Walk by faith, wherever your faith lies.

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I love Maclean’s magazine. I’ve been a subscriber for years. A flip through any issue yields a number of interesting, well-written pieces on a wide range of topics. Recently, an article appeared in Maclean’s called “Did Jesus really exist?” The article was centred around the work of Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar. I read it, wondering if there might be anything new on the subject. There wasn’t. Alot was said about the concepts of false memory, social memory, and the fact that tales grow in the telling. The children’s party game of telephone was mentioned to illustrate how a message can change each time it is repeated. Apparently, there are some dates that don’t line up, and there is some confusion over whether Jesus’ death warrant was signed by Pontius Pilate or King Herod. Some of the gospel accounts differ on a few details, or focus on different parts of Jesus’ life. The apostle Paul’s lack of interest in the life of Jesus is mentioned to support the idea that he never really existed. There is a possibility that some of the documents supporting Jesus’ existence were forged by zealous early Christians.

Basically, the same things people have been saying for years – and the same things people could say about many famous ancient figures. Ramses, Homer, Confucius, Plato, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Genghis Kahn, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, William Shakespeare …. How do we really know any of them existed? If they did, how do we know they really did what we think they did? Oral memory is sketchy. Forgeries are possible. Not all historians agree on what happened and when. Shall we use this to drum them out of the annals of history, or will we keep telling stories about them? Does every detail matter? A human being is not simply a superbly designed machine. There is head – and there is heart. There is more to this life than what we can see.

We struggle to quantify and prove what is important, and we demand evidence of everything – but it’s never been so easy to forge everything. Photographic evidence isn’t even reliable anymore, thanks to technology that can seamlessly blend images and change any detail of any picture – and filters that convincingly mimic many different time periods. Statistics show that more and more of us see ourselves as secular and cynical. Yet, we live in an era in which we are increasingly walking by faith and praying for miracles – whether we know it or not. We’re a global village, and the next pandemic or terrorist attack is always just around the corner. Some very unstable people have access to weapons that could destroy us all if they ever decide to use them. Our planet is heating up and drying out. Many of us are plagued by anxiety, and feel like we’re not safe anywhere. Yet we make a daily decision to walk out the door into uncertainty. We keep making art and poetry and music and plans for the future – and babies.

Why? Because we are believers even when we don’t know what we believe in. Because we have decided to keep walking, however dark the path ahead. At the core of all of us, though it may not be acknowledged or even recognised, there is faith. Faith in science, faith in humanity, faith in ourselves, faith in love – and, for some of us, faith in Jesus. Did he exist? Does he, as Christian tradition teaches, still exist? I’m not going to try to prove anything or persuade anyone. I’m just going to give my opinion. Partly because this is a subject dear to my heart, and partly because I just love giving my two cents to everyone on everything all the time. I have chosen to believe he does exist. I feel his presence whenever I talk to him. I see his face in the faces of everyone I love. I see his hands in the kindness people show each other in times of trouble – in Mister Rogers’ oft-referenced helpers. I hear his voice urging me to push through my fear and keep going, to share what I have, to reach out to others who need a friend, to show love to people who have none for me. I use the stories of Jesus to guide me when my faith is low or I don’t know what to do. When I’m disappointed in myself, I remember that he knows me well and loves me anyway, and that his grace is freely given to me every day in the form of second, third, tenth chances – and I forgive myself because he does. Whatever does that for you, whatever gets you though the frightening, beautiful mess of being alive, hold onto it. You don’t need proof that it exists, and you don’t need experts to agree with you. People can speculate all they like on whether he’s real – he’s real to me, my faith in him compels me forward no matter what I have to walk through, and that’s enough for me. Happy Easter, whatever you believe!

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Cause of death: Stupidity

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Last week, on my way home from dropping Ryan off at work, and Fiona and Bridget off at school, a car seemingly appeared out of nowhere and loomed in my rear window. I nervously increased my speed to make some space between us. This was unnecessary, as the car proceeded to shoot sideways into the right lane and roar past me. I like a good gander at a lunatic as much as the next person, so I glanced to my right. The driver was – of course – blabbering away on his cell. Not cupped close to his head surreptitiously, either, but shamelessly brandished about a foot away from his mouth like a bloody microphone. I watched in helpless horror as he ran a red light (nearly taking out a pedestrian) and faded from sight. If he dies driving that way – or, worse, kills someone else – the cause of death will have to be listed as “stupidity”. No matter what measures are introduced, and there have been many, some people still insist on chatting on their hand-held device while driving. Here in Ontario, the minimum fine is $400, and three demerit points are applied to your driving record. But that guy – and others I see daily – still want to yack and drive. For an extra dollop of stupid, there are people who text and drive. At least during a phone call your eyes are still on the road …. You can always tell who’s texting while driving because they are slow to react to everything and their eyes are fixed firmly on their lap.

