The following message popped onto the screen this morning as my computer was booting, having apparently time-traveled 50 years back. It seemed to have some audio,video, even olfactory (really??) components embedded , but they were in a code the computer couldn’t decipher. Here’s the message as received:
I am a member of The Way, a religious sect that tries to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. We live in communal neighborhoods scattered across the nation, where we love and care for each other as family, and where we welcome daily into our folds the hungry, the homeless, the oppressed, the deserted. This is our constant joy and purpose, knowing that we have indeed met Jesus many times in their faces, just as he said.
I am 19 years old and was born in 2043 into this community. I am a university student studying medicine and working afternoons at the local hospital as part of my studies. I’m sure it was my mother’s influence that led me to the medical field, watching with interest her work in medical research. Her team played a part in the development of the schizophrenia vaccine, putting that illness into the past just like cancer and MS and AIDS.
As a child every morning from 8:00 until 1:00 in the afternoon, we went to the neighborhood school, where we worked independently in a large room filled with computers, or we could opt to stay at home and log in from there, fully connected by video to the teachers and all the other students either way. We interacted with our teachers only via computer, and had an overseer who was physically present to train the younger children and to intervene with any tech problems. About 1 in 3 students at my school were from our commune. Others were Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, 2 were Hindu . . . Many were non-religious. We’ve never had any problems between religious groups. Rather there is mutual respect, and the groups often work side by side to better help those in need.
There is one religious group that isolates itself, but they have their own schools, separate from the rest of us. They call themselves Christians. My grandfather says that during the time when my mom was a young child, our sect broke off from theirs, even though ours is much larger than theirs now. We are a very new sect, although the earliest followers of Jesus also called themselves The Way.
I have learned from history but mostly from Grandpa’s stories, that the Christians used to be the largest sect in our United 51 States, but that sometime around the turn of the century they became very political, fighting militantly about issues outside Jesus’ teachings (oppressing women, oppressing gay people, oppressing immigrants . . .), and driving the hundreds of thousands of The Way to separate from them. They are still fighting, but not a large enough group now to be more than a curiosity. Interesting though to contemplate because in their early days it seems they were a lot like us, caring for the needy, offering peace and kindness to the world, non-political.
They still read the Bible in actual paper. Grandpa says they believe the words are straight from God’s mouth, and that reading on-screen is a corruption. They have a special piece of furniture called a bibliobe for protecting their paper Bibles.
They have their own political party too, which typically gets about 15-20% of the votes in any election. Grandpa says it used to be one of the country’s two main parties before the Christians took it over, and history confirms that, indeed, there was a time when it was even the most progressive party, at times leading the country to much progress, from abolition to women’s rights to protecting the environment. Grandpa says most of the angry fighters from early in the century, almost exclusively men, have died out now, but that he remembers clearly the bitter divisiveness between the two major parties, unable to work together for the public good, and almost equal to each other in voting numbers. It was a scary time for the country, he said, and he remembers wondering if there could ever be a return to the peace we enjoy today. My history program says never before or since has the national constitution or the freedoms of our nation been so in danger as during the height of what history has named the Great Impasse, which peaked in the election of 2012.
Today I am grateful that we are approaching our nation’s tricentennial and that we have survived as a nation of freedoms: freedom to exercise whatever religion we choose as we respect the same freedom of others; freedom to be treated with equality in education and career, no matter what our race or gender; freedom to marry whomever we choose or to choose not to marry. No other argument makes any sense to me, but Grandpa says it was almost lost.
When I shared this journal entry with my former religious history teacher, he suggested I might try sending it by RTC (Reverse-Time Communication) to 50 years back, for the Jesus followers to know how it all turns out, so we searched some blog archives to find some potential recipients. Hopefully 2013 technology can receive it. If you read this, look me up when you get to 2063!
Sarai M. Wilhite NC00295739