Monday, December 9, 2013

"Misquoting Jesus" and "The Rich and the Rest of Us"

In honor of "Spiritual Awareness Month", I've been listening to the audiobook Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman in my car on my way to and from work. I was raised Methodist by my mother. After many years of agonizing over potential eternal damnation, I am longer a Christian. I consider myself Taoist.

As it turns out, I was never a very good Christian, even as a church-goer, since I never believed - it was never impressed on me to believe - that Jesus was (or is, if you wish) in any way divine. I had always accepted him as a fully human, divinely inspired and enlightened teacher. I may have been given this impression by my father, who never, ever accompanied my mother, brother, and me to church, but I don't recall it ever being contradicted by my mother, a former Catholic, who seemed to me to have rejected that whole Trinity thing. God was God, Jesus was Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was just something you said in prayer. From Misquoting Jesus I have learned that many early Christians believed and worshiped similarly, and were subsequently stomped out by the Orthodoxy. (I always knew I was born in the wrong era.)

I may or may not have mentioned here before that I very nearly earned a degree in Comparative Religions. (I ran out of money and had to be content with Asian Studies and Creative Writing as majors and Japanese as my minor.) I took several religious study and philosophy classes in college and still very much enjoy religious study. Despite no longer being a Christian, I think Christianity is my favorite religion to study, probably because Christianity is so popularly used in America to oppress and abuse countless people while expounding itself  as the Groovy Love and Peace religion. Of course, there are all those countless millions throughout history who have been tortured and murdered in Jesus' name, as well, may they rest in peace. A most contradictory religion if I ever saw one.

While Misquoting Jesus is going in my car, on my breaks and in a few stolen moments before and after work, I am reading the physical book The Rich and the Rest of Us by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, and it really has been going along well with Jesus quite nicely given his messages of helping the poor. The authors bring up Christian charity, and the lack there-of, quite often.

I myself am poor, and I am not afraid or ashamed to say it. As friends West and Smiley repeatedly stress in their beautiful and powerful manifesto, there is empowerment in addressing one's situation. Poverty is a humongous, monumental problem in America that people, and especially politicians, are afraid to talk about. We need to accept it, talk about it, and do something about it! What better time to put it out there than Christmas?

I try to do my small part by visiting click-to-donate sites like Care2 and the Hunger Site. I have an entire blog post devoted to such sites here: How to Donate to Charity When You're Flat Broke. I can't afford to give money out of my own pocket to charities, but the companies and organizations that by advertising space on these sites can, and with every view I give their ads, they donate real money to real charities and causes.

I have also vowed this holiday season to do all of my shopping for presents at locally owned and operated stores as much as possible. I did have to drop by a JoAnn's to pick up some supplies for homemade presents, but they are a chain based out of our neighboring state of Ohio, which is kind of local. I used to make it a point to shop at Borders when I lived in California because it was based in Michigan. If anyone can recommend a local yarn retailer in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, or Canton, that'd be great!

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