After a time, Brad could no longer think of anything else to ask. Then a thought occurred to him “Why me?
“Why you what? God replied with a wry smile on his face that said that he knew exactly what Brad was asking
“Why did you come here to me? I mean do you do this often? Is this one of those deals where you give me all this knowledge and when you leave I won’t be able to remember any of it? Why have you come to me?”
God smiled and said “I’m glad you asked. I need you to do something for me.”
Brad was eager to help “Sure! Absolutely! Anything you want!”
“Have you ever seen the movie Oh,God!?”
“Uh…a long time ago. Why?” Brad answered a little warily
“You remember how God asked John Denver to give the world a message?”
“Yeah….”Brad replied even more warily
“Same idea here. I want you to get a message out to as many people as possible.”
“Ok, What’s the message?” Brad asked
“Let people know that they’re going about things all wrong. Let them know that, whether they are Christians or Muslims or Jews that they are all praying to the same God. They are all praying to me. You have to let them know that I don’t care how they worship or, for that matter, even IF they worship. Church is not a prerequisite for heavenly admission. As a matter of fact, belief in me is not even necessary. I am here whether people believe in me or not. All of mankind are my children. I love everyone unconditionally. What that means is that whether you believe that I am watching over you or not makes no difference to me. What I want is for people to start to love each other, to live their lives in such a way as to not hurt each other. You know… as hokey as it sounds the one rule that I would put above all others as a way to live do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I would even put this above the Ten Commandments.”
Brad looked at God his mouth agape. “Atheists are…..ok with you?
“Of course” God replied “I made everyone, and in the early days everyone believed in me. It is only through the course of time and outside influences that people began to lose their faith. A loved one develops cancer because he smoked too much or ate the wrong thing and dies a slow horrible death and people say “Why did God take my father?” or a little girl is stolen from the sidewalk and raped and beaten by someone that has mental issues and people say “There must not be a God if this kind of thing is allowed to happen to an innocent little girl” Should I blame them for feeling that way? Of course not; at the very least I feel sorry for them. It makes me sad when people don’t believe in me. Not because it makes them bad people but because without the belief, their life is a little emptier than those that take comfort in me.
Also, let them know that I am sick and tired of them killing each other in my name. I have watched millions of people die over religious differences and I am tired of it. If you look back to the (pardon the pun) genesis of organized religion you’ll find that all of them started with the same thing; a belief in me. But then, as you folks down here are want to do, you take a perfect idea and fuck it up. You decide that a belief in me and working together is not good enough. So you decide that you need rules. Now I’m not against implementing some guidelines to keep everything running smoothly but humans have to keep tweaking and changing and messing with everything until what you have left is one side that like they way things were done originally and one side that likes the new rules. Now these two sides stand facing each other and shouting at the top of their lungs that the other side is wrong. They get so worked up about proving to everyone else that they are right that they forget that both sides started from the same place.
So what happens next?....Both sides decide that the only way to get to heaven is to worship their way and anyone who opposes this must be trying to prevent you from getting into heaven. Paranoia runs rampant and then something bad happens like….lightning strikes the home of a religious leader and burns it down. Now everyone on the other side says “SEE GOD IS PUNISHING HIM FOR THE WAY HE WORSHIPS” but everyone on his side is shouting “IT IS THEIR FAULT. THEY ARE SUMMONING EVIL SPIRITS TO DO AWAY WITH US.”
Paranoia and hatred festers until they decide that the only way to deal with it is to kill the other faction. Believe me, there is nothing more dangerous than religious fervor. Wars begin and over what?” God stood and began to pace around the living room as he became increasingly agitated.
“Over semantics…over what constitutes true faith. One person believes that you cannot get into heaven if you don’t confess your sins and another person believes that you won’t get into heaven if you don’t go on a pilgrimage. I want people to understand that faith is not about rituals and pilgrimages and it’s not about religions. You see, so many people use the word religion and faith synonymously. I want you to let people know that one has nothing to do with the other. Religion is a man made construct. It is a way for organizations to build power. I have seen thousands of religious leaders pontificate about how they love me and that all people that don’t love me the way that they do will be doomed to an eternity of torment while at the same time they lie, cheat and steal from their very own congregation. They use fear as a motivator for people to come to their worship services and donate money. So consequently people go to church out of obligation rather than as a true expression of their faith. And at those services they profess a deep love of their fellow man while they harbor a deep resentment of other religions. Does that make sense to you? These morons think it is perfectly justifiable to have it both ways. They say we should love our brothers……unnnnlesss…. that brother happens to be a Jew or a Muslim or a Christian or whatever religion they don’t currently subscribe to.
I want you to tell people that while I have no problem with people attending the church of their choice if it makes them feel closer to me or if it brings them any kind of peace, they should not feel obligated to attend.”
Brad was dumbstruck by this speech. For the first time since God stepped into his life tonight he saw him angry. It was unnerving in a way that he could not put his finger on. As God paced around the room the air seemed to change. It became darker. It felt as if a great storm were approaching; one that would tear the roof off the house and spread all of his belongings to the wind.
God continued pacing his face growing darker “I also want you to tell people to stop killing each other over who is a prophet and who is divine. The Muslims believe that Muhammad was a prophet along with Moses and Jesus. Now this pisses off the Christians because they believe that Jesus was my son and the Messiah and not just a prophet. This pisses off the Jews because they believe that their Messiah has not arrived yet and will only come to them at the end of the world. The Jews also believe that they are the only true religion which, of course pisses everyone off. The fact of the matter is that it’s ALL crap. Jesus, Muhammad and Moses were all just like you. They were three guys that I spoke to at one time to try to help get mankind on the right track. But as usual the message that gets delivered is interpreted, over the years, to mean something completely different and mankind ends up shooting each other in my name.”
