January 16, 2012

Sunday Sermon, A Day Late

I have had an insight. Please await it.

It started when Rob and I were having that unpleasant conversation in which he wanted to know why Everyone Couldn't Just Get Along, and I wasn't really sure.

It continued to simmer during the whole War on Christmas thing that comes up every year, when I think it was Caitlin who remarked so insightfully that it seemed like it was actually a War on Happy Holidays.

And then, in the shower this morning, between applying the conditioner and rinsing it out, is when I figured out Where Religion Went Wrong. This is RICH STUFF, people. (It was Tresemmé Advanced Technology Salon Performance.) And as with all insights, I can confidently assume that many, many people have already ALSO had this insight---but "having it first" and "being the only one to have had it" are not required for something to be categorized as an insight, so THAT'S okay.

Braced for salon-quality brilliance? Okay! Here it is: it went wrong when it turned outward instead of inward. Religion works beautifully, I assume, if each participant uses it as a guideline for working earnestly on their own behavior, and for improving their own relationship with the god or gods of that particular religion. This holy book says our deity doesn't want us to get tattoos, so I will not. This holy book says our deity doesn't want us to eat pork, so I will not. This holy book says our deity doesn't want us to have sex during a woman's period, so I will not. This holy book says our deity wants us to take care of the poor, so I will. This holy book says our deity wants to give over 10% of all my money to our church, so I will. Lovely for everyone.

The trouble started when people INSTEAD said: This holy book says not to get tattoos, so I will picket outside tattoo parlors, even though the holy book doesn't say anything about wanting me to picket. This holy book says not to eat pork, so I will tell other people they must not do it either, even if they don't belong to my religion and the holy book isn't trying to give rules for people who don't belong to my religion. This holy book says not to have sex during a woman's period, so I will make sure that our national laws list it as a prosecutable perversion for everyone, whether they belong to the same religion or not. And worst of all: I don't choose to follow the rule about giving 10% of my income, and that rule about not getting tattoos isn't relevant to our times, and I don't think the rule about taking care of the poor applies to THESE poor people or to anything _I_ should be doing---but I will put tremendous time and energy into making sure other people follow that rule about not having sex during a woman's period.

The only holy book I'm familiar with is the Christian Bible, but it's weird that it even COVERS this with "Take the 2x4 out of your own eye before you try to get the speck of sawdust out of someone else's" and "You can throw stones as soon as you're perfect in every way"---the obvious message in both cases being that no one will EVER be available to work on someone else's issues. And yet that's not the way it goes down a lot of the time.

I don't see why people CAN'T get along, as long as religion (and, as long as we're at it, various self-improvement programs) stay inward-focused. If one person is working on herself, and another person is working on HERself, they can be friends even at a restaurant where one orders a ham sandwich and the other drinks wine. It's when one person decides to start working on SOMEONE ELSE'S flaws that we run into problems. Nobody LIKES that, is the issue I think.

Er, which is why I'm DEFINITELY NOT working on other people's flaws with this post. Certainly not. I am merely recommending my conditioner, in case you decide for yourself that it's right for you.

54 comments:

Amanda said...

:)

elckd said...

YES!!!!

Jen said...

Exactly!

d e v a n said...

yes! Very good insight.

Little Bird said...

Rinse and REPEAT!

lar said...

Ohhh, I could not agree with you more. How can I reflect the love of Jesus if I'm holding up a sign that says "God hates [specific group of people]"?

It's one thing to lovingly correct a friend or family member when they're obviously doing something they ought not do (having an affair, stealing at work, etc.). It's something else entirely to make "Here's Why You're WRONG" your primary mode of evangelism.

Gwen said...

Yes yes yes!!

And also, because it's funny to me, my Google word verification thing right now says "savis" which looks like "saves" or might be pronounced "save us." And you're talking about religion...get it? ;)

I'm pretty sure it's funnier in my head.

Lindsay said...

Liked, amidst giggling and head nodding

lifeofadoctorswife said...

Oh boy - this is a GREAT ONE! A post for the ages!

(And I particularly like how you say "rich stuff," which COULD be referencing the conditioner or COULD be referencing the content of your insight, and then follow up that little ambiguity with the name of the conditioner. BRILLIANT!)

Hmm. I also wonder if the REASON that religion gets all mucked up is desire/obligation to proselytize. Instead of translating that drive to proselytize into Giving A Strong Recommendation, similar to yours for the conditioner, it becomes a bashing-over-the-head type thing of This Is The Right Way And If You Aren't Doing It You Are Wrong.

Anne said...

VERY well put, as always.
*gold star*

Misty said...

You are fucking brilliant. You know that right?

I am going to get you a t-shirt with "Fucking Brilliant" emblazoned across the chest. Or perhaps you should consider a tattoo.

Joanne said...

Agree. In other words, as I tell my four year old 100 times a day, mind your biz.

Rah said...

Brilliant. If I put a half-gallon of Tresseme Advanced Technology Salon Performance in someone's mailbox, on the outside chance that the insight is generalizable, that would violate the spirit of the insight, wouldn't it? Dang!

Kristin H said...

