by Brad Nelson 9/9/14
This will be a self-indulgent post, and I make no apologies for that. But writing, to some extent, is always self-indulgent. The question is whether or not one can pull in the reader by having something interesting to say.
I don’t ever mean to play my Christian friends for fools, which is why I am usually brutally honest about what I believe. And I can respect the right of another to believe what they will, at least so long as they are willing to talk about it — not necessarily to defend it, per se, but to talk about it. After all, how are we going to prove what we believe (at least in this world) one way or the other? And since I have no desire to cut off anyone’s head like the barbaric religion of Islam facilitates, we will talk.
What brought this little essay on was a friend commented to me in a discussion of religion, “By the way, your perception of Christianity, your “non-practicing” Christianity seems pretty close to the real thing to me. Are you sure it isn’t the real thing?”
Ha! I’ve been called worse. I’ve been called “an implicit Christian.” And the subject of this-here essay isn’t about me, for I’ll tell you just what I believe if you have the time. This is about what it means to be an actual bona-fide Christian.
Yes, Yes, I know, I know: “Judge not lest you be judge.” But this, and other slogans that are typically not taken into full context or balanced with competing values, have tended to turn Christians into wimps. Most will not defend their faith even when it is obvious that some form of pure evil is trying to supplant them and play them for fools. Instead, most will go to church, turn onto the big sounds systems that they have now, and feel good about how damn “diverse” their church is.
The only kind of Christianity that makes any sense to me is one that balances “Love they neighbor” with “Onward Christian soldier.” We (they) must be peaceful, and yet not doormats. The phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” comes to mind, but as I’m reminded by another friend, that particular phrase (much like “judge not”) has become an excuse not to uphold standards.
By all means, hate the sin, love the sinner. But for most I would reckon this is just lip service. Much of Christianity (even the parts not infected by Leftism) have been given over to the ethos of the wet noodle under the guise of “nice.” And “nice,” for instance, is why few reported on the 1400 young girls who were raped in England by Muslims. Everyone is just so damn “nice.” We must be “nice” even to barbarians.
Christians, it seems to me, have a higher bar to meet. And to me, it’s not just about belief. Anyone can believe any damn thing they want. And if such beliefs are meant purely as a kind of existential therapy, then you get what you pay for, as they say. (Or, as Jesus wryly said about the hypocrites, “They have received their reward.”) But if being more than a posier is the point, then a fuller dedication must be given to integrating a depth of wisdom longer and deeper than will fit on a bumper sticker. One must indeed “Hate the sin, lover the sinner.”
And you must be ready to kick a little ass, for I can’t find it written anywhere that Christians must be passive puff-balls whose spines are made of jelly. St. Francis would regularly kick a little figurative ass when his voluntary Brothers broke major tenets of the Order. He was effusive in love, praise, and thankfulness, but love, praise, and thankfulness were dedicated toward some object and were not just a means of self-therapy, thus narcissism was not his point. And that not being the point, if he needed to raise his voice in anger, he could still do so, for he didn’t buy into this modern idea that “nice” was the only point.
Regarding Christianity, proper, now I know what Groucho Marx meant by “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” Much, if not most, of Christianity isn’t Christianity. It’s something, but it’s not Christianity. And I don’t really care to explain myself in this regard other than to say that this is hardly a new phenomenon. St. Francis was such a rock star in his time in large party because the Church, for all intents and purposes, had left behind the Gospel long ago. Francis was teaching it (and living it) and this caught on like wildfire.
So it is possible to live a Christian life. But few do, perhaps leading G. K. Chesterton to comment, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
As for whether it’s true or not, that’s another story. But the only way to find out is to live it, not just “believe” it. This gets to the heart of the problem of “works vs. faith.” Well, if one believes, the works (the behavior) will naturally flow from that, and vice versa. Christianity is more than an incantation if it is to be Christianity.
But the chance for people to find out if it is true is restricted and soiled by people such as Barack and Michelle Obama who went to a Black Liberation Church (for all intents and purposes. a Marxist church) instead of a real one. And they are not alone in this regard. The corruption runs so deep today, it’s laughable to have any problem with the idea of “judge not” for there’s relatively little to judge positively. It’s very easy to get sucked in and become a part of the conspiracy of narcissistic relativists.
And my main point being, at least where it intersects me personally, is that the church establishment (large and small) is so corrupt and off-base that it’s nearly pointless to judge oneself by what the culture at large is doing — much of that culture having gone stark raving mad (aka “nice”).
So I don’t worry about whether I’m a Christian or not. I’m not holding out on anyone. I’m not being coy or too clever by half. It’s just that what you think doesn’t matter much to me, and I say that with a smile on my face even to my friends. This would be an unsatisfying state-of-mind for most, for surely one must check off the checkboxes if one is to be this thing instead of that thing. But with the sheer amount of posiers out there, I feel under no obligation to justify myself to anyone else.
This essay was not meant to be particularly deep, not was it going to solve any major issue. But I do think the truths of metaphysics, religion, and philosophy are glimpsed between the hills of rhetoric, lofty slogans, and even much of the overt liturgy. At least that’s how it works for me. If it doesn’t work that way for you, don’t bite my head off (or cut if off either).
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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