Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christian brag

Last month, my neighbor died.  She was in her 80s, and she'd been ill, although she was still plugging along.  I delivered a eulogy at her funeral, and I couldn't stop crying.  The funeral was a strange, low key affair at the local senior center, with recordings of my friend singing and playing the guitar, and everyone from her brother to her fellow band members playing and singing tributes.

Then this old lady got up who barely knew my neighbor, and she told us that Clara was now in heaven, and she knew this because she'd read the Bible 87 times.

I turned to my mother and said, "So that's the lady who brags about reading the Bible."  My mother nodded. I'd proofread a biography of this person's life, and all she could talk about was God, not about her family or what she'd done that was worthwhile--just God.

Eighty-seven times.  She wears it like a badge.  She acts as though that gives her special insight.  She brags about her knowledge.  If she weren't so old, and if she weren't talking about the Bible, I can imagine someone slapping her across the face for her arrogance.

When I grew up in a church, humility was a big deal.  You didn't go around bragging about having read the Bible however many times.  You just did it.  You read it in Sunday school; you read it at bedtime; you read it so many times, sometimes all the way through, sometimes in snippets.  You'd try to memorize verses, but not to win a prize, but because they meant something to you.  Thus, when I'm decluttering, I find myself reciting "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth..."; when I find clothes with holes, I find myself singing "Holy, holy, holy."; when I want to stay in my room and avoid the world, I remind myself of the parable of the talents.  If you asked me right now to preach a sermon on any topic, I could do it without any preparation, because it was ground into my brain.  That's not bragging; it's just a fact.

Hypocrisy is an important word to Christians, and hypocrisy is something you want to avoid.  You want to be honest, forthright, and good.  You don't want to be like that woman, getting up before a crowd of people, bragging about how many times you've read the Bible, and giving a "message" that my friend is in a "better place" and I "will see her again."

I cried throughout my eulogy, and maybe people were surprised because they didn't know how much Clara meant to me, but at least I wasn't a phony old lady who met her once.