A few months ago my wife and I were out on a rare night she wasn’t working for dinner and drinks. Usually when it’s just the two of us, our conversations can get pretty interesting. My wife usually enjoys coming up with questions for both of us to answer that range from the superficial, “would you rather have feet for hands, or hands for feet?” to deeper ends of politics, religion, or music. This night in particular stands out to me because she asked, what was meant to be kind of a once off question that has wreaked almost the last six months of my life.
What would you do differently if you actually believed Jesus was coming back?
What. The. Hell.
Here I am, sitting in a Polynesian tiki bar in the middle of Columbus Ohio, drinking a Blue Hawaii and my stomach just drops. This is one of those questions that I have not thought of in years. In fact, I tried to bury it deep, deep down. Here was a question I used to “challenge” people with all the time in my Bible studies. In my experience (although I didn’t realize it at the time), it was the evangelical way of getting someone to feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment that they were not living up to their end of this new covenant they made with Jesus. After all, he died on the cross for their sins, the least they can do in return is be a model citizen and never screw up again! I mean after all, I have been through deconstruction, and have been far along the reconstruction path for quite a while.
And here I am undone by a throw away question while the person who asked it is sipping on a Suffering Bastard.
See, the rare times I get into “theological debates” with my friends who are still waiting on the rapture, they ask me how I can reconcile my current beliefs with the idea that Christ will be coming back at any time. My usual response is, “I live in the everlasting hope of the redemption and reconciliation of all things through Jesus’s resurrection.” They tell me it’s a copout and we go on with another conversation, but the truth is, they are right. My response is a copout. It’s true, and how I feel about things, but it also allows me the luxury to not deal with the harder questions the New Testament asks. Like what to do with the ending of Book of Revelation and the Age to Come. Because I’m still “working things out” I am allowed to sit here and ignore the uncomfortable questions. I fall back on my, “I’m a good person, I lead a fairly good life, etc.” because I know deep down in my soul, I don’t want to answer the question.
Because I am ashamed.
I am ashamed because I tend to hold myself to an unfair, and honestly unrealistic standard. In doing so, I realize that I am trying to make up for lost time instead of allowing myself to be okay with the detours I’ve taken. I am ashamed because I recognize in my answer, all the things I am not doing to get to this standard. So when confronted for a response, I just said I had no idea. I explained how the first thing that went through my mind is evangelism, but, that was only because of my evangelical roots and I feel like that is the answer you “should” say. But six months later here I am, and yesterday I finally thought of it.
If I believed that Jesus was truly coming back, the way I would try to live my life differently, is doing all I could so that the rain and sun would rise and fall on those who do and do not deserve it.
So much of my life has revolved around the argument of, “who’s in/who’s out” and I am honestly sick of it. Life is hard enough without adding our religious litmus test of whether or not they believe just the “right” thing. As long as people are not working toward active harm and oppression, who cares? And those that are, while we need to try and help them see the error of their ways, do they not deserve nourishment? Ought we be better than our theology allows? My answer to the original question is obviously a work in progress, and I really hope I get to the point where I stop thinking about it and start living whatever the final outcome is.