My peers in this Christian faith are mainly intellectuals and they’ve always taught me to settle for nothing less than a spiritually robust yet scholarly pursuit of God. It is contentious, but I’ve never questioned the importance of the spiritual in Christianity. Because if one did not believe in the Power of God and his ability to do miracles, why be a theist? It is sufficient to invest in a philosophy.
But there is so much more to being a Christian. And I thought God’s demands of us seemed to vary with different groups of people. I needed to know God, to surrender, read the bible, do intertextual analysis etc etc. But what about the people in third world countries who’ve been led to Christ by missionaries? What did they really know of being Christians other than what the missionaries had told them? Had they really accepted God, made a decision to follow him and to become more and more like Jesus, and all the thousand and one things that entailed? Because let’s be honest, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of need, they were nowhere near the pursuit of fulfillment, they had immediate practical needs to satisfy. Sometimes, I really have misgivings about the way missionaries approach this mass conversion. Are they taking advantage of their desperation and illiteracy, bribing them into converting with supplies they know they cannot reject? (By the way, that’s my problem with some ‘community involvement’ projects that seem to make this grand gesture of ‘helping’ and just go over to spend 4 weeks building some school or a well that the locals end up not using anyway because they haven’t actually made any effort to find out what the people really needed. So then these people go home and the locals become mere dinner conversation, forgotten except to demonstrate their big heartedness. – ok but then I’m no noble philanthropist myself; I’ve never properly done OCIP. So I’m shutting up about this now.) Anyway, the point is I thought there was an inconsistency in what it meant/entailed to be Christian.
Chris today helped me solve this personal puzzle with his theory of the 3 types of Christians:
1. The ‘born and bred’ Christians who aren’t actually born and bred Christians because they’ve never really cared either way and going to church every Sunday was just a mindless practice they never even bothered contemplating long enough to decide not to go.
2. People who’ve found God to be the provider of their needs (whatever they are, ranging to from the superficial to even abstract ones like purpose or goodness or truth). They love God and God is AN IMPORTANT PART OF THEIR LIVES. [me before God]
3. People who’ve grappled with and understood the darkness in their hearts, who they are and who God is. To them, THERE IS NO LIFE OUTSIDE GOD. [God and God alone]
The second group of people are the sheep without a shepherd and God, in his boundless mercy, takes them in.
I don’t think many people, myself included, have actually ever brutally understood what it means to say God is the creator of the heavens and earth and of us. Because if we did, we’d know that plainly, God is the Master of us.
For me, knowing that now, it is painful to accept.
I am reminded of how in “I, Lucifer”, Glen Duncan as Satan recalls how Satan came to be–one simple idea that took hold–“Why do I praise God? What if I didn’t want to praise God? What if, for once, I wanted to think for myself instead?”
Freedom, autonomy, and independence. What if I found that freedom and truth cannot be had? That my freedom could only come at the cost of turning away from truth…and vice versa?