updated version of a post that can be found on my other blog, Sapient Chronicles. Click Here to read the original.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Lions to the Left of Me, Christians to the Right, Revisited

  1. My parents are agnostic but they tried Sunday school as an activity for their bored kid. I was kicked out on the first day for asking questions.

    That was a close call.

    PS: There IS no excessive gardening. It’s just that there are too few days in the week.

    • My parents did not go to church, but we were made to go. I have since discovered that my mother was Jewish. but when she hit 70 she was baptized Catholic.

      Thanks for coming by. Lucy

  2. There’s always a rub! I find it sad that a disclaimer is needed because so many people are oversensitive and permanently defensive. Incidentally, had I been in your position, I would have banned all such visitors!

  3. The oldest known animal shaped sculpture ever found is a half-human half-lion, carved from the tusk of a mammoth during the upper Palaeolithic period in South Germany, 32,000 years ago. It is possibly the eldest of the ancient gods……….

    🙂

  4. David Livingstone of “Dr. Livingstone I presume?” fame was attacked by a lion doing missionary work in South Africa. He lived to write about it in his memoirs: he said the lion shook him so hard he went into a kind of trance where he was aware of what was happening to him, but he felt no pain or fear. Fortunately the doctor was saved by local villagers, but he lost the use of his left arm, suggesting the lion severed a nerve in his body. I don’t know if early Christians had a similar experience while being eaten: actually, many were heavily fined by the authorities and told to leave town, since most Roman governors had worse things to worry about than where their citizens were burning their sacrifices, or not—which I suppose disappointed those seeking martyrdom. One Roman account complains about how the Christians in one town noisily declared their faith in the town square in an attempt to get arrested and executed. Most non-Christians found them obnoxious but not worth killing. This reminded me of a local Baptist church that noisily protested against the celebration of Halloween in our schools. The result was no classroom Halloween parties or costumes worn to school. I bet the Romans thought of their Christians being party poopers as well.

    Caveat: I’m an ex-Buddhist turned Episcopalian, i.e. “Catholic Lite.” (“All of the liturgy with only 15% of the guilt!”) I think I’m more Episcopalian than Christian. Which is another Episcopalian joke.)

    • What interesting stories. I’m so glad you shared them with me. I don’t know about how the early christians felt while being eaten. I was told when I was in Catholic school that God took their “souls” before they could feel any agony. However, I suggested to the nun telling the story that if agony and pain were suffered by Christ then why not his followers? I have friends who are Lite Catholics. Thanks for coming by. I really appreciate it. It’s not been easy living with Bible Baptists lately–since they smelled “blood” and want to save me. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and we’ve stayed that way by keeping religion out of our friendship. Lucy

  5. I really enjoyed this tale. I went to catechism myself during my high school years. It was then my love for history was awakened. 🙂
    Look at the Bible. I bet that if you put 10 people in a room, there will always be different interpretations about an issue, even if they are reading the same text. (laughs)

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