This irritates me, and reminds me of the darkly entertaining Darwin Awards. Basically, these are tongue-in-cheek awards posthumously presented to people who’ve managed to remove themselves from the gene pool in breathtakingly stupid ways. And there are alot of stupid ways to die. Walking and texting …. right into oncoming traffic and open manholes, right off bridges and cliffs. There is now a Wikipedia page dedicated to people who are injured or die while taking selfies. Apparently, last year, more people were killed by selfie attempts than shark attacks. Selfies with guns, selfies on train tracks, selfies perched perilously on cliffs during storms …. People are trampled to death in pursuit of cheap electronics on Black Friday. Every year during the Stoning of the Devil in Mina, people are stoned, too – and crushed. According to the Washington Post, tens of thousands of people are killed by guns in America every year, whether accidentally or intentionally. Yet many Americans loudly and proudly defend their right to own and use any number of any type of guns. Not just the loopy ones no one listens to, either …. This is the Christmas greeting sent out by Michele Fiore, Republican and elected member of the Nevada Assembly:

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Merry ducking Christmas, everyone! (See what I did there? Fine. I made myself laugh, anyway.)

In 2015, two people were shot by toddlers. Yes, toddlers. Thirteen toddlers killed themselves, and more injured themselves or others. I guess gun-lovers love their guns so much they don’t ever want to put them away (or even employ the safety catch). In fact, the story that inspired today’s BethBlog rant is about a woman shot by her four-year-old son. In a karmic twist, Jamie Gilt is a high-profile pro-gun activist who has already introduced her son to target shooting with a .22. Two days ago, she was driving with two things in the back seat: her son and a loaded .45 semi-automatic. The boy picked up the gun, aimed at his mother and shot her in the back through the driver’s seat. It looks like she’ll live, and her son (thankfully) was unharmed. Less than a month ago, Gilt posted the following on her Facebook page:

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I guess now she needs to consider whether she needs an extra gun to protect herself from the child she is protecting with her gun.

A peek at the top causes of death in Canada in recent years reveals that we’re really good at killing ourselves slowly, too. Heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, accidents and diabetes are numbers 2 through 6 (respectively). Yet people still keep eating like a fat man in a circus. People still smoke like chimneys and drink like fish. We know that we should wear seatbelts and helmets, that we should look before we cross, that we should leave space between ourselves and the car in front of us …. but how many of us do that every time? We have vaccines, but not all of us use them. Some people operate daycares that are only for the unvaccinated. Or, as I call them, petri dishes with no lids. Years of people using antibiotics incorrectly has resulted in a number of resistant strains of bacteria – superbugs. A surprising number of travellers ignore advisories and happily jaunt off to hotspots, then come home in enclosed spaces with recycled air to ignore quarantine recommendations. Some of us put our faith in quack medicine rather than science, sometimes with tragic results. For example, Alberta couple David and Collet Stephan are currently on trial for allowing their toddler son to die of meningitis rather than seek medical care for him (of course, they didn’t have him vaccinated, because vaccines do not grow on trees or fall from the sky in rain drops. Amazingly enough, water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horse radish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root did nothing to improve his condition. They called an ambulance only after little Ezekiel stopped breathing. These idiots have three other children. Let’s hope they never suffer from more than a common cold, lest they become victims of stupidity-by-proxy, too. Most of us continue to buy huge quantities of mass-produced junk that is bleeding the planet dry of everything we need to live. We’ve been talking about the depletion of earth’s clean, drinkable water for decades; yet, selfish assholes still keep pouring it down the drain for the love of clean decks and cars, and green grass.

There really isn’t anything special about those shirts that say “I’m with stupid”. Because, these days, we’re all with stupid. It’s really just a matter of what kind of stupid is going to be listed on our death certificate ….

Disclaimer: No, I am not perfect. Sometimes I am very stupid, myself. I just hope it doesn’t kill me because then people will throw this blog post all over the internet and the headlines will say “blogger blogged about stupidity then died of it”. Then again, who can resist a shot at being famous? Hmmm ….