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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's Not a Religion, It's a Lifestyle

I've decided that God is a capitalist. There's just no other explanation for why someone in my neighborhood bought a giant, air-filled snow globe with the Baby Jesus in it as their Christmas decoration this year.

Nothing says "We're religious!" quite like having an inflatable lawn ornament that pelts the Christ child with fake plastic snow bits, let me tell you. I feel diminished in the eyes of the Lord because we don't have one.

Is there something I missed in Sunday School at my Grandpa's church that said driving your car around with one of those fish things on it is a requirement? Or that Jesus loves you more because you wear a gold-plated filagree cross on every available jewelry wearing location? (With the exception of a few piercing locations that might be...erm..less than holy, although that might just be my own inhibition speaking.)

Does God truly get excited when you "Honk If You Are Pro Life," as a bumper sticker read on a Hummer I saw yesterday?

What about all those people with the signs in their yard that have the interchangeable biblical passage panels in them, so you can let the neighborhood know your religious sentiment of the day? Are you truly a better person because you have religious lawn decor and the guy next door only has those creepy little gnomes and a plastic waterfall garden?

Do you have any idea how much money those "Left Behind" guys are making, let alone the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" folks?

Religion is big business in this country. Just ask Ralph Reed. Or those teevee preachers that live in the multi-million dollar mansions and ride around in their Rolls Royce of the month.

Watch the 700 Club sometime and tell me it doesn't cost them a lot of money to keep a production studio like that going, week after week, and then think about how many little old ladies had to pull out their wallets and write out those checks to keep Pat Robertson and his staff on the air talking about assasinating Latin American presidents and bringing the wrath of God down upon little towns in Pennsylvania for voting out their fervently religious schoolboard in the last election.

Of course, sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways. The AP and NYTimes report that the federal district judge hearing the Dover School Board case ruled today -- in favor of the parents who sued to get the Intelligent Design curriculum out of science classrooms in the county.

The decision today from Judge Jones (warning: PDF) is a detailed history lesson, and instructive as a case study on how to annoy a judge by lying to his face. He sure did crack me up when he called the no-longer-elected school board members inane (p. 138) and a bunch of liars who hold themselves out to be Christians (p. 137).

And I found it interesting that there is some legal group called the Thomas More Law Center that set themselves up to go around the country and prod school boards into being their test cases for religious experimentation. Talk about your public interest work! Hoo boy! I have to wonder how they still have tax exampt status, seeing how politically involved they are and everything, but it help to have friends in high places.

Oh, no disrespect to the Big Guy, I meant in the White House. Beg your pardon.

It's just that people sure do spend an awful lot of money trying to look more and more religious than their neighbors: only listening to the right radio stations, buying only the latest in fervent rock music, only wearing the approved sorts of clothes, only going on retreats sponsored by the appropriate sorts of groups that charge exhorbitant fees for them, only reading books on the approved lists from approved publishing houses wholly owned by approved religious businesspeople, only...well, you get the picture.

What happened to the whole "love thy neighbor" thing? The whole "do unto others," instead of just trying to look like a better person than the other guy by buying more licensed Jesus merchandise? Seems to me that money might be better spent on helping out the less fortunate instead of getting the latest from the Biblical video of the month club.

When did everyone decide that the only way to be religious is to get in the face of every human being you meet and demand that they believe exactly the same way that you do? I dunno, I've never been much for the Church of the Lemming, so I guess I just don't get it. Maybe I'm just too old school.

It sure isn't my Grandpa's church any more. It's not a religion, it's a lifestyle.