I was having a conversation with one of my coworkers yesterday about religion. He’s Jewish, and this week, he is celebrating Passover. As we stood in the dusty warehouse, with the shafts of light illuminating the dust from high above, he told me that for him, it’s not about religion. It’s about tradition. It’s about remembering where he came from and why he celebrates.
I’m not religious – not really. The best I could probably do is to say I’m a Christian-leaning Agnostic. I have too much history with religion to ever want to commit myself to one again, but I’m not ruling out the existence of God or a higher power. I think that man-made religion is full of corruption and hurt. I think most of it is created to lord it over someone else. It makes it hard for me to want to be part of that. That being said, however, I know a lot of people within those religious traditions who are striving to make a difference. The splashes of golden sunshine on an otherwise dirty stream.
But I agreed with my coworker when he said that tradition, and history, and family, are a big reason why I still gravitate towards religious festivals and traditions. We all want to belong. We all want to have something that makes us feel whole. And the other thing he mentioned was that it’s getting harder and harder to tie the old stories into modern life. There isn’t a point of reference. It explains why so many of us find it hard to relate to religious tradition.
Good Friday was the day that Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of the world. But as I look around the Christian world, I find myself disappointed. People who participate in Lent are still missing the point of the sacrifice – it was just a fun 40 days to give up something. People who will celebrate Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus this Sunday haven’t really pinpointed why Jesus sacrificed himself for us at all. It’s not about the constant struggle to get to heaven. It’s about a fresh start. He did it so that we would realize how we hurt others (and God) by our sins, and remember that he died so that we wouldn’t have to continue down the same path. This is known as being saved by Grace.
I can go over the Biblical story of the Resurrection, but to me, the sacrifice was less about religion and sadness and more about representation. Because Jesus isn’t the only one who sacrificed for the greater good. And so today, I choose to remember the other human beings who, with a little bit of divinity, or morality, or whatever you want to call it, sacrificed themselves in order to better the human condition.
I choose to think about those who, every day, die in horrible situations, often at the hands of religious zealots, because of who they are or what they’ve said. The many LGBTQ people who have died or been turned away because of who they are, by religion. The people who were considered less-than because of their race or culture, kept as slaves, raped, and humiliated because of religion. Those who go to worship a God who, by the words of religion, will never accept them, will never love them. Those who go, anyway, to sacrifice their own humility in order to find meaning and belonging, even in a situation where the most they will get is pure judgement.
I can’t join a religious tradition because I think we’ve lost our way when it comes to the compassion, sacrifice, and representation that Jesus Christ exhibited. I can’t join a religious tradition because I am one of those lowly, dirty outcasts in society, accepted by those who are just like me, and hated by those who say they love Jesus.
But I do meditate on the state of Grace that Christ left us with when he was crucified today. I can relate it to our modern-day situation. And in my heart, I’m humbled. I still believe, despite everything, that whether He was divine or not, Jesus sacrificed himself for the greater good of all.
In that, I guess I can’t get away from religion, after all.