If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (I Corinthians 15:19).
As many readers may already know, I lost my mother to cancer ten days ago. I was present with her when she took her last breath. It was a meaningful moment for me, and one that she would have been happy with had she observed it for herself. Her son and daughter, her last living family, were both present as she was escorted into final unconsciousness.
My mother was a woman of faith, and she was esteemed as an example of the Christian life by her peers. It was hard for her to keep her mouth shut about Jesus. Everywhere she went, she told neighbors, her doctors, nurses, friends, and foes about what Jesus meant to her. Her bluntness about matters of faith is one of the attributes for which she will be remembered. However sincere she may have been, her evangelical zeal was one of the most this-world reinforced behaviors by her community. She often received spotlight attention in Bible study groups or church services for her “no-holds-barred” approach to “taking back territory from Satan.” She won the respect and positive attention of many for this aspect of her faith.
Paul in I Corinthians asserts that if the “hope of Christ” applies only to this life, then “we are of all men most miserable.” I disagree with Paul’s statement. My mother lived a full life in her short fifty-eight years. Most of those years were spent in “service to Christ” and so involved in church and para-church communities. Despite the fictive foundations to her faith, she was happy. She reaped the material and psychological benefit of “hope in Christ” in the here and now. I don’t know why Paul felt such a need to polarize the life conditions of the present with the presumed life to come.
How am I dealing with my mother’s passing? I have now lost both my mother and my father. If there is any one unconscious, psychological impetus behind my atheism, it is the loss of both of my parents. They both were the first of their peer groups to die of natural causes. With my father’s death in 2003, I made the attempt to invest his passing with faith meaning. I even preached a fire-and-brimstone eulogy at his memorial service. Since that time, I have found my belief system and the Bible to be human through and through. I found that there is no YHWH in Zion, no numen EL in Bethel, and no ascended Jesus on the crystal sea of a fictive firmament.
The nails in God’s coffin were gradual. I was devout, and I knew my Bible. Like my mother, my faith communities lauded me for my evangelical and charismatic zeal. I reaped the psycho-social benefits of faith, and even when these benefits waned and terminated, I remained a believer. The nails in God’s coffin were the findings of my inquisitive mind: Bible contradictions, Bible inaccuracies, Bible-science incongruence, etc. But, it is unlikely that any of my intellectual findings had as much a contribution as the death of my father. With his passing I realized that all is vulnerable—nothing hides for the sun will “rise on the evil and on the good” and the rain will fall “on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).