"You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that 'as you reap, so you will sow' stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff. That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep shit. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity."
- Bono, (Excerpt from the book - Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas)
My son is learning, in the Lutheran school, that the Hindu concept of karma's not any different than that of the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," just in a different manner and language. But he's also learning about the undeserving notion of God's salvation through grace.
Too often, we who are of the Christian faith completely lose sight of the concept of grace through Christ. It's an essential point that separates the condition of karma in Hinduism from Christianity. It's my understanding that, in Hinduism, karma binds you into a cycle of perpetual physical reincarnation until you achieve, through your manifestation of good karma and God-consciousness through meditation, chanting and clean living, salvation from the material world. That's why so many of the activities of the Hindu soul are centered around generating good karma and avoiding bad karma. Because, like Bono says, if karma's your judge and jury, you're sort of screwed.
In Christianity, through Christ's death and resurrection, through our own repentance for our sins, through receiving the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion (my Synod's web site FAQ is undetermined whether or not we acknowledge 2 or 3 Sacraments, what the 3rd one is I don't know, marriage???? in the Lutheran Church, whereas denominations like Catholicism have many more Sacraments), we have been redeemed and through God's grace, not by our own accord, and with our acceptance of Christ as our Savior, we are Heaven-bound once our physical bodies die. End of story.
That's not to say I haven't philosophically pondered the concept of reincarnation, because I have. (As my ex-husband pointed out, coming from a girl who shuddered at the mere mention of evolution when we were younger, I've, well, evolved into a very philosophically enlightened, free-thinking woman. I've become sort of a world religion junkie, since I quit doing drugs.) That doesn't mean I'm not a "good" Christian or a "good" Lutheran.
My theory was that if I had a past life, it must have been riddled with bad karma to come back as the person I am today, with all the apeshit lunacy, heartbreak, failure, illness and those damn addictions--which some people have misjudged to be all my own personal fault--that I've faced. It was my ex-mother-in-law who said to Craig, in front of Luke, "It's amazing how much trouble Andrea gets into by her own actions," which was essentially the same as the woman from my church saying that my addictions were not mishaps of medical science or funky brain chemistry, triggered genetics or scientifically-proven predispositions, but rather diseases of poor choice. (I'm of the belief that no human disease is a disease of choice, period.) Oppositely, I pondered that if I was to be reincarnated after this life, I'd like to come back as a lotus flower, tended to by a loving, tender gardener, picked at it's peak and appreciated as something beautiful for a short period of time, until it's time for me to die, and have that be IT in the karmic cycle.
But Bono's right about our sins, trials and tribulations being between God and ourselves, not between us and other humans. True, we hurt one another and sin against one another, but not a single one of us is in the position to judge the actions or conditions of another human being. Not a single one of us is in the position to decide who is "better" at practicing our religion than others. Sometimes, we do a crappy job of acting like Christians. Other times, we are capable of leading (while still sinful) righteous lives. Some of us have liberal interpretations of "The Rules" and others have conservative interpretations.
I have been accused of "attending a Lutheran church but not practicing Lutheranism" because I disagree with various doctrines the LCMS dictates. A very dear friend of mine, who is also Lutheran, was the one who shared this Bono quote with me, and phrased it this way: "I'm a follower of Christ, who happens to attend a Lutheran church." I told her I really liked that notion. If I'm a Christian who accepts and praises Christ, and wants to actively participate in the ministry of my chosen house of worship, what the crap difference does it make how strictly I adhere to how Luther or the modern-day church leaders laid out the map of our denomination? If I was baptized and confirmed into the Lutheran church, and heartily believe in Christ as my Savior, how am I an outcast because I happen to hold different opinions about certain life issues and challenges than most of my church brethren? That, to me, is as silly as judging me because I physically don't look "typical" or "proper" or "conservative," or as silly as backing two of my friends for the Presidential bid in 2012 with a sticker on my car instead of Romney. (By the way, my current plan is to not vote the Coyne/Drozd ticket but rather to write-in David Byrne from The Talking Heads.)
My recent blogging about the wickedness and nastiness between myself and a family at my church was a mutual go-for-the-kill character assassination, plain and simple. They hurt and accused me of sins of omission and commission, so I touted my brain power against them to purposely outwit them. God gave me a gift of intellectualism, but Satan taught me how to exploit it for my own gain (or defense). In all fairness, the accusers attacked me with Bible passages that they, themselves, were exploiting to prove their points and make me look like a heretic. Nobody was acting properly--not me, not the woman, not her mother-in-law.
No, I won't take those blogs down, for they are a part of my overall emotional makeup and are indicators of how I felt in at-present moments in my life, and while I am apologetically ashamed that I acted in an unfavorable manner towards my fellow Christians, the Facebook posts and blogs about the situation have validity and, as this whole blog does, tells part of my life story. (Bumps and bruises are included in the package.)
In therapy today, we talked about me being more mindful of when I'm having negative thoughts or when negative experiences happen to me, and ways I can counteract jumping from Point A (the hurt, the feelings of unworthiness, failure, anger or sadness) to Point C (retaliation or payback towards individuals or groups who oppress me) by doing something in the middle, at Point B, to achieve a more positive end result. CBT is all about replacing negative emotional schemas with positive ones, even schemas that have ingrained into your psyche since you were a child. That's part of cognitive behavioral therapy, the concept of mindfulness, which, incidentally, is one of the tenets of Buddhism...but we don't have to open THAT can of worms up right now.
If we can't get along or we disagree, just call it a draw, like I tried to tell the woman from church. If members of my congregation truly believe me to be a "dysfunctional loser," as I was called, then so be it. Believe me, I've been called worse by people who's opinions matter more to me than theirs. Furthermore, if I'm one, then so are you, and you, and you and all of us. Because we are all sinners. And guess what? It makes little difference in the end, because Jesus Himself chose to hang around a lot of whom would be deemed dysfunctional losers in contemporary times. He loves me just as much as He loves EVERYONE ELSE, those who follow Luther to the letter and those who bring a madcap spin to the denomination.
And none of it will matter when we're up in the Great Gig in the Sky anyway.
OM Christ. Why can't we all get along like these two guys?