Love this.

Lauren said...

This is great! It should also apply to diets, exercise programs, and child-rearing philosophies. Tell me how great your choice is for you and we can still be friends. Tell me what I should be doing and I will stop listening.

Swistle said...

Misty- IT'S THE CONDITIONER.

Swistle said...

Joanne- Or as Michael Jackson says: "I'm starting with the man in the mirror UH. I'm asking him to chay-yange his ways, uh UH."

Beylit said...

I love this. Being of a minority spiritual belief I have spent way too much of my time being told I am wrong and how I should believe/act/live. And people get really hateful about it, which I just don't understand. There is no reason to be hateful.
The worst is when they target children. My friends 5 year old came home from daycare in tears because her teacher had told her that her mommy and daddy were going to burn in hell for eternity because they didn't believe the way the teacher did. A five year old!

People just need to mind there own business. I don't care if you want to worship doorknobs as long as you don't try and make me do it as well. Common decency and a little respect.

M&Co. said...

Very well said. And I just bought Tresemmé at Target yesterday!

Shelly said...

LOVE this. Could not agree more!

(And clearly I need to switch conditioners, as my shower revelations are usually of the "things I forgot to do" variety!)

Erin said...

I think this is brilliant and just so right on, even though it has gotten "None of Your Business" by Salt n Pepa stuck in my head...which is not terrible, actually. Also, I use that exact conditioner and am now feeling vaguely dissatisfied with my own shower insights, most of which focus on various Bravo television shows.

Monique said...

Love this! And it's the way I prefer to practice my own religious beliefs. I am in no way good or pure enough to judge other people, I leave that to my Deity.

Slim said...

This is probably how concern trolling got its start, only instead of What about your health? or Won't someone think of the children?, there was "I'm trying to save your immortal soul! Why aren't you grateful?"

A Jewish friend of mine used to hum "And They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love" when people were out of control.

Shalini said...

I need this conditioner, clearly.

Wendy said...

I think you have tapped into a brilliant explanation regarding where things have gone wrong, regarding not only religion, but with many people placing their own values, morals and life doctrines upon those around them.

No one likes to hear that they are wrong, especially in the way they are choosing to live life. Unless what someone is doing infringes upon the health, safety and/or sanity of others, it is not up to you or anyone else to decide whether how they are living life is right or wrong.

We are all are on this journey of life and we all will take different pathways to get to our final destination. I believe that those who are confident in the choices they make and the life they are choosing to live don't have the time to point fingers or judge how others are living or believing. I also believe that the lucky ones will open their eyes and minds to what is going on around them and, rather than judging the differences, learn and grow from what they observe, either by applying what they see as positive and enlightening or eschewing what they deem to be unnecessary or uncomfortable. Just because it doesn't work for you doesn't mean it is wrong...it just isn't for you. We all should be able to apply that same principle to others as well.

Thank you so much for sharing your insight!!

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Long live the Church of Swistle! I'm there! To work on only my own baloney and leave everyone else alone.

Alice said...

AMEN, sister swistle!!

Bailey said...

I full-on agree with you, Swistle, and Joanne's comment to her kiddo to "mind your biz" made me laugh so hard I bit my own darn tongue.

I think perhaps the trouble comes when the book give instructions for how to live life (and the people try to follow them!) and then also gives instructions to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...," and the people try to do that too. It's pretty specific, right? Not just, tell people about your way, but change people to be like you. Faulty instructions, I think. I much prefer the ones from Ikea with the pictures, and the little confused guy with the quesiton mark over his head and A NUMBER TO CALL FOR ANSWERS.

Erin said...

Love love love this. And you too.

And your hair looks beautiful!

liz said...

Amen. AMEN.

Ms. Key said...

YES. You've nailed it with this post, Swistle!

And this is also why people need to stop Gee-Dee killing innocent other people just because they feel that their way is The Only Way. That's the wrongest of wrongs, kthx.

Gina said...

Well said!

I also enjoy the Tresseme products but I can say I'very ever had any deep insights while using them. Perhaps I need to let the conditioner soak in longer?

Swistle said...

Bailey- Good point! Although I think evangelism (with the intent to convert) is different than, say, legislating compliance to religious rules. The former seems understandable, as long as it's "spreading the good word" and INVITING people to join. That wouldn't have the same element of attempted FORCE (and policing) that has become a problem.

Jenny said...

I do understand the desire people have to share their religion. I've heard the metaphor that if you had a sure-fire cure for cancer, you wouldn't want to keep it just for yourself, or for your own family and your kids. In the same way, lots of people believe that about their faith -- and not just the Christian faith -- that it really will BOTH improve your life now AND bring joy and life forever. How could you not share that? It would be selfish not to.

Of course, that is no excuse for saying hateful things, or telling people they're wrong for choosing otherwise. There's a fine line between sharing something you think is wonderful, and looking smug and judgy. Not everyone can do it, just as not everyone can say "I run ten miles a day" without making other people feel like crap. But I do understand the desire to share.

Melanie D. said...

Oh Swistle, you are in my HEAD. I had a whole post on this once. Except I saved it as a draft after one day because I don't like arguments and I was really not as articulate as you are here. Thank you.