Brad paused and then timidly struggled to ask God what he wanted to ask “I…uh…I…don’t mean any disrespect…but..um….can I ask you a couple of questions?”
God’s face brightened “Of course, you can ask me anything. Don’t be put off by my ranting. I am not saying any of this against you it’s just that when I get started it tends to make me a little angry.”
Brad cautiously continued “Why me? I mean why don’t you just come down here and tell everyone yourself? I mean don’t you think that they would listen to the real thing more than just some schlub?”
“That’s a fair question. As I said before, I decided from the very beginning that mankind would have free will. If I came down and addressed the masses as The Almighty I would be taking free will away. People would have to believe in me because they would be face to face with me. If I send you, then free will stays intact. You are free to accept or reject this undertaking and the masses are free to accept or reject your message. And, believe it or not, people will be more likely to believe someone who claims to have spoken to God rather than someone who claims that he is God Himself.”
A disturbing thought struck Brad “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Are you telling me that I’m on the same level as Jesus?
“Ha! Don’t flatter yourself. Jesus was a whole different kind of guy.”
“Of course you would think that he was your son, after all.” Brad needled
“No he wasn’t.” God replied immediately
It was as if someone had slapped Brad across the face. “You’re kidding me!”
“It’s true. There was no virgin birth.”
“Wow!” was all Brad could think of to say.
“Now don’t get me wrong, Jesus was a very exceptional human. He understood exactly what I wanted but during that time period most people didn’t want to hear it. He was considered a threat to the government of that day and they beat the living crap out of him for it. He suffered as much as any human has ever suffered for his faith and they eventually killed him because he was so devout. I just can’t imagine what would threaten a person so much that he felt the need to nail someone to a cross. Every time I think I know what you people will do you surprise me.” God shook his head in disgust.
“So you told Jesus to do basically the same thing that you are asking me to do?
“What makes you think that I will have any more success than he did?”
“Well, if you’re even half as successful as him then I’ll be pretty happy.”
Brad looked at God with confusion “But….they killed him.”
“True, but on the other hand look at how all three religions have revered him to one extent or another. Same thing with Muhammad and same thing with Moses. They all did their thing and got a LOT of people to listen to them. Don’t get me wrong I don’t expect you to bring about world peace, just to alter the way people think about faith, religion and each other.”
“Hold on. You want me to stand up in front of the world and tell them that their religious beliefs are all wrong and that Jesus, Moses and Muhammad were just ordinary guys, that church isn’t necessary and that homosexuals and atheists are ok with God? I wouldn’t live to see my fortieth birthday if I did that. You said it yourself there is nothing more dangerous than religious fervor, unless its religious fervor scorned.”
“Well, keep in mind that you don’t have to share EVERY bit of information with them. Just stick to the main points about living a decent honest life, loving and being good to each other and realizing that different religions aren’t so different after all. And please let them know that no matter how justified they think they are it is not ok to kill each other in my name. If you stick to that I honestly believe that many, many people will believe you and change their way of thinking.”
Brad was silent for a few moments while deep in thought. He looked cautiously up at God and hesitantly asked his next question “W..What if I say no?”
God smiled and looked Brad in the eyes. “That is entirely your prerogative. But, I don’t think you will. Let me ask you something, do you fear death right now?”
Brad thought about all he had learned tonight and he discovered that he had absolutely no fear of dying. The realization struck him like a punch to the stomach. He looked at God and slowly shook his head.
“It’s pretty liberating isn’t it?”
Brad smiled in spite of himself and nodded.
“This is a great gift that you have been given and there is no way that you won’t want to share it with as many people as possible. You have always wondered if there was something that you were meant to do; something that would set you apart from the rest of the world. Is it possible that this is it?”
Brad’s smile broadened as God spoke. But when he was finished Brad’s smiled faltered. “Why would anybody believe me? I can’t imagine that, after listening to me drone on about how I spoke to the Lord and he said the world should hold hands and sing Kum Bay Ya, that anyone would take me seriously.”
“I know you, Brad, you’ll find a way.” God answered cryptically
“Don’t you have any advice for me about how I should go about this?” Brad pleaded
“Do what your heart tells you is right. I picked you because of the man that you are. I, after all, have a pretty good feel for these things. You’re smart and you have a flair for the dramatic and in this day and age people want to see drama. They want to be entertained and if they like your presentation they will listen to anything you say. And, as you’ll see, they will believe you.”
Brad sensed that his time with God was growing short and he had so many more questions. He started to ask but God raised his hand to stop him. “I have to go now.” God said with noticeable melancholy in his voice. “I have thoroughly enjoyed our time together.” He paused and then added “I know I’ve picked the right man”
“Will I see you again?” Brad asked with a touch of desperation in his voice
“Maybe……maybe not. But remember, you now know that I will always be there for you and I will always be watching.”
God stood in the center of the room and faced Brad. He smiled and in the blink of an eye, he was gone. Brad stood silent and alone in his house. He felt the air change. It became more alive. He walked to the front door and opened the creaky screen. He stepped onto the front steps just in time to see the swiftly retreating taillights of the car that, earlier, had been frozen in time. The air was warm and sweet and a gentle breeze ruffled his hair. In fact Brad couldn’t ever remember the night feeling this exhilarating. His heart thudded heavily in his chest. The feeling was tempered slightly by a sense of sadness. Brad felt as though a close friend had moved away, never to be seen again.
He looked up at the star filled sky, took a deep breath and whispered “Say hi to my Dad for me” and then turned and headed back into his house.