Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nobody's Perfect

Governor Mike Huckabee put aside politics for the pulpit the other Sunday, and preached a sermon on what it takes to get into heaven. As we all know the Governor is a Baptist minister and it would be silly of me to complain that he limits access to heaven to those nonMormons who believe in Jesus as the Son of God. Besides, I don’t believe in heaven in the first place, so for me, worrying about who gets in to heaven is like worrying about who gets to ride a unicorn. Of course if you deny heaven and believe in unicorns this analogy doesn’t work, but I trust you get my point.

According to the Governor it isn’t enough to believe in Jesus to get into heaven, you also have to be perfect as well. Wow, now that is saying something. I’m not a Christian theologian but I often drive behind people who are, and I read their bumper sticker testaments. According to what I read, Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.

I always admired this about Christianity. If God is love as Christians say he is, then how could he not forgive? If God is love, and Jesus died for my sins, aren’t I perfect enough? Or is less-than-perfect the same as imperfect?

And what does it mean to be perfect, anyway? I mean a behaviorally oriented religion such as Judaism at least gives you hard and fast rules against which to measure your perfection or lack thereof. You either light your Shabbat candles in time or you don’t. You either wait the prescribed hours between eating milk and meat or you don’t. You can keep score and know exactly how close to perfect you are at any given moment.

Of course perfection is impossible, but Jews don’t care about this because perfection is not a prerequisite for getting into heaven (assuming you believe in heaven). According to Judaism all a person needs to get into heaven is to have one’s good deeds outweigh one’s bad deeds. Notice you are allowed bad deeds, just not too many. So perfection is irrelevant.

Christianity, at least Governor Huckabee’s understanding of it, however, is about faith rather than works. What does it mean to be perfect in faith? Does it mean being without doubt? Is that possible? What if something horrible happens to you or someone you love suffers some aweful fate, and just for a moment your faith falters—are you doomed? Are you damned?

And then there is the notion of would-be President Huckabee. Do I want a president who believes that most Americans are going to hell? Do I trust a president who rejects science? Do I feel good about a president who prefers Bronze Age morality to rational, ethical inquiry? Oh, wait; we already have one of those.

Maybe I am being too judgmental. After all, nobody’s perfect.

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