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Jesus is the Real Life Saver

While on a recent business trip and driving near Corinth, Mississippi, I noticed a school bus painted with vertical stripes of different colors and with a slogan in large letters: Jesus is the real life saver. This slogan brought to mind a few thoughts about religious tolerance.

Everyday life certainly has its ups and downs, where everyone's moods can change from day to day so every social relationship requires a bit of effort to navigate those shoals, avoiding an irritation to some, cooperating with others, while still achieving one's goals. In addition to the hazards of that social terrain, nature offers its own daily changes, from sunny to overcast, heat to cold, rain to snow, windy to calm. Beyond those normal seasonal cycles, periodic extremes occur like a hurricane, tornado, blizzard, flood, or drought. The earth itself also has its own periodic though unpredictable upheavals with an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. All of these changes in nature affect life on this planet, with certain plants and animals being affected with either larger population or wider growth ranges or their opposite, decreased population or reduced range.

Nature is wonderfully chaotic and dynamic. Each person is also an incredibly complex being, with various memories and conflicting emotions. Within their natural shifting environment, each person will have their own comfort level with their often unpredictable daily existence. Some relish the challenge and adventure that it presents while others are much less comfortable, needing some assurance this chaos will not collapse.

From this perspective of life, the concept of treating Jesus as a life saver says something about that person. Life is certainly an eventful trip down a river with various eddies and whirls mixed in with a few periods of calm or only ripples. Essentially everyone takes a trip down the river of life, with each trip by each person unique in the various ups and downs being encountered. A person taking that trip with a life saver probably needs some extra comfort, where there is doubt when encountering any of the hazards along the way.

The irony is the belief itself provides the comfort, not the actual entity. For example, growing up in the Catholic religion I was told that unusual natural events are all part of God's plan though we do not know what He has planned for everyone. The belief that the natural chaos is in some way part of a coordinated plan sustains the relief.

After all, the life saver does not in any way change the course of the river and the river's path is just following God's plan; the life saver only keeps the holder from staying under the water level as the holder rides the current.

Since the historical Jesus passed away more than 2000 years ago, the person believing Jesus is their personal life saver is counting on this belief getting some intercession with natural events, to avoid being overwhelmed by the maelstroms of life. I suspect that very few people actually expect a prayer to Jesus will actually cause an immediate stop of a downpour, a hurricane to quickly dissipate, an earthquake to halt. The goal of this prayer is really based on the hope to have that natural event somehow affected to prevent one's personal disaster, like the hurricane to veer or the earthquake's shaking to subside.  In essence the prayer is a selfish request that others might suffer but perhaps God might intercede for the one offering the prayer. This belief is really no different than any of the innumerable gods or religions across the history of mankind, or the various superstitions that still might be found like carrying a lucky rabbit's foot. The superstitions, like a prayer, rely on the hope that one's own behavior somehow influences subsequent natural events.

Therefore anyone's choice of religion really comes down to which one offers the necessary comfort level when coping with the daily travails of life. With all the wars of religion and natural disasters like earthquakes and epidemics in the course of history, it is obvious there really is no supernatural force that changes natural events to suit the wishes of one particular 'chosen' religion. However it is the belief itself that offers comfort to each person in some emotional way.

Recognizing this aspect of human behavior should recommend religious tolerance as the only rational choice. Each religion is a choice based on a personal context, for what offers some assurance when dealing with life. The intolerance and persecution practiced because another group has a different religion is absurd. While one person could poke fun at another's practice of never stepping on a pavement crack or holding onto some good luck charm, most would recognize it as quite wrong to punish someone for holding on to that superstition.

There is so much effort expended by religious leaders on preaching to their believers and on criticizing those of other religions. The first effort, preaching, helps maintain the comfort level of those currently believing in that particular religion. The second effort, criticizing, is nothing less than a simple method of dividing one group from another, by putting down one group to benefit another, by making one group with a different belief become 'bad' so the preacher as its opposite somehow appears to be more 'good' by comparison.

Since morality is often associated with religion and so the right vs wrong context will arise, religion is even used for bullying when those that do not conform are ostracized, like homosexuals or those in an interracial marriage.

The notion of one true religion must be dropped from our society. Having a belief in any particular religion, or in having no inclination for that belief of supernatural entities somehow interacting with nature, is a personal decision. As long as there are people being told they are believers in the one true religion, then those people are also susceptible to being lead down the road to unjustly persecuting others for their different beliefs.

created - September 22, 2013
last change - 09/23/2013
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