The Quakers so named themselves because they wanted to display their fear of God. Christians are supposed to believe that humans are infected with Original Sin.
Yet many a modern human imagines himself standing before God placidly: unshackled, uncuffed, standing upright: as though the human were reasonable, had successfully posted bail, wasn’t going to run off and hide even before the charges could be read. In this scenario the Christian has already judged himself, and his culture, to be a peer of God: imagined God to be something powerful, and just, justly sentient, but not any enemy of a keptocrat: the human almost God’s peer.
My girlfriend Jan and I just watched the movie of Steven King’s The Green Mile together. Tom Hanks plays “Paul”: a man who had been a prison guard in the Depression, a guard on death row. Into the prison comes one John Coffey, condemned for the rape and murder to two girls. Actually the reader/audience learns, John Coffey is a healer, a miracle worker. He was found with the dead girls on his lap by people ready for a lynching, too self-absorbed to realize that Coffey had tried (but failed) to bring the dead girls back to life. It was Wild Bill, another resident of this green last mile, who’d raped and murdered them. Paul learns the truth. Paul sees clearly that the justice system, which employs him, and has scheduled the execution of John Coffey, will not see the truth. The guards, the warden … the condemned, they’re all helpless before the society’s hubris. The human society, with its justice system, is flawed, is wrong, and is too self-complacent to abide any of God’s warnings in the Bible about Judgment being God’s province.
Jan was experiencing The Green Mile for the first time. She didn’t know the book, has never read any Steven King, and had never encountered the movie. I’ve read the book at least a couple of times, and was seeing the movie again: at least a second time, possibly a third. I revere the novel: and like the movie too. I think King is a great writer, of many more than a few great novels, and that in The Green Mile he was way at the top of his game.
But this time King’s Paul’s imagining himself, and the Christian faith, and American civilization, as blandly ready for Judgment, on its own two feet, not chained, shacked, not cowering or flinching, is offensive to me.
And Quakers too are offensive to me: Quakers these days. And Cathlic priests. Doesn’t anybody believe in Original Sin any more? Paul’s position, any position but the Quakers, is, by tradition, blasphemy.
But never mind belief: doesn’t anyone see how dishonest we are? how stupid? how utterly unfit to hold the keys to anything?
Now: I make judgments. I don’t doubt that I’ll be judging God and Judgment and the same time he’s judging me!
If at Judgment God demonstrates to me that his epistemology is superior to mine, that I’m wrong, then I hope I’ll yield: take what ever is coming, won’t need to be shackled.
Christians imagine God and Jesus to be interchangeable in this scenario. I do, or I don’t, depending.
Here I don’t: God judges Jesus. Here I do imagine Jesus standing unshackled, ready to face Judgment, unflinching. Here I am imagining Jesus as a messenger of God, who tried to communicate certain truths to man, and got railroaded for his trouble. Here it’s the civilization which is in trouble, not the failed messenger.
Good. Now: I imagine myself standing without need for shackles for the same reason. I too tried to communicate certain truths to man, and got railroaded. I don’t mean when I was arrested, mistried, jailed, sentenced … I mean from boyhood on. The whole culture, church, school, daily business, is a conspiracy against truth, sense, survival, Jesus, God: against wedding sentiens to evolution.
But how about anyone else? If Jesus can stand before God, can I really too? Would God shackle me just to be sure? How many others will God leave unshackled? You? Obama? the Pope?
Will the FBI be unshackled? the CEO of Citibank?
Or should we relearn from the Quakers?
You know, I’ve been to Quaker meetings. I saw all the Quakers believing that they could just stand up in meeting, say what ever they liked. In other words, I saw them as utterly unconscious dishonest self-blind, group-blind near-morons. I saw them as I see my class mates from the 7th grade, in our rehearsal for democracy. We were invited to nominate a party. Some kid said “Republican,” some other kid seconded, some other kid said “Democrat,” some other kid seconded: Joe said “Communist!” I said, “Second!” And we were promptly sent to the principal’s office! The class that remained in class remained mum on the incident. It wasn’t in the paper that evening, it wasn’t in the paper the next morning. It wasn’t mentioned at our graduation five years later. No, Americans went on with the brainwashing, mislabeling it, pretending to believe it.
Will my class mates need shackles before God?
Maybe not; but only in the sense that cattle, at the abattoir, don’t need shackles. Just drive them out of the car, down one ramp, up another … smash them in the head. And we don’t need any God either. Our innate dishonesty will be quite enough.
Original Sin? No: just plain dishonesty. Makes me quake.
That’s the shackles! No media, noticing the dishonesty! I quake some more.
I’d told my class elections story at K. I retold it at InfoAll, now I refer to it here: but I just thought of something not mentioned in those earlier accounts: Joe and I were sent to the principal’s office, but no principal ever scolded us, lectured us, reprimanded us, disciplined us. After a while we were sent back to class: after the mock-democratic pseudo-elections were over. There was no judge at this judgment.
What if God is the same as the school, as the principle? What if Judgment is just another lie in the kleptocrats’ co-option of law? Big Brother sends trouble makers off to Judgment, then remixes them with the prison population, population not protesting their removal, not remarking their return?
I repeat: the result is the same. The truth is the truth whether we talk about science, God, the Tao, or Allah. If our species is sustainable, then maybe we’ll endure. If society, dishonest or not, is a survival positive, then maybe we’ll continue to be around, dishonest or not.
Still: I like to believe, though of course I can’t prove, that the truth counts: that nothing counts much without it.
It may matter to a society whether people believe in god, whether the society has a grade-able epistemology, but it can’t matter top the truth. Can it? Could truth (like the Jews’ God, the Christians’ God, the Muslims’ God) be biased?!