Flunking Religion

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:26-27)

I’m really terrible at religion. I’ve tried and tried to pull off the religious thing—really tried—but I always end up blowing it. It’s not the big picture stuff that trips me up. I get the theory of religion pretty well. I know how it’s supposed to go and can give the right answers when called on. What usually screws me up is the practicum part. When it comes down to applied religion, I totally suck.

In just about every religious category (the ones that are graded, anyway) I get really low marks. When it comes to the seven traditional religious virtues, my report card leaves a lot to be desired.

  • Chastity (Abstaining from immoral sexual conduct. Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought and deed.) Yeah, right. Once Jesus upped the ante on the interior life, he nixed my chances of a passing grade. There’s no hiding from the thought police. So busted, man.
  • Temperance (Practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation.) Seriously, you don’t read Our Daily Fred because I’m a paragon of restraint, do you?
  • Charity (Willingness to give. A nobility of thought or actions.) Willing to give what? I’ll give you a piece of my mind; I’ll give you hell; I’ll give you trouble. Otherwise I’m a damned miser, cardboard signs or not.
  • Diligence (Decisive work ethic. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness.) Are you freaking kidding me? I’m sloth incarnate. The only reason I’ve been able to put macaroni and cheese on the table is because I spin myself as a contemplative man of spirit and letters—and because you can fool some of the people some of the time.
  • Patience (Forbearance and endurance.) I’ve got the shortest fuse on the planet. I’ve got no time for jerks, dolts, idiots, imbeciles, fools, morons, jugheads, pinheads, or dipsticks. I throw curses at inanimate objects that hinder my progress. I mutter expletives at anybody or anything that does not meet my needs instantly, including God, the worst offender of all. Don’t even try to use coupons if you’re ahead of me in the checkout line.
  • Kindness (Compassion, friendship, and empathy without prejudice and for its own sake.) The bald truth is that if it doesn’t concern me it doesn’t concern me. I can pretend to care; I can pretend to feel your pain, but the reality is that I’m glad it’s yours and not mine. Friendship is a two-way street bucko. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours. You mess with me and you’re history, baby.
  • Humility (Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self.) If anybody else actually deserved credit, I’d be happy to give it. As it is, the only honest thing I can do is glorify myself. Talk about your Catch-22.

So, as you can see, when it comes to religious standards, I’m pretty much near the bottom of the class. It’s a good thing I’ve adopted the “grace” version of religion which does not require demonstrable religious application. As long as I reject “works” as integral to my salvation, I really have little to worry about as far as the eternal life thing goes. In fact, in the grace version, flunking the practicum gets you bonus points because it demonstrates your understanding of grace. In other words, if you fail at the practicum, you pass the course with flying colors—a loophole in the grading system I exploit to the fullest.

Christianity is such a great religion.

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