by Charles LaFond
Being kind feels important to me these days. My dog and my horse are kind to me. Karma has many definitions and is generally associated with Buddhism, however I wonder about the great value it could provide to our Christian conversation.
It is true that when we ask for forgiveness, God grants it and wipes the slate clean. The chalkboard of slate in which additions and subtractions for our failures and our successes is wiped clean, black, glistening. This Santa-Clause-list kind of God may have worked for me when I was a child, but it no longer feels compelling. I no longer feel that I get pluses for going to church and minuses for telling a fib to get out of going to a dinner.
Karma is about effect from action but it is a little less about mathematics and a little more about the kinds of effects our lives are having on the planet. If I eat Tilapia or Catfish then I am eating a protein that is easy on the planet and takes months to grow. If I eat Tuna or Grouper or shark-fin , I am eating a fish growing towards extinction and which takes years to grow.
In Buddhism, Karma is about the Heaven and Hell we are creating here, now, on this planet and in this life. We come from a Christina faith in which, until recently, one could do whatever one wanted as long as they “paid the price” by making confession and a huge pledge to the church’s building fund. But is that really the way we need to live? What if we, especially in Lent, let go of the math of Heaven and Hell, of sin and redemption, of going to church or playing with our children on the carpet with pancakes and cartoons?
There was a time when I was going to church and praying to God because I wanted to be saved. I am less afraid of going to Hell now that I have had lots of experience in it. People will still go to church, but only to the compelling and vibrant ones…the rest of them need to die off. Will that make many clergy and Bishops unemployed? Sure. But the ones with real skill-sets will find real jobs.
As for church attendance, nowadays, I am more inclined to get more sleep, work harder at being kind to people, be rather more gentle with myself. A bath. A hamburger. A chocolate brownie. A massage. A movie with a friend. Is God more pleased with my attendance at church than God is pleased with these lovely acts of incarnation? I attended a church two weeks ago that took weekly attendance… Hmm. Anxious anyone?
Could we Christians simply make better choices and ignore the “Naughty & Nice” lists of a God who made sense when we were in second grade?
As I write this I am eating a great hamburger. Afterwards Kai-the-dog and I will go for a walk in the desert. Then a tour of our homeless shelter with a major donor and then dinner with friends. Could it be that “church’ is melting away and giving way to a larger awareness of sacramentality and incarnation outside of dogma and catechism? Is that such a bad thing when you look at church history?
Charles LaFond is an Episcopal Priest, master potter and the author of three books on church fundraising, major gifts and Rule of Life; living in rural New Mexico as a writer, blogger (www.thedailysip.org ), and consultant. Charles is a fundraiser for those experiencing homelessness.