I Don’t Always Question a Person’s Belief System, But When I do, I Blog About it.

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photo(7)My friends and family should understand by now that anything they say, post, or otherwise assert can be considered excellent fodder for my religious relativism in this age of facebook pontification and subsequent bludgeoning blog postings.

I saw this question in my newsfeed this morning as I drank my first cup of coffee:

“How many of you would shave time off the years of your life if it meant you could give those years to a loved one? I know I would.”

Little did I know the questioner didn’t want a discussion or even an answer, but merely validation and recognition for claiming to do what she felt would be selfless and noble.  I’ve logged onto faceBook now for six years and the increasing number of redundant, banal, and thoughtless posts have made me somewhat of a troll, I guess. I find myself vacillating between deactivating my account in disgust and challenging another’s entire belief system. I chose the latter today. I couldn’t help myself.  I felt an overwhelming urge to really see what someone is thinking, but come to find out, it was nothing, really. The individual just wanted to post a thoughtless, random comment.  But my reply sent up some sort of Christian bat-signal from among the person’s friends list. Down like vultures they came, ready to rebuke me in the name of Jesus for even daring to challenge their belief system.

My issue with the question is this:  What the person asked was abstract when in all likelihood none of us will ever be called upon to actually shorten our lives for another.  It instantly renders the question meaningless, as it is impossible. Now, had she asked specific questions, such as, “Would you give up a kidney? Would you give up all your money or possessions?” then one could honestly answer.

But her question requires us to measure our love for another—a bizarre request, I think. To answer in the affirmative, “Oh, I would,” then places the respondent in a position of false superiority (or dare I say, false piety, if he makes such a claim in any sort of religious context). One can say “Yes” because he or she isn’t really being tested, as the question is purely hypothetical and impossible, making it easy to take a “feel good” stance over…whom? Those who choose not to measure true love in such abstract terms? If one answers “No,” then does no love exist? Or is that love somehow lessened; measured, thus rendering the question as purely self-serving, as well as impossible?  Would I shorten my life, for example, to prolong the life of my aging, dying aunt whom I adore, leaving my own little girl motherless? No, I would not.  Would I shorten it to save my daughter, again leaving her motherless? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to believe I could end her suffering or prolong her life by ending mine. But what immense grief am I leaving behind?  If a gunman entered my home and told me to choose between fatally shooting her or me, what would I say?   That’s honestly hard to say.  For her to witness that sort of tragedy, to then be left alone with said murderer, is possibly not a better alternative.  I have no idea what I would be leaving behind.

The manner in which the question was phrased would have me answering “no.”  And what about leaving behind a grieving spouse, not to mention motherless children? Suddenly what she intended as an act of self-sacrifice has become self-serving, and less than noble.

Many who brought down the fire and brimstone on my line of questioning were Christians who follow the “Let go and Let God” and “God has a plan” reasoning.  The former is merely a way of letting us off the hook when it comes to being responsible or taking action with our lives and decisions and the latter is an insensitive, yet handy way to deal with most tragedies. If god were the one asking a believer to do so, then he or she then worships a god who would ask him to possibly leave behind children, a grieving spouse, and friends in order to do his whimsical bidding.  The request is nothing short of cruel. Has the believer considered the lives she changed because of her doing something so noble? But if one not acting on god’s authority (and as Christians, you must assume none of us are), then offered to give her life, is she not then interfering with his god’s plan?  She can’t possibly know what that plan is, nor can she be certain if her god even has a plan.  It’s a big no-no in the Christian community to interfere with god’s “plans,” by the way.  The post was a feel-good post to get immediate validation and thoughtless affirmative answers with the real objective being one of superficial, self-imposed moral superiority.  I don’t think in abstract terms and I jumped at an opportunity for discussion.

Facebook has done a lot to cheapen religion, which for many is sacred, precious, and valuable, reducing it to judgmental, condescending one-liners and bumper sticker philosophies.  Has facebook theology become the new wonder drug?  If one is feeling low, should he simply get in touch with his facebook Jesus, post a random bible verse or profession of faith, and watch as his popularity soars as his facebook friends witness his public display of religious devotion?  One could actually pray privately, go to church, or  practice the teachings of Christ in any number of anonymous ways, but that is so…1995! We are busy in the new millennium. Besides, no one will see it.

Instead of a meaningless promise of the impossible or creating a painful chain of events—instead of saying, “I’d die for you,” why not say “I’ll be the best mother, daughter, friend, spouse I can possibly be for you”?  Those are real promises we can actually keep.

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4 responses »

  1. This is an intriguing treatment and point of view. I love that you’re employing critical thinking and questioning what is presented. I too share your frustration over the oversimplifications often found on Facebook when it comes to matters of actual importance and complexity. I had wanted to use Facebook and Twitter as discussion forums, but encouraging deep conversation in these media have proved to be more than challenging.

    • It makes me wonder where it is people are discussing anything. Schools, colleges, and the workplace discourage discussion, introspection, and challenging most established thought in the form of debate or discussion. If they do, they adhere to stifling and strict formulas so no real thought or discussion occurs.

  2. I agree with both of you on the superficial nature of facebook posts, along with urge to react to them. This was a well constructed piece and I enjoyed reading it and while doing so, my mind wondered towards a corollary, Do we not, as parents mostly but friends too, take on the troubles of others and through that stress, shorten our own lives? Do we, in essence, give a bit of ourselves to each friend we make, and could that gift be a few days off our own calendar? I guess one could also make the argument that we get a few days back when we lean on our own friends, so maybe its a moot point. So maybe the simple answer to the question is, “yes, I’ll be the best mother, daughter, friend, spouse I can possibly be for you and in the process, we will swap days on each others calendar”?

    • As simplistic as it sounds, I think we enrich our lives by sacrificing time and energy for others during our lives. We are so eager to die for others that we forget it’s better we live for them. What good are we to others if we’re dead?

      Mary Flanagan }l{

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