Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's Not That Easy

Recently, (a relative term) I mentioned a form of occult worship which combines certain elements of charismatic Christianity with Haitian vodou. It is representative of a religious culture awash in bizarre concoctions of doctrine.
Where I erred was in judging this to be a modern, or post-modern curiosity. The Isrealites persisted in combining all forms of idol worship with Judaism.
Much earlier, Cain insisted on sacrificing vegetables to God, and was only his mother's son. From Eve's initial protest and then acceptance of the serpent's dubious theology, I seem to gather that she chose to believe that the eating of the forbidden fruit dovetailed quite nicely with the rest of her theology. Outright rebellion it was not. Heresy rarely is.
I rehash to bring up another subject that I again considered a novelty; the practice of self-inflicted penance in the stead of God's convicting changing power. Upon reflection I am stunned by the prevalence of the prostitution of guilt.
Guilt has overtaken NASCAR as the national pastime. We are guilt-ridden, and, at the same time, extremely careless. And it is our guilt that enables us to be so care-free. It's easy. You compartmentalize. Guilt needn't interfere with our pursuit of happiness.
I grew curious over lyrics from a certain Christian group, recently, and availed myself of their website to see what made them tick. It wasn't jeweled movement.
I read of their reticence to be classed with "cheesy, holier-than-thou evangelicals." Their prioritizing of social concerns was in curious order for a group of professed Christians. They long to record anti-war songs, but feel their audience may not be ready for it. Asked about a rumor that they were stumping for Hillary Clinton for president, they placidly denied it, "at this time", although, they then went on to note that they did like her husband, but were currently "intrigued" by Barack Obama. They acknowledged abortion as a societal tragedy, but seemed more concerned with pushing the issue on environmental issues. They conjured up taboos set in place by the Christian establishment, and then bemoaned the imaginary restraints placed on them.
As I read on, I became disgusted with what seemed to be one of the most whining, pretentious, self-righteous, judgemental rants I'd ever heard from one group who calls themselves Christian on another group who calls itself Christian. (Oddly enough, there's really not that many self-righteous evangelicals around. They're all too busy sputtering, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."; a worthy mantra, if applied correctly.)
This same group, who funds a large charity dedicated to the care of AIDS sufferers in Africa, expends most of their precious musical and lyrical talent on critical introspection.
Thoughtful, I would have called it. Spiritual navel-gazing now seems to be a more applicable term.
Evangelicals misuse guilt as well. By and large, the late twentieth century mutant strain of Calvinism now pervades every major evangelical denomination. Guilt is common here, also. An old friend, in fact. The worse you can feel about crucifying Jesus afresh every day in thought, word and deed, the more spiritual you are. It is a glorified form of self-deprecation. How awful it is that we cannot keep from pounding new nails in His hands every day! The studied conscientiousness of how our continual sin extracts continual sacrifice from Christ burdens many a radio preacher, oh, if only we could quit!
I myself am not above abusing guilt.
If I offend anyone, this troubles me deeply. I apologize, profusely, unsatisfied until the offended party forgives. A self-serving attitude manifests itself in my desperation for an apology. I don't wish to trouble myself any longer over the wrong I've done another. I question whether I ever troubled myself over the harm I caused another or whether I was sorry simply because I found myself inconvenienced by having to suffer through repentance. Acceptance of the apology and forgiveness is, consequently, nothing more than a placebo. All this was a subconscious process until recently, and frankly, I'm irritated that it ever reared its ugly head above water.
Furthermore, in referencing the relative ease with which I live out my Christianity, I wished to know whether we have truly taken on His yoke, or if we have, have we lightened the load?
I enjoy my Christianity. I've grown used to the sacrifice.
In case the glaring contradiction lurking in the last statement didn't jump out and bite you on the nose, I'll point it out.
If one grows used to sacrifice, it ceases to be sacrifice.
If your servitude becomes a comfortable fit, it needs alteration. It should chafe a little.
Does one go hunting for trouble? Perhaps not, but if you are advancing as you should be, you are behind enemy lines and trouble will find you.
Every Easter season we are treated to the spectacle of crucifixion in the Philippines.
By submitting to fifteen or twenty minutes of the most excruciating physical pain imaginable, you make a one-time, life-time sacrifice of our will.
If only it were that easy.
We are required to sacrifice our will daily.
Entire sanctification is appropriately categorized as surrender. Whereupon, however, we are not deposited in a stockade and instructed not to attempt escape.
Instead, we are taken to the arsenal, armed, and sent back out to do battle with our old comrade-in-arms, Self.


Me said...

It is true that becoming "comfortable" with our relationship with Jesus is easy to do. I believe that this has both positive and negative connontations. Positive is this: Jesus did say that His Yoke is easy and His Burden is light. Being a Christian is a wonderful self-definition. The negative flip-side is that we must be wary of growing complacent, or non-caring, of things that define us as Christians. The devil is always looking for ways to tuck us into spiritual slumber. We must fight back...carrying our burdens for the lost, seeking out opportunities to flavor the earth with our "saltiness". Being a Christian, I must continue to grow in grace daily. If I do, I win the race, if I don't--I lose. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

You should be writing for World Magazine. Thanks for the words that, as usual, make me stop and think seriously about my faith.