I got into some debate with a few friends the other day about religion. It was a peaceful discussion where both sides respectfully acknowledged their differences and skipped away arm in arm. Ha! I had made a case for the practical applications of Buddhism via the rad writings of a nun named Pema Chodron. The undertone of my argument, however, was that Christianity isn't practical enough and seems to focus its affairs on what thy neighbor does with his peen, for example, rather than leading a joyous life. But you know what? That's not exactly fair. Come to think of it, even though I'm undecided in matters of organized faith, I learned some pretty damn practical life lessons from my Christian upbringing. Let's put them on the Internet during a contentious political time and see if I get any death threats. Get your bowl of waffle fries and settle in!
1. Run from the near occasion of sin. If I may reword "sin" as "trouble" we can apply this to everything from leaving cash laying around when company is over to maintaining private friendships with men you are not married to*. Avoid trouble before it has an environment to occur and you don't have trouble to begin with. Sure, a recovering alcoholic could sit right next to an open bottle of rum in an empty house. But shouldn't.
2. You are capable of very bad things. We all like to think of ourselves as living our ideals. Generally, I am a decent person. I even believe we are all inherently "good" and that we just make terrible decisions from time to time. Murder! Home perms! But one thing the Church gets spot on is you don't really know how terrible you can be until you're being terrible. I have an acquaintance who had an affair and she said she never thought it could happen to her. I'd like to think it could never happen to me, but then again I thought I would never let a baby cry. The lesson here is don't overestimate yourself in the area of morality. Do you think those Katrina survivors ever thought they'd loot?
3. You will be judged on how you treat the least of these. Or something. I forget exactly how this one was worded. Even if you don't believe a bearded man in the sky is judging you all the time, this is certainly a handy guide for you to do some judgin' yourself when it comes to dating and hiring. It's best to stay out of other peoples' business when it comes to how they feed their kids and what they do for a living, but judge away when you see how someone treats a waitress. Ladies? That's how he'll treat you eventually. Bosses? That's what your clients will witness.
If we can take this item a step further and start judging ourselves on how well we treat people who have lesser circumstances than our own, we might be better people. Imagine if all those religious politicians eating their tasty chicken sandwiches at The Restaurant That Shall Go Nameless on Wednesday had organized a high profile "appreciation day" for the least of these. Like unwed mothers battling addiction! Hooo, that would have been rich. Also, quite in keeping with Christian values.
4. God is among us. Replace "God" with goodness and you can lead a better life. I had a guy in front of me at the grocery store today who hadn't had a bath in probably ten days and he took a standardized-test-length of time to count his quarters buying the lonely beer in his cart. I told myself he could be a Vietnam Vet who gave half his eyesight defending our country. Start inventing stories like that for everyone who bugs you and it'll make your day easier. Who knows? That city parking attendant who wrote that $75 ticket on your car could be JESUS in a mask! Or a black belt having a bad day. Quiver accordingly.
5. Eat from trees, gain knowledge. Okay, I didn't learn this at Vacation Bible School, but it makes sense, right? But seriously, lay off the fries guys. Food from plants make you smart. How do you think monkeys evolved into a bitchin' species that created Words With Friends? Bananas of course.
In absence of other visuals, I give you the crocodile my kid and I made today:
And in case you missed the element of hipster culture my preschooler has seemed to absorbed, here is the mustache she demanded we create for it:
*I say that because I am a woman making my own decisions but it applies to men as well. I don't want to wear a veil over eyes and have my virginity bought for a shekel, thank you.