Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hedging Bets on God or God Hedging Bets?

I’ve always found it odd that Christian acquaintances from college were also interested in MMA or Mixed Martial Arts. The fact that Jesus says on he says to be peaceful and turn the other cheek and then that he comes not to bring peace, but to bring a sword might be part of that. The argument for a complementary practice of both Christianity and martial arts can work just as well as myself arguing that my more pacifist appearing Buddhist beliefs advocating non-violence can still be squared alongside my practice of martial arts, particularly Wado Ryu Karate Do (Wado Ryu meaning “Peace and Harmony” as I recall) and Tai Chi (well known for being a primarily self defense oriented practice). One can note that both Jesus and Buddha preached a peaceful way of life primarily, though it is not as if they were as one Rich Franklin said, “a metrosexual doing his nails”, though frankly I can’t imagine any Christian or Buddhist suggesting that their spiritual teachers were metrosexuals or giving themselves manicures to begin with. So to clarify the position, one suggests that Jesus and Buddha would both note that there are situations where turning the other cheek would not work and one is compelled to defend themselves, albeit in a compassionate way. Jesus did not condescend himself to the woman found in adultery and Buddha did not berate Devadatta for trying to assassinate him. Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more and Buddha simply told Devadatta that he would suffer in the hell realm for an eon (which makes sense since he not only tried to kill his cousin, but convinced a prince to kill his father and also committed what I would see as probably the lowest ranked of his crimes, breaking up the monastic order for self gain). In both cases, the teachers confronted the problem, but were not obnoxious about it.

To be fair, I am not saying that Rich Franklin and other athletes have no right to privately thank God for their victory or their fortune in some sense. But to publicize it so seems to be taking it the wrong way. It brings up what the article suggests is a larger complex among athletes to use God in relation to their sports in order to evangelize. In suggesting God helped them win, people are then intrigued and desire the good fortune that has befallen the people who pray to God and get victory and fame in return. As humble as some of these athletes would appear, the egocentrism is still there, since the focus is still on their achievements, however much they say they achieve them vicariously through God’s “grace” or whatever they wish to call it. If you want to believe that God has involvement in the cosmos, that’s one thing and you can commune with God as a believer without suggesting that God has individually managed plans for you and the rest of the congregation members at your local church. The view of God that suggests such an individualistic basis of thinking about a personal God’s involvement in the universe and the human realm can inspire self esteem, but that self esteem being derived solely from an outside source can lead to more suffering when one begins to regard God as unfaithful to them or even malevolent in some cases.

If any regard for yourself as a person is contingent on believing that there is a deity that has a special plan for you, then you deserve the suffering that would heap upon you when things don’t go your way and you begin to go down the path of self loathing and depression because you think God’s plan has to involve such Job-like suffering (though I doubt you suffer boils and have your entire immediate family killed in a building collapse, but it’s still a pretty pessimistic and dark view). However beautiful the heaven may be that you believe you will survive your death in, I see little reward in acquiring such an existence through a life where you regarded yourself as little more than God’s puppet or plaything in a game that you were compelled to join in. But like I said, I am not attacking anyone’s right to prayer or belief in God. I just see it as contrary to psychological health to regard the good things in your life as coming from God and not specifying about the bad things or going down the path that suggests they are also from God. In either case, it only tends towards unnecessary stress and unease that you don’t deserve, be you a friend or acquaintance or a complete stranger to me. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

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