Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's the Point?

He's a real nowhere man, 
Sitting in his Nowhere Land, 
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody. 
Doesn't have a point of view, 
Knows not where he's going to, 
Isn't he a bit like you and me?....                 
                   ("Nowhere Man," the Beatles, 1965)

I still remember what it was like to hate God and to hate the very idea of church.  That hatred began as a small seed of doubt when I was about eleven years old.  I was not raised in a Christian home, but I didn't realize that at the time, probably because I spent so much time in church.  My mom had bought me one of those Bible Story sets that you see all the time in doctors' waiting rooms (right next to the Highlights magazines) and I had read it all the way through ten or twelve times by then.  I remember having some questions, like "Where did Cain's wife come from?"  My mom couldn't answer the questions, but that didn't bother me because
my mom and dad only went to church on Easter; I didn't really expect them to know anything about God.  I was the only one in the family who attended church regularly.  My parents insisted on it, but that was only because I was in sixth grade and it was time for me to make my confirmation (I was an Episcopalian back then, and I have the silver charm on my bracelet to prove it).  This was my mom's way of keeping her Roman Catholic family happy: I'd been baptized as an infant and I needed to take Holy Communion at least once in my life to keep me out of hell.  It was all part of the compromise my mother had worked out with her parents when she married a Lutheran.  But that's another story....

So I sang in the church youth choir and read my Bible Story books and went to church every Sunday and confirmation class every Wednesday and stood to praise and sat to listen and knelt to pray and did all the things a good little girl was supposed to do in church...but nowhere in the midst of all that religion did anyone ever bother to introduce me to Jesus Christ.  He was someone who lived far away in heaven and had died to make a wholesale purchase of the human race (which just happened to include me) so that we could dress up once a week and perform some rituals that had absolutely nothing to do with life in the real world.  The one thing I understood less than anything else was why ANYONE in his right mind would ever fight and die over so stupid a thing as religion.  For me, it made as much sense as fighting and dying over the color of one's underwear.  It was at this point that I began to walk away from God.
I made the mistake of asking one of the church youth leaders my question about Cain's wife (figuring this was someone who DID know about God) and was told in no uncertain terms that I was wrong to question such things.  I was just supposed to BELIEVE them.  The idea that there was real evidence to back up the claims of the Bible was never brought up; the fact that the Christian faith is based on rationality was never even hinted at.  The logical leap of a twelve-year-old mind:there IS no evidence or rationality; the only people who would believe this stuff are mindless fools.  I was not a mindless fool, so I quite logically left that church and ALL churches and began to search for the TRUTH about life.

Over the next two decades, I explored any path that was not an "organized religion."  I guess I figured that, if the Christians were wrong about God, there was no reason to assume the Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists were hitting any closer to the mark.  I was enamored of the idea that I had been smart enough to see through the Grand Deception that had blinded the adults who followed the Pied Piper of Religion, and I became firmly convinced that TRUTH was hiding in a corner too obscure to be found by ordinary people.  I, however, was special.  

Now, those of you old enough to remember the seventies may start laughing at this point, but special me discovered Bridey Murphy and Edgar Cayce and Shirley MacLaine and followed them out on a limb right into the darkest, most secret corner imaginable: the occult.  (The very word means "hidden" so I figured I was on the right path. I'd found the map.  X marks the spot, right?) Those of you not old enough to know these names may appreciate a brief synopsis of their teaching: you are God.  If you don't understand that, then you are a weak little God, but the more you understand, the more powerful the God you will become, until you yourself are in full control of your universe.  Oooh, I liked THAT.  Now that was a TRUTH I could have fun with.

He's a real nowhere man, 
Sitting in his Nowhere Land, 
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

Good thing I wasn't a mindless fool, huh?  I had rejected the belief system of BILLIONS of people because there was no evidence to back it up (other than the words of the Bible), only to fall into the belief system of BILLIONS of people without one shred of evidence to back it up (other than the words of a Hollywood actress and some British rock stars).  Yes, I had found the hidden TRUTH at last.  Sigh.

So there I was, "discovering" my past lives on Earth (and elsewhere in the galaxy) and planning out my future lives on Earth (and elsewhere in the galaxy) and never really asking myself why THIS made more sense to me than Christianity.  Looking back from where I stand today, the answer is obvious to me: PRIDE.  I'd made myself a pretty important person in my universe.  In any other universe, I'd be just one of the billions, one of the mindless mass, one of the sheep.  Yuck.  Nothing very appealing to the pride in being one of the sheep.  Baaaaaaa.  

So for nearly twenty years, I lived in a vast, spiritual Nowhere.  

Some well-meaning evangelist once asked me if I was sure I'd go to Heaven when I died.  "Heaven? Hell?" I laughed. "When I die, I'm going to California."  (I knew this because I had already planned it out.)  I was very proud of this answer, by the way.  It proved to me that I was on the right path...the path of superior wisdom.

There was one nagging detail I couldn't quite escape, though.  If the whole point of existence was to be my own God, then what was the point of that?  I'd wrestled with this question in another form in high school biology class...if the whole point of SURVIVAL is to procreate, then each generation is doing nothing except making sure there is a next generation...but WHY?  What's the point of saving the Earth for our descendants if all they are going to do is make more people to save the Earth for their descendants who are just going to make more people to save the Earth for their descendants......WHAT'S THE POINT?  Heaven, hell, California.......WHAT'S THE POINT?

For the person who rejects the Bible, there are ultimately only two possible answers to that question.  Either the point of life is to become a happy, fulfilled ME (get the most stuff for myself, have relationships that make me feel good about myself, pursue occupations that I enjoy, puff up my own ego) OR the point of life is to labor selflessly to make the world a better place, even though that (as already noted above) is merely generation after generation of running on the great hamster wheel of self-propagation.  Either way, I started to feel like the Wendy's lady, raising the top bun from the Burger of Life and asking, Where's the beef?

Funny, the Bible says there's really nothing new under the sun.  This same question was asked--and answered--by Solomon three thousand years ago.  Where's the beef?  What's the point?  In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon recounts the details of his own treasure hunt for life's purpose, and he dismisses everything imaginable as a waste of time, a vapor, meaningless, a "vanity of vanities."  There is only one thing, he decides in the end, worth living for (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14).

Like Solomon, I spent half of my life wondering, What’s the point?   Then I met Jesus and realized that I had been asking the wrong question. I should have been asking, Who’s the point?   Jesus is the point. He always was, and he always will be. Don't take my word for it.  There really IS evidence to support the claims made by and about Christ.  I encourage you to seek it out.

Nowhere man, please listen.
You don't know what you're missin...

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