I don't understand why people are such arrogant...people, when the #1 rule is love each other and treat each other well. And the other things that you mentioned here. It is not my job to fix anyone but myself. And if I'd like to try and help others in a kind way while I'm on this earth, that is okay too. The end.

Why are there so many well-educated "religious" people who so do not get this?!?! You need to take this post to the people. Sing it!

Maureen said...

Love, love, love this! I am envious of your flashes of brilliance in the shower, I tend to just be thinking about breakfast. What seems to be happening now, more than ever-is that people can't seem to disagree respectfully anymore. Just because someone doesn't have the same belief system you do, doesn't mean they are bad or wrong. They are different, and as my darling gram used to say "it takes all kinds to make a world".

Swistle said...

Jenny- So do I! I'm definitely not talking about evangelism here. I'm talking about when people try to legislate religious rules, or when they're focused on changing other people's behavior---as opposed to giving out information about a religion and inviting them to join, which seems like a completely different thing.

missris said...

Yes! Well said, dear Swistle.

Elsha said...

YES! All of this.

Sarah said...

I think G-D, Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad would all endorse this post. :) Just maybe not some of their followers!

Mary said...

You are such a good writer. I love this.

Jenny said...

Swistle -- yes, totally agreed! I was only making the distinction because I think that people get so tired of being legislated at and criticized that evangelism all gets lumped together with those negative things (and it often IS lumped together, so that is fair!)

cakeburnette said...

Wonderful post! And I agree with Maureen about the fact that no one seems to be able to disagree respectfully any more. In fact, I find that people just EXPECT to be shown respect, all the while they treat others with NO respect. What happened to us?

brooke said...

My mind has been blown...and I want to try that conditioner.

saly said...

YES!! YES!!

Yes, what Melanie D. said too!

"I don't understand why people are such arrogant...people, when the #1rule is love each other and treat each other well."

This has been my experience with religion in general. How can you possibly preach to me? Just listen to yourself?

Alicia said...

yes. totally agree. this is my deal with religion. isn't it supposed to be private and personal? yeahhhhhhh.

Joanne said...

Swistle, that's a good one too. I'm going to start telling Maria to start with the girl in the mirror, change her ways, and mind her biz. :)

alex said...

I loved that you used not-currently-controversial examples (period vs sodomy, tattoos vs abortion) which I think really hammers home your point (and what a slippery slope this could turn into).

Awesome post.

Kira said...

OH, I have been thinking and thinking about this post for two days now.
I agree with you - emphatically - but there is a limit to this too, is there not? 99% of religious expression should be internal, should be the struggle to hold oneself to the standard of your faith. But then again, so much good HAS been done in the world because of people's religious convictions (I'm not saying ONLY good has been done. Gracious). For example, many of the abolitionists were driven by their belief in people as inherently valuable creations, made in the image of God.
I don't know. Your point here is central to my belief system. Beam in my own eye, and all that. But it's more complicated than that, too.

Anonymous said...

Your insights are so much more helpful and brilliant than anything I could articulate. The only two I came up with on the long drive back and forth out of state today (technically yesterday) to attend one of my best childhood friend's mother's funeral don't even touch this. However, she is definitely the ideal type of person you describe here. She was a very private woman but she did so much good with her life. My friend and her sister grew up to be thoughtful, intelligent women and she was such a fantastic mother to them. Her service was at a church that she attended and was very active in during her life. I was completely blown away by all she did there and you'd never know. It was beautiful to hear about these things and remember her.

Lucy said...

full heartedly AGREE.

Swistle said...

Kira- Oh, definitely, it's complicated! Religious or not, there are many times we DO interfere with other people's behavior. We don't allow someone to murder someone else, for example, with all of us standing back saying "Well, we should just make sure we're living our OWN lives right."

I find it helpful to separate religion out of the equation, to see what's what. Using your example of abolitionism: Because there was nothing in a holy book like "Abolish slavery in the U.S. in the 1800s" (and in fact the Bible is okay with slavery, except in the case of the Jews), and because people are able to regard other people as valuable without adding "because they were created by God," people had to come to their own conclusions about slavery. And so there were religious people both for and against abolitionism, and non-religious people both for and against abolitionism.

So it wasn't that this was a time when people were justified in making other people conform to their own religious beliefs; it was instead a regular social issue where people on both sides could find religious support for their views if they wanted it.

For me this takes out some of the complicatedness of it.

Susanica said...

Okay, I love this. But I keep thinking about the Christian zeal to Evangelize. Do you know what word is smack dab in the middle of the word EvANGELize? Yes, it's angel. And dang if so many people think that they are being angels on earth spreading their messages.

I once read a quote where the person said "I'd rather see a sermon than listen to one any day". Imagine, just seeing someone living their own life to their own conscience. Not just standing up there on a pulpit telling me I have to do what they say.

Thanks for (as always) providing such provocative food for thought. Have a wonderful day and keep up the great blogging! -Monica

carrie said...

You are genius. Swistle for President! (Although, I like you...so I wouldn't wish that job on you!)