Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Postscript to Yesterday's Post

It occurs to me that some would question my assertion that it's more important to be a good person than a Christian or a Jew. Let me rephrase this. There is a certain spark of inner honesty, of inner integrity, that must ignite any honest sense of responsibility toward a Higher Power. I call that spark "goodness." And it must exist within an individual before he or she can even reach out in faith to God -- or even seek God.

Was that spark first kindled by God? Of course it was. But some people let that spark go out. The odd thing is that a lot of them call themselves good, religious people.

Organized religion has incorporated a lot of hocus-pocus and abracadabra in its dealings with its subjects. I suppose such stuff might help certain people grow closer to God (hey, whatever works), but it drives far more away from "Him." Christian faith, for example, becomes a matter of praying the right little prayer or reciting the right creed, instead of the deepest and truest part of you responding to God's desire to connect in relationship.

Unfortunately, those in whom the spark has gone out witness "good religious people" in whom the same thing has occurred, and they see -- well, what the heck do you THINK they see? They see only hocus-pocus and abracadabra. No wonder there are so many in the world who see no use for religious faith at all.

So yes, being a good person IS a prerequisite for being a Christian. Certainly not in the sense of "being good for goodness sake" (as in, the prerequisite for relationship with Santa Claus) or of "earning one's own salvation" -- which we know is impossible. But the spark of divine recognition that our Creator first placed within us, at the very least, must yet remain aglow within us.

When Jesus spoke of "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" as the one sin which was beyond forgiveness, I truly believe that letting this little flame go out was that of which He spoke. Or, more hopefully, perhaps He meant this to pertain to those who, once the flame had been extinguished, never let it be rekindled. I hope He meant the latter, because that would mean that at least some still have a chance.

If there are many all around us in whom that essential pilot-light has gone out, then it is entirely up to those of us in whom it remains to do the rekindling. We do that by taking from our own and sharing it with them. Those "good religious people" who have no pilot-light of their own have nothing to share with anyone else except empty rhetoric.

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" is usually dismissed as a fluffy little childrens' song, fit only for being sung in Sunday school over cookies and punch. Perhaps we have shortchanged it. The message it imparts, if we will but let it, touches the very treasure-filled depth of the Gospel itself.


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