In what is one of the most brilliant episodes of an often brilliant show (masquerading as a snarky cartoon), Futurama addressed the question of God. In one sequence, a group of vaguely Tibetan monks, the Monks of Dschubba, appear. They spend lifetimes using a radio telescope, searching the universe for God.
Protagonist Philip J. Fry wants to use the telescope to search for his lost robot friend, Bender, and pleads for a moment with the Monks' equipment.
Philip J. Fry: Come on, you guys have forever to find God. All I'm asking is one measly lifetime to find my friend.
Monk #2: Master, he speaks out of love for his friend. Perhaps that love in his heart is God.
Monk #1: Oh, how convenient! A way of looking for God that doesn't require looking through a telescope. Get back to work!
This is just one glorious little gem in the episode, but one which I always look forward to, because it summarizes how many of us approach religion these days, and it's this attitude that Lent is here to help us reorient ourselves.
This is something that has bothered me for a while. As I said in my last post, so many have lightly "adopted" Lent -- or at least the language of Lent -- without giving any thought to its meaning or putting in a real effort.
So what am I getting at? Am I just being an elitist killjoy, demanding others to quit having fun, stop taking stuff with a sense of humor, and while they're at it, get the hell off of my lawn? I hope not, but by the same token, I want us to take a moment to think about whether we have ceased to take anything seriously as we have rationalized and excused ourselves from any spiritual work at all.
Take those who say, "I go surfing on Sundays, because I think I'm more in touch with God out there on the waves, becoming one with nature ..." And so on. Blah, blah, blah. As the Master of the Dschubba might say: "No you're not! What crap! You're surfing." That's like saying, "God wants me to be happy, so a weekend in Vegas, drunk and with hookers, will bring me closer to the Lord." That may be the Charlie Sheen method (and look where that's gotten him), but it ain't religion, or for that matter spiritual.
If you're going to claim a religion, then do it. Actually put in a little effort, for God's sake. And that -- he says, finally getting back to the start -- is what Lent is all about. It's a time to pause and think. It's a time to stop congratulating yourself, indulging yourself, letting yourself off the hook. It's a time to ask: How can I be better? How can I do more? How can I more properly fulfill the spirituality I claim to have?
Or you can go surfing and give up chocolate or something. Whatever.