January 1: “Good News”
I hope the New Year is treating you well so far. While I’m not much for making New Year’s resolutions, I do go to great pains to be a man of my word. After losing a friendly gentlemen’s wager, I’m now committed to reviewing the Jesus Daily Devotional book you were kind enough to send my way.
So… let’s start at the very beginning with January 1, titled“Good” News. I use quotations around the word “Good” because I’m frankly not sure whether the author gave this title in sincerity or as satire. First, the supplied verse of the day, which I’ve transposed from the New Living Translation below:
Verse Of The Day: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
Well, I’m sorry, but I absolutely refuse to “belong” to anyone, not even my spouse or my parents. Such a wish is that of a broken slave or a child unwilling to grow up, not a liberated freethinker. Likewise, I am actually quite content with this “old life” I have, thank you very much. As empty and flawed as much of the Bible (and many of its salesmen) may wish to have me to believe, I am actually quite thankful for the many trials, tribulations, and tragedies that have been woven the fabric of my life – including my many years as a devout Christian. I don’t have to praise God for these hurdles in order to be thankful for their impact on my life. Do I have regrets? Of course! But, to wish for my “old life” to be gone and forgotten would be a form of selficide that should hold no interest to any thinking human with a shred of personal responsibility. Additionally, if I were interested in a “new life,” my first active step might be to read a book, take a class, learn a skill, or work to overcome a barrier that stands in my way. This is quite different from hoping that a magic feather will do the work for me.
Themes Of The Day: To quote the book, “There’s really only one thing that can transform us. The Grace of God is freely given… we only have to ask our Father to forgive us.” Those two words appear a few times in various forms throughout the three short paragraphs of today’s devotional; freely, and forgiveness.
On the most basic level I might ask how it is that we are supposed to know about this “grace” that is so “freely” given? Because it is written in a book? What about all of those people of generations and geographies that never had a chance to hear this “good” news? Some grace, eh? That said, I’ll speak rhetorically as if God has somehow made this offer more publicly available than through a human sacrifice in front of illiterate followers wandering the Middle East two millenia ago.
I am not surprised that these very common
evangelism sales tactics are used on the first page of this book, written by a man that is also well versed in similar tricks and gimmicks used to sell everything from anti-aging cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and diet fads. The pitch made above certainly sounds like a late night infomercial, doesn’t it? “This amazing product can be yours 100% free! All you gotta do is…”
So, let me ask you this: if God’s “grace” (as the author calls it) is so freely given, why does it require any action on our part at all? It is free or isn’t it? Why wouldn’t an all knowing, all powerful, all loving God with such a capacious heart just be inclined to give as freely as any volunteer gives of their own time and talents at their local soup kitchen every week? How is to just so much easier for mere humans to show such moral superiority above and beyond this God to whom we are asked to bow our heads in hopes of conditional love.
But, more importantly – what is all this talk of forgiveness? Why would I ask God to forgive me for actions or “sins” that I may have committed against my fellow man? Is this just yet another way to shuck any personal responsibility over how I treat others and the world around me? How could God release me from responsibilities with my fellow man to whom I owe an apology? This is simply an immoral and unethical teaching.
Or, is this all just Christian code, implying the idea of “original sin” for which I am to be blamed after a stranger ate the wrong piece of fruit thousands of years ago in a garden of talking serpents? Again, utter nonsense, as I can not take responsibility for another person’s actions, and will not be asked to do so. Likewise, if the author (in keeping with Christianity’s tradition of emotional blackmail) is suggesting that I need to ask forgiveness for Christ “paying the price” for my “sins” by dying on the cross for little old me, me, me – let me just remind you – I wasn’t even there when a troubled apocalyptic preacher was sentenced to death for sedition and neither were you! If I had been, I would have certainly done my best to stop the insanity! Unfortunately, I wasn’t there and because of this I simply won’t be held accountable for matters that allegedly took place thousands of years ago. You may call this a “hardened heart,” but I call it… basic damn logic. Whether the sin of eating forbidden fruit or human sacrifice on a crucifix – I wasn’t there, don’t blame me, leave me out of it! See? That was easy – no forgiveness necessary.
Of course, this all gets at the heart of one of the fundamental evils rooted deeply into the basic core of Christianity: even before you were born, you were guilty, only to grow into a worthless sinner who needs to
ask beg for forgiveness for having the audacity to even be alive. But this is the “Good News” the author want to start the year off with? Rrrriiiigghhhtttt… I don’t think so, not for me.
Short Secular Alternative: You aren’t broken. You aren’t worthless. You weren’t born already guilty of acts committed by others. Whether you like it or not, the “Good News” is that your life is your own. The “bad” news is that you really are responsible for your own life; not just your past failures, but also your future successes. So… get out there and make it count by leaving the world a little better than you found it!
I have so much more to say about the three troubling paragraphs that make up the first day’s devotion, but alas… my glass is now empty. I would have completed the daily “interactive” segment of the page by posting a picture to the Jesus Daily Facebook page that depicts how God’s “grace” makes me feel, but sadly, I was banned a couple of years ago for politely asking if they were aware that one of the stories they were sharing was a well-proven internet hoax. (Which was share from their page by over 25,000 fans.)
P.S. – My apologies for the length of this first post. I’m sure future devotions won’t require nearly as much of my scorn. ;-)
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