Sunday, October 01, 2006
Christiantiy - cheap?
The way it came to be cheapened is a bit complicated. You see, Christian doctrine (typically) says that people are saved by accepting the redemption. Christian doctrine varies - some require baptism, some require regular partaking in certain sacraments, etc., but the biggest thing is, you accept God into your heart, and you are saved, by the grace of God, not by any action you take. A person isn't saved by caring for the sick, helping the poor, and such, but only by the grace of God.
Now, there was a time when I had this dream, a dream of being this generations C. S. Lewis. And if that dream had come true, I would have said this:
While it's true you have to open your heart to God's grace, you are not seeking an empty parroting of words about God, or Jesus, or the redemption, as if they were a magical formula to get you into heaven. You're seeking a transformation of the mind, heart, and spirit. You are seeking to fill yourself with love, and with faith that love and righteousness are what you want, and need, more than anything else.
It's true, you can't judge a person's state of salvation by that person's actions. We're only human, and we all make mistakes, and while we can keep striving for perfection, we will fail. You can't look at someone's actions and know if that person is trying to do what's right, because you can't read a peson's heart. Christian theology doesn't give room to think that it's actions that matter as much as matters of the heart and spirit.
Nevertheless,I can't figure out how anyone can believe, deep in their hearts, that God wants them to "accept the redemption", and bam, that's it, eternal bliss is now theirs.
That's the idea that gets passed around. Say the magic words, and salvation is yours, and the only thing you should really be trying to do is get more people to say those magic words, as well.
And it upsets me because it's cheap. It upset me for the same reason I didn't like the movie "The Passion of the Christ". Jesus came to teach folks how to live for three years, and taught them about his death for three days. While some folks ask how anyone could reject Jesus' noble sacrifice, I'll turn around and ask how anyone who accepts his sacrifice can reject his years of teaching?
Christianity has been cheapened in many ways; there are preachers who praise cutthroat capitalism, an idea that is completely inconsistent with Jesus' teachings. It's rare to hear of Christians calling for feeding the hungry, helping the sick, and such. (Note: many Christians care very deeply about these things. But they often obey Jesus' demand to keep it quiet, and not seek the approval of others for their actions.)
There was a spoof I saw briefly during one of the Supreme Court nominations. "Religious leaders demand to know the new Justice's position on poverty!" Funny, isn't it? Can you really imagine one of the loud Christians asking such a thing? They'd ask about abortion, about gay marriage, about school prayer (and school vouchers), but not poverty... yet poverty was one of the things Jesus talked the most about.
Making Christianity about salvation, rather than spiritual transformation, cheapens it, but something else cheapens it even more: its current use in political campaigns.
Look at the issues I mentioned above: abortion, gay marriage (and other issues regarding civil rights for gay folks), school prayer (and other public recognition of religion), and you have an ideal Christian candidate, able to try to draw support from the Christian base.
That's pretty cheap. Abortion is going to be legal, barring a change in the Supreme Court and a willingness to abandon stare decisis (the principle that a decision should remain settled, without exceptional reason to change it). You can oppose abortion all you want, and not cause any real damage, or incur any real cost to yourself, so long as you act pious and concerned about babies. Gay folks can't marry the people they love (except in Massachusetts), and so opposing gay marriage isn't hurting anyone more than the status quo is. And while religious displays might offend, and might violate the First Amendment (and go against Jesus' teachings), they also don't hurt anyone.
You can thus make yourself out to be a "Christian candidate" without having to do any hard work, or take any stances that cause a great deal of damage to people. An insincere and cynical person who was good at praying could really clean up the religious vote!
Christianity has been cheapened, and the political version of Christianity isn't worth a plugged nickel. And while it's not my business any more, I've long yearned for a chance to change that, to see Christianity return to its real roots, of caring for others in this world, accepting sacrifices in this world, because of a belief that there is something better and more important out there.