Sunday, March 30, 2008

When I die, hallelujah

This song (from the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou) was on my mp3 player going in to work Friday morning.
Some bright morning when this life is o'er
I'll fly away
To that home on God's celestial shore
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, o glory,
I'll fly away in the morning
When I die, hallelujah by and by,
I'll fly away.

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I'll fly away

Oh, how glad and joyful when we meet
I'll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I'll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then,
I'll fly away
To a land where joy shall never end,
I'll fly away
This song ... I like it. Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss do a wonderful job singing - their harmony is beautiful and the accompaniment is simple and effective. But the words... they really capture what is the creepiest thing about Christianity: the wishing to die.

I understand that to a large extent Christianity is in fact a "pie in the sky by and by" religion, one that promises that all the injustices of life will be rectified in death. The good will go to heaven and be with Jesus, regardless of how they suffered on earth, and the bad will go to hell, regardless of how good they had it here. For all that it (transparently, it seems to me) thus encourages people to be content with what they have and not try for more - to keep their eye on the prize and their heart in the next life - to the benefit of those running things here, it does offer genuine comfort (based on a fable, perhaps, but still genuine) to those who truly have nothing here and no way to get it. It's a wonderful religion for slaves.

That perhaps it would be better for there to be no slaves is a different argument - Christianity since the Epistles of Paul has taught slaves to be quiet and bear their slavery in the "sure and certain hope of the resurrection" when they will be saints in heaven. And if you have to be a slave, perhaps it's better to believe that someday things will be better. After you're dead... Then you and your loved ones will live "where joy shall never end".

But it's a philosophy that achieves its effect by devaluing this precious life - the only one we have - and making it something that is worthless in itself. It doesn't just say that after we die things will be better; it says that only after we die will anything have any value at all.

We already know, as Christopher Brookmyre puts it, that "there's a fine line between imagining someone's eternal soul is condemned and thinking their earthly life is worthless." But it's worse. This philosophy condemns as worthless the earthly lives of those whose souls are going to heaven.

Listen to those words: When I die, hallelujah by and by. No wonder the Church has to make suicide a mortal sin. Who, truly believing that, wouldn't want to die?

Who, believing that, could really care about anything but death?

It's true, most Christians aren't that focused on it. But every time I listen to that song, chills run down my spine.



At 3:55 PM, March 31, 2008 Blogger Ordinary Girl had this to say...

It's true though that the impressionable could take it the wrong way.

At 4:16 PM, March 31, 2008 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Yes indeed - and they have. Parents have killed their children to make sure they went to heaven.

They're not supposed to, but you have to wonder why more don't. If they really believe.

At 5:03 AM, May 29, 2009 Anonymous Anonymous had this to say...

Dear Ridger,

You teach Russian and Ukrainian. That is great! I am a Ukrainian who lives in Russia and teaches English! WHo knows, perhaps, we have a lot in common in addition to that? Here is what I mean: having looked at some of your comments, I thought that many people do not believe in Christian message because what they hear about it is not the message itself, but its distortions, some or other. At least, so was with me for a long time. I lived in a Communist state and thought religion was against science, favored slavery, etc. But one day I read the New Testament for myself, without any commentaries added, and was astonished. How could anyone not believe that? I had always felt and knew that this was the way we are supposed to live! Among many other things I discovered that the Bible is not against evolution and does not teach that the earth is flat (Isaiah 40:22 "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth"; or Job 26:7 "he suspends the earth over nothing.") Certainly, some people in the Medieval church taught that. And you know, the reason for this was that the church wanted to look "scientific" - it tried to combine the best theory about the space available at that time with what the Bible taught! But history demonstrated it was a mistake. Why should we "step the same rakes" again? Today evolution is the theory, but who knows whether it will survive the day? There are at least some indications that it won't. At least not the way it is taught now. Being a Christian, I also believe in modified evolution - in the limits of a genus as demonstrated the sipmle fact of multiple human races. But even Darvin never intended it to explain the way life as such appeared! As far as I know, ye said that the evolution's chain's first link is attached to God's throne...


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