April 22, 2006

My Vacation, Part II

English: "Jesus Saves" A frequently ...
"Jesus Saves" A frequently vandalised and repainted declaration on a prominent rock by the roadside. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Besides the constant churches I've already addressed (see Part I), there was one other interesting thing I want to note from this trip through the South. I saw more billboards and signs attempting to convey information about Jesus on this trip than I think I've seen to this point in my life cumulatively. While some were on church property, the majority were on commercial or residential property.

An especially frequent message was "Jesus Saves." Assuming we decide that someone named Jesus is currently living among us (and this is a controversial assumption), what does it mean to say that he "saves?" Does Jesus save money when he shops online by subscribing to an e-coupon delivery service? I guess that would mean I have something in common with Jesus, whoever he is. Maybe Jesus saves old newspapers because he's worried about a media conspiracy to defraud the American public. Maybe Jesus is a firefighter who saves people from burning buildings.

"No, no! Don't be silly. Jesus died for the sins of all mankind. The path to salvation is through Jesus." Wait a second. Just who is being silly here? If he died, he's incapable of saving anyone (or doing anything). This is what it means to be dead. If by salvation, you mean some sort of life after death, this is simply absurd. The "I" we all experience is a product of neural activity. When the brain dies, there is no more "I."

My favorite message by far and easily the most frequently seen was "Jesus loves you." Who is this Jesus who loves me? What if I have latent homophobia and am not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of being loved by another man? Besides, I've never met Jesus. How can he even know me? Has he been stalking me or something?

"Jesus knows your heart, and he has always been there." Wow! That's great news! I get confused sometimes and feel like I don't know my own heart. I'd like to meet this Jesus and see if he can give me some advice. Where is he? Wait a second...if he's always been there and he cares about me, why has he sat by and watched me go though some difficult periods in my life without helping? Where was he when I was drinking too much? Where was he when my grandfather died? Where was he when I was desperately trying to hold a failing marriage together? If he loves me, he sure has an odd way of showing it.

What does the Christian say at this point? "You can't see Jesus - he is within you." So if I died, Jesus would die too? "Jesus is in all who accept him as their savior." You might as well tell me that Santa Claus can deliver presents to every child in the world on Christmas Eve all by himself. When confronted with reason and logic, the replies of the Christian become increasingly absurd. It sounds an awful lot like Jesus is whatever the hell you want him to be so you can feel good. You can have him. I prefer reality to delusion.