Thursday, January 26, 2006
FAITH, FOLLOWING, FAWNING, AND FEEDBACK
So I've been pondering some things for a while. Last week I posted about my need for feedback, and how I feel when I do or don't get it. Lots of people responded that they crave it, too. Right around the same time, Cliff posted about how someone told him the life of an atheist is easier than the life of a Christian. And Nancy posted some of her own thoughts on the existence (or not) of God.
And these three posts came together in my mind and took a new shape.
OK. Where to start.... Well, you gotta review these other three posts to get where I'm coming from.
So does God need people to tell Him how great He is and how much they love Him? No. God doesn't need anything. But He likes it when we do these things. And when I thought about this, I thought, "Bingo!" Because, if there is a God (I believe in God but I'm being broadminded here) and if the stories are true, then humans are made to be reflections of what God is like ("Let us make man in our image and likeness"), which implies, since we have emotions, that God has them too. He can be sad, and happy, angry, and excited, and proud, and concerned. And if, as we are also told, He is a loving father, then He is subject to all of these feelings towards us, just as we are towards our own children. Hey, when we have children, we think of producing a being who will embody, to a certain extent, who and what we are. And we love it when they tell us they love us, when they come for hugs and affection, when they ask us for help, when they show pleasure in gifts we've given them. We are sad when they ignore us or rebel against us. Go back to the idea of being made in God's image..... we have these feelings because God has them! God likes positive feedback! Bingo! That's why we like feedback. I feel a lot better now.
Is it harder to be a Christian than an atheist? I guess maybe it depends in part on where you live... in some places you can get killed for openly practicing or professing Christianity. But in general, in this neck of the woods we're allowed to practice whatever religion we want as long as we don't force differently-thinking people to go our way or hurt them when they don't.
Now, that's a knotty question. Maybe I won't get into it because that's not what I'm about in this post. I thought about it a lot at Christmastime but that dust has settled for another year or so.
I think it's harder to follow many defined modes of behavior than not to follow them.... it's harder to follow a diet than not to; harder to follow a budget than not to; harder to follow a training plan than not to.
But my take on whether it's actually hard to lead a Christian life is, a great majority of people in America and and the rest of the developed world live their lives demonstrating Judeo-Christian values whether they believe in a personal, living Judeo-Christian God or not. Most people are kind, and conscientious, and reliable, and helpful, and they don't steal things or kill people or deliberately hurt people physically or spiritually. It's not all that hard to live this way because it's the most rewarding and the least likely to lead to trouble. And because.... back up a couple paragraphs..... these are attributes of the Judeo-Christian God in whose image, it is said, we are created. God is kind, and reliable (although a lot of folks would say they have to look real hard for that one), and helpful, and He doesn't kill or hurt people or willingly cause us grief or pain. The big difference is, we screw up. This is not a divine attribute.... this is a gift God gave us, the choice to do what we want and not be bound to act in a rigidly prescribed way, like wild animals. I'm thinking of a conversation between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her father in "The Long Winter." Laura wanted to be free like a muskrat, and her pa told her, much to her wonderment, that muskrats are not free. Look at that muskrat den, he told her. That's the only way a muskrat can make a den. Everything a muskrat does is because that's the way a muskrat must do things. For them, there is no other way. Humans are different.
God made us this way, free to decide, because He wanted us to choose to love Him, and go His way willingly. It wouldn't mean anything to God or to us if we had to do things in a certain way. Like our kids. We love it when they behave in ways that show they have absorbed our values, because it shows they believe in us and love us and want to be like us. This makes us happy.
Sometimes we do the wrong thing and that does hurt or kill us or cause us grief or pain. Sometimes pain and grief and death come to us even if we haven't done anything to bring it on ourselves. That is because it is not a perfect world, and sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes stuff just happens. And in general, God does not do flashy magic tricks to bail us out of our mistakes or compensate for imperfections in the world. The world is a work in progress.
That brings up the heated question....was it created or did it evolve? Personally..... I find it hard to understand how either one could happen except in the presence of the other. I believe the two "theories" complement and complete each other as perfectly as male and female bodies, as surely as the outlines of the continents all fit together. I find it hard to contemplate that there could be any other answer.
Being Christian doesn't mean burning evolution-teaching schoolbooks or heckling women going into family-planning facilities or bombing abortion clinics or trying to persuade people to do anything by scaring or forcing them. These actions hurt people and therefore are not Christian actions. They also put a bad-looking pseudo-Christianity into the public eye.
Whether or not a person is a believer in any God or religion, what can it hurt to consider "What would Jesus do?" or for that matter "What would Buddha do?" To emulate a kind, peace-loving philanthropist can do no harm.
And even if one is not certain whether someone is listening or caring, no harm can be done by a quick, "Thank you, Lord."