Sunday, October 01, 2006

Rendering unto Christianism what is Christianism's

I haven't forgotten this post, as evidenced by the one you're now reading.

Others are more adept at discussing Christianism's implication for the Church and politics . . . which may seem to imply that I'm more adept at discussing Christianism's implications for religion. I'm not, not really. But as a confessed Christian who feels utter dismay and despair over how the public image of my faith has been all but hijacked by some whom I fear, out of their zeal to serve a God of their making, will end up crashing all of us (not just Christians) into some building, I feel called to say something, albeit from the pretty-short stump that is good old Blog Meridian.

The post I linked to above has the text of a sign on the marquee of a Christian church that I drive by each day: "Your obedience is better than your sacrifice." Why not "faith" instead of "obedience," I wonder. The only reason I can come up with is that, as Paul Tillich argues in Dynamics of Faith, faith leaves room for--even requires--doubt from the believer in order for faith to become ever stronger. It seems to me, then, that faith without (honest engagement with) doubt is dead. Naked obedience (which, though I may be mistaken, is what the marquee's message seems to be asking of the reader), on the other hand, is Marching Orders. Apparently, it doesn't matter what, exactly, it is you're being asked to obey, much less what you may think about it--just that you obey. It bears an unsavory resemblance to the high school mantra, "If you love me, you'll have sex with me."

The exercise of faith, then, is an ongoing dialogue between self and God as a response to the world. The sacrifice, this good Protestant would agree, is ultimately of less importance than belief; nevertheless, those sacrifices made out of and as an expression of faithfulness to God, however tentative they might be, are sincere ones, because willingly made. The sacrifice arising out of obedience, on the other hand, has a lesser value precisely because it's not willingly offered.

In Christianism, then, the call to be submissive to God's will and the call to be submissive to authority get blurred in various subtle and not-always-happy ways. Christianism asks its adherents to insist that the victims of natural disasters convert to Christianity before they can receive aid. Under the guise of a ThouShaltNotism presented as the antidote to moral relativism, Christianism asks us, on the one hand, to decry processes described as injustices committed against Christians accused of heinous crimes and, on the other, to applaud those very same processes when Muslims are accused of heinous crimes (as noted here).

In Christianism, in other words, (certain) Caesar(s) and God become conflated, whereas Christianity (well, okay, Jesus, then, if you want to be nit-picky about it. Gosh!!) would clearly have it otherwise.

What I'm not saying: That Christians shouldn't get mixed up in politics. On the contrary: Christians, living in the world as they do, should be active participants in public debates about policy and law and how they can better reflect what God calls us to do and be as Christians and as human beings. But what I am saying is that such debates can seduce us into choosing sides in this world, as opposed to remembering to choose God over and above the side we've chosen. Choosing God means I don't become blind to the failings of "my side" when it doesn't choose God. "My side," I was much aggrieved to note a little while ago, failed to choose God (or, for that matter, our nation's own ideals) and instead chose various political expediencies, as evidenced by their sins of omission and comission. The adherents of Christianism, though, are quite happy--or will be, until this new bill is challenged in the courts or (I would hope) repealed come a change in the balance of power in Washington--because "their side" has won. They find themselves in accord with now-codified and Executive Branch-sanctioned things like the betrayal of innocent people, trials on trumped-up evidence, letting self-admitted enemies of the state go free while the innocent are handed over to prison or worse to satisfy crowds whipped into a frenzy by a few who are themselves desirous of gaining power and/or fearful of losing the favor of those who do have power, the torture and summary execution of people who just might be innocent . . .

I'm certain I have read or heard about just this sort of thing, long ago . . .

Eh, my memory fails me. Anyway. No doubts, right? Blind obedience means we don't have to think about or worry about the choices we make--ever--because obedience is an end in itself. It is the cheapest grace of all.

Technorati tags:
, , , ,


R. Sherman said...

Good post.

I wonder, however, whether the church sign meant to convey the following: Faith can be weak at times. Obedience is the path to faith, i.e. getting up on a Sunday morning to go to church even when you've had a crappy week and, like Job's wife, wish to, "curse God and die."

I've been and am a member of some very conservative congregations. Not once, have I heard a "vote for John Doe" message from the pulpit or a clarion call to certain action.

Like you, I feel that my faith and Christianity is tarred by the same brush that hits the Falwell's and Robertsons of this world.

I need to get back to work, but your post will inspire more comment.


John B. said...


Thanks as always for stopping by.

Believe me: Every time I have driven past that sign for the past week now, I ask myself the same question and have considered the possibility you suggest. It may yet be what is intended; I confess to not having stopped in and asked.

But you mention Job, and I would make the case that, seeing how Job's obedience is characterized as being beyond exemplary and yet does not protect him from those things which give rise to the book about him, I'd argue that it's Job's faith in God ("Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.") as opposed to his (faultless) obedience to the law that causes God at the end of the book to take Job's side against the "comforters." In other words, Job is obedient because he is faithful (though one can certainly make the case that Job hadn't known that about himself before the boils and loss of his wealth and the deaths of his children).

Anyway: I'm not so much arguing with you as kind of talking out loud to myself.