Now what shall I write about this week. . . ? Silly question. Of course it’s John 3:16!
You know, you’re always referred to it on those signs you see in the ballparks. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Well that’s all well and good, though why we should want everlasting life I’m not sure (didn’t the Buddha say life was suffering?). Anyhow, let’s read on:
John 3:18 (which you don’t see referred to in the ballparks, but which you may soon) says, “He that believeth in him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Has there always been an immigration ban in heaven too?
My father, who was very well read, used to say that while he appreciated the Eastern views as to religion, he was, in the end, a Westerner. I suppose I am, too, though, at least in my waning years, I find myself more inclined toward the God-within view than the God-without one that comes with confessions, atonement, self-flagellation, and self-righteous thoughts as they relate to nonbelievers.
A Westerner? And yet pretty much all the major religions arose from what Joseph Campbell calls “the nuclear Near East.” Perhaps it’s more apt to say that many of us in the West are Near-Easterners, then, when it comes to religion.
And look at the Near East now, the cradle of civilization, largely in rubble, in ruins. It’s a cruel irony that this was where all those high-minded ideas came from — that — if faithfully observed — would enable us to live as one.
We are one, in fact, as Campbell in his four-volume work on the world’s mythologies points out. It’s all related. There were lots of virgin births, lots of self-introspective retreats and inspiring returns, lots of sacrificial stand-ins, and lots of resurrections. . . .
We are all brothers and sisters — nobody has the inside track, the upper hand.
Life’s a terrible beauty, as Mary (and Yeats, of course) says. Though I think it could be even more beautiful and less terrible if we acted as if we were at home here rather than so estranged.
Heaven can wait.