Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Christian Paradox

i would first like to recommend to you emily anne's blog. she is an incredible writer and one smart cookie. today she pointed me in the direction of an article in harper's magazine entitled the christian paradox. coincidentally, this is a subject that i have been thinking a lot about lately. i do not consider myself an extremely spiritual or religious person and i have been contemplating lately just where my beliefs lie and what is important to me as far as religion is concerned. i tend to let myself get caught up in the unimportant details and rules of religion instead of striving to be the kind of person that i know i should be: kind, loving, non-judgemental, compassionate, service-giving and Christ-like.
last night, while i was volunteering at a homeless shelter in downtown salt lake city, i found myself realizing how sad it is that i only do this about once every 5 years. as i sat and colored with a group of homeless children i caught myself thinking more than once, "shame on me and my selfishness". the world is full of suffering. i don't even have to look far to find it. i lead a charmed life; this i know. but through all of my uncertainty about religion the one thing i truly believe is this: that the one and truly important thing in this life is how we treat others, especially those less fortunate than us. i think Christ would agree with me on that one. after all, isn't that what he taught?
the scripture states "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. this is the greatest and first commandment. and a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
from the harper's article: "love your neighbor as yourself: although its rhetorical power has been dimmed by repetition, that is a radical notion, perhaps the most radical notion possible. especially since Jesus, in all his teachings, made it very clear who the neighbor you were supposed to love was: the poor person, the sick person, the naked person, the hungry person. the last shall be made first; turn the other cheek; a rich person aiming for heaven is like a camel trying to walk through the eye of a needle. on and on and on—a call for nothing less than a radical, voluntary, and effective reordering of power relationships, based on the principle of love."
the article discusses how our largely christian nation gets less and less christian by the day. we call ourselves christian but then focus more on self advancement and the idea that "god helps those who help themselves" than the simple yet powerful commandment "love your neighbor as yourself".
the article is eye opening and definitely worth reading. {you can find it here.} how do you feel on the subject?
{the painting is one of my favorites. it is entitled 'the mourning of christ' and is by giotto di bondone. it is located in the cappella dell'arena in padua. 1305.}


Ali Flegal said...

Your honesty and perspective is refreshing. I think that once our hearts are full of charity and we have that love for our "neighbor" and for our God, then the other things that we are asked are easier to do. As a mother, I have learned more fully that we love those we serve.

As far as a personal testimony goes - with me, I've had to learn to be content that I can gain a testimony of certain aspects/principles of the gospel line upon line - piece by piece. It's a process for me.

Anyway - what a loaded question. I like it! Also, I loved the capital reef pics.

Barb said...

I think that article is perceptive and right on. I have a friend who describes himself as a "Christian-y agnostic" which is a perfect reaction to the homogenized version of religion/spirituality that permeates our country. I find his candor refreshing. I much prefer someone who professes he loves the traditions of Christianity but fundamentally disagrees its tenets. It's honest.

Identifying oneself as Christian is not the same as being Christian (a follower of Jesus Christ). To quote one of my favorite Massive Attack songs (Teardrop), "Love is a verb, love is a doing word." The same goes for Christianity- it is more about what you do than anything else.

I hope that I can reduce the hypocrisy in my life and strive to reconcile my actions with my beliefs! I don't want to be another example to prove that article true!

What a thoughtful blog, Andrea! I hope you get a lot of response from it because I, for one, certainly appreciated the chance to reflect again on what and why I believe what I do. I also applaud you for taking an honest look at your life and beliefs and spirituality. I have done the same in my own life and I hope I always will.

Melissa Stringham said...
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Emily said...

Andrea, first, thank you for mentioning my blog; your kindness is more than I can abide without blushing. Some of my thoughts (as I've been reflecting quite heavily upon these ideas) are:
We are fooling ourselves, every one, if we think that Christianity is easy. The bearer of its name lived a life of difficulty and pain that this world has not known since. If it (Christianity) was easy, we'd have to call it something else.
It is also unchristian, however, to look at our professedly Christian neighbors and label them hypocrites because we don't think they're conducting themselves in a "Christian enough" manner. Fact is, Jesus also taught us not to judge. When it comes right down to it, most of us know precious little about our neighbors before we claim the right to pass awfully pointed judgements about their character. sophmoric as this resolution may seem, all I can resolve is to be more introspective in the day-to-dailyness of my own life and try to muddle through mortality in a way that more nearly emulates true Christianity.

Robin said...

Let me try to make sense of my thoughts on this article -

Pointing out how ridiculous and twisted some practices of these modern religions are is definitely a good way to show how far we've come from the original "church of Christ." Religious corruption is an age-old issue. But I don't think the article is meant to be an expose' on organized religion. The overall theme of the article is that our nation is trying to find direction and happiness by looking inside ourselves, while we ought to be looking outside ourselves to find it.

I often find myself going through the motions of religion without feeling love or truth in my heart. I also know I could do a LOT better at being a Christ-like person. Some people are not naturally gifted with love and charity like that. In the meantime, as I learn to feel that for other people, church is a place I go to learn more about why and how I can become more like Christ.

While "the two great commandments" are the keystone of Christianity, I believe that we owe more to God than taking that and interpreting away. Organized religion sets up a way for us to serve and worship and learn principles that guide us throughout our lives. We also cannot choose to believe one portion of scripture and disregard the rest.

Overall, I do think we need to break away from our self-serving mindsets and realize that the ultimate test will not be how we succeeded in helping ourselves, but how we used what we have to help others. Thanks for posting.

tiffany said...

Thanks for your thoughts and the link to the article. I think it raises questions that we should all ask of ourselves.

A handful of things I thought I "knew" at age twenty, I don't believe at all at age thirty. And I'm guessing that I'll have a similar experience at forty. I feel like my belief system is constantly evolving. I try to find peace in making decisions that feel right. I try to look at both sides of an issue. As much as it would terrify my parents, I become more liberal with every passing day.

Great post, Andrea, and best wishes on your own journey.