Sunday, January 13, 2013

A True Christian (?)



I followed the link to this essay from Andrew Sullivan's place. If this man's Christianity were the norm, and if, to the extent that "Christianity" has come to infuse our nation's politics, it were of his variety rather than that of today's teabagging, hateful, regressive, denialist, theocratic, anti-science Republican party, I'd have a hell of a lot less to write about. It's a long essay, which ends thusly:


... I know that I am picking and choosing, and that by many standards I've failed to meet the requirements of being a Christian. Many, like those with the banners at the sports events, take John 3:16 to contain the core message of the Gospels. I also claim to know what the core message of the Bible is: love and forgiveness (1 John 4:8, 1 Corinthians 13:13, Matthew 5:38), and I claim that there is much extraneous stuff too, which can have little to do with our understanding of the essence of Christianity: the rules concerning marriage, the disregard for animals, the cosmic significance of crucifixion. How do I justify my picking and choosing? Well, who wants me to justify it? The hoarse-voiced goon at the sports match shouting about how Jesus Christ died for my sins? What concern is he of mine? 
Those who know me or have read me will probably know that I have often claimed that I am an atheist. I would like to stop doing this, but if I had to justify myself, I would say that it is for fear of being confused with that blowhard with the 'John 3:16' banner that I am unforthcoming about what I actually believe. I am infinitely closer, in the condition of my soul, to the people who feel God's absence-- the reasons for this feeling are a profound theological problem, and one might say that it is only smugness that enables people, atheists and dogmatists alike, to avoid grappling with this problem. I am with the people who detect God's hand, perhaps without even realizing it, where the smug banner-holder sees only sin: in jungle music, dirty jokes, seduction, and swearing. I am with the preacher who puts out a gospel album, then goes to prison on fraud and drug charges for a while, then puts out a hip-grinding soul album, and then another gospel album. I am with the animals, who can't even read, but can still talk to the saints of divine things. I am sooner an atheist, if what we understand by Christianity is a sort of supernatural monarchism; if we understand by it that God is love, though, then, I say, I am a Christian.


Of course, it's sort of a copout: God is love. Who isn't down with that? With no difficulty or cynicism whatsoever, I can look around me and feel what some might call love, for the world in which we live (especially if you took a few of its humans out of it.) That sense of pleasure, or spirituality, or luckiness to be alive -- at least for those lucky enough to be able to live without (much) fear, with enough to eat, and with shelter -- as easily sits with non-believers as with believers of whatever faith. So the writer, typically, glosses over a lot; but not near as much as the guy with the sign at the game.

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