The Best People I Know Have Crooked Halos…

Halos are a funny thing in some types of art. They are meant to capture greatness “emanating” from the individual. Angels have halos in art as do famous church figures including Jesus, Moses, and the like. Part of me thinks that they may have been uncomfortable with being portrayed that way in the representations of their likeness. Sometimes we see the idea of holiness in the religious community in a skewed way. We come at it with this expectation of perfection, when that is definitely an irrational and unachievable goal. Not only is it destructive to us, but it keeps people from becoming interested in matters of faith. Gandhi himself once said that he would consider becoming Christian if it wasn’t for Christians. Years ago, I recall an encounter with a young man who was attempting to share his faith with me in an Air Force chow hall. He was well dressed with every hair in place toting this massive Bible around with him. He spoke in a somewhat verbose fashion ensuring that at least every other sentence contained a fragment of a scripture passage. As we were talking, I remember feeling uncomfortable. I was already a Christian but it seemed as though my faith was not enough for this guy and he seemed to be driven by the need to draw me to “his version” of faith which seemed very much focused on trying to be perfect. Then he made a statement that sent me for a loop. He looked me dead in the eye and said to me: “Today I have not sinned at all so far.” I immediately thought to myself that maybe he had overlooked his haughty sense of pride being a sin. I looked for an excuse and promptly ended the conversation. Flash forward a bit and I found myself going to Bible study groups put on by a group that worked with college students. I recall that the badge of honor for these guys was that they didn’t smoke or drink (at the time I did both) and that they could regurgitate scripture passages, but even as a young man I realized that there was no depth. Like many, the church did not speak to me. I never felt “holy” enough to grace it’s doors and the Jesus they preached was more reminiscent of a micromanaging task master waiting to sling me headfirst into Hell for my failures than a kind and loving man who accepted me in spite of my flaws. Ironically enough, I found deeper connections with military buddies than those at church. I did continue to go church though. I went mostly out of some fearful compulsion rather than out of true desire to connect with God. The people of the church were ironically a barrier for me to engage my faith…and this is a real problem. People of faith so often tout notions of holiness and carry expectations that Christians look a certain way that they fail to connect with the parishioner who does not dress like them or who comes in smelling of booze. There often is no welcoming attitude. There is only judgement, yet these are the very people that we should reach out to. However, we find our halos prevent us from doing so. The best people of faith that I have ever met did not look like the quintessential church goer. Their halos were a little loose. I think some of them lost their halos along the way. They didn’t care about dogma, fancy dress, or appearances. They cared about the person. Their course exterior was frightening to some, but comforting to so many more. Faith changes and evolves over time as do people. During the time of halos in art, that sense of closeness to God spoke to people. It still does only now instead of halos we have empathy. Even faith within the Bible has shifted over time. In the Old Testament there are over 600 laws one had to follow, but in the New Testament we see Jesus boil all of those laws into two commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. Neither of which require a halo, a masters degree, or a three piece suit. Stepping into the proverbial ditch to help someone goes further than an elaborate sermon delivered in an ornate church in today’s climate. Perhaps religion would turn less people off if we loosened or lost our halos because I am pretty sure God is more pleased with someone who is rough around the edges and is able to love others than by a well dressed person who chooses the appearance of holiness over truly reaching into the lives of others from a place of humility and respect. So, I leave you with this: How tight is your halo? Maybe it’s time to loosen it up a bit. The world has enough people that are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. Try not to be one of those folks. If you happen to find that your halo is a little grungy or crooked, just go with it. The best people I know have crooked halos.-

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