2b or not 2b, lol

As I mentioned in a previous post, I really don’t like “The Message” by Eugene H. Peterson. I will probably type up an exhaustive list of reasons why in a subsequent post, but for now it is sufficient to say that I hold it in the same regard as I do the current History Channel (sans aliens): technically correct, but completely missing the point.

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Response: How to Suck at Your Religion

This is starting to pop up in my social circles so I figured I might as well write a response to it now. Recently, Matthew Inman, the cartoonist of the very popular and funny The Oatmeal, posted a comic in which he laid out his view on how people suck at their religion. The cartoon seeks to enumerate Inman’s problems with religion, or at least his problems with the adherents to religion, in a humorous fashion. While I didn’t particularly find it as amusing as some of his other work, others online have already taken to using it as a kind of argument against religion and hail it as a kind of “Finally, someone said this in a succinct way.”

In this post I would like to attempt to add my commentary to the arguments Inman lays out. I do this, not because I hate silly internet cartoons (in fact, I love The Oatmeals other comics), but because Inman has conveniently posted a list of some of the most common arguments against religiosity, and I figure this is a good a time as any to do a survey on why I think they are misguided.

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The Bird

I dislike The Message. A lot. If there is one thing I can point to in the modern Christian world that is the embodiment of most things I find objectionable about modernity creeping its way into the Church, it would be The Message. My problems with it are many, spanning from how it assumes that the modern reader is too ignorant to understand anything outside the vernacular to the stripping away of anything resembling the poetic, the historical, or the traditional. It takes scripture and turns it into pop fiction and in doing so rips out it’s soul. Which is why, one day, I decided to illustrate my distaste by rewriting Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven in the same way the authors of The Message would have translated the psalms. Below is my meager attempt at satire.

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Egg on the Face

A few days ago was the Western Easter and as normal, the old facebook was filled with the types of things you’d expect on Easter: posts about redemption and Jesus, simple “Happy Easter”s, and pictures of little kids in suits hunting for eggs. Yet a couple of things that I had hardly noticed last year around this time cropped up again this year and in more force.

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Road map

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote anything. I apologize for that. It seems that for the last year or so I have been wrestling with some questions. Some of these questions are about religion in general and some of them are directed solely at the Christian Church. A lot of these questions remain unanswered, even after taking so long to meditae on them. The other night, though, I found something that opened my eyes to a new way of seeing things. I found a new way of looking at not only my own questions, but of the things the questions themselves were questioning.
If you know me, you know that I have a deep seeded resentment towards ignorance in the face of knowledge. Show me someone who would rather take it easy rather than learn something about themselves or the world and I would see someone I would rather kick in the back of the head. For a long time, whenever someone in the American Christian church would talk about religion, I would basically tune it out. The reason being that I had come to the conlusion that most American Christians would rather be boiled in acid then acually have to think for themselves. I chalked it up to a hatred of knowledge on their part and dismissed the idea that maybe there was some other factor involved. That is, until I read something in a book.
In his book, Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamees Buddhist monk, discusses the relationship between the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha. For the first part of the book I was not much impressed. I had read much concerning Buddhism beforehand and what this book was saying about the similarities between the two religions was not very revealing, at least not in a new and novel way. It wasn’t until I got to the titular chapter that I had my mind blown. Hanh states, “When Jesus said, ‘I am the way,’ He meant that to have a true relationship with God you must practice His way. … But we must distinguish the ‘I’ sopen by Jesus and the ‘I’ that people usually think of. The ‘I’ in His statement is life itself, His life, which is the way.” It was here that suddently things began to click.
For as long as I can remember, the statement “I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me,” was always used only in one context: to prove that Christianity was the only way to heaven. I can not recall a time in which this statement, spoken by Jesus, was not used to disregard another religious teaching or philosophy. The only way to heaven is through Jesus, which means that the only way to heaven is by worshiping Jesus, which means that anyoen who doesn’t worship Jesus is going to go to hell. That was the interprutation I learned from the Church and from other Christians. But this statement by Hanh, esspecially put in the context I had prior to learned about Buddhists, is of monumental importance to me.
The true meaning of the statement, in my view, is two fold. The first one is like the original interpruation: Jesus is the way to heaven. The second one is this: being as Jesus is the way to heaven. I think that American Christianity has lost a lot of itself in he last century. It is told to me that there were people in the world who became like Jesus; people who, instead of following a list of regulations and conforming to a set of social expectations, actually embodied the attributes of Christ in the world. Today, it is hard to imagine what such a person would be like.
Christians today have taken, what I consider, a grave turn. Instead of becoming like Christ, they have instead taken to becoming a Jesus cult. This may sound ridiculous, but consider it for a moment. A lot of Christians today would describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” or would give an account of the religious affiliation as “I love Jesus”. Go to a “praise session” at a modern church and you will find people who will, instead of reflecting on how to become more like Christ, put their hands in the air and chant or mutter “Jesus” over and over. There is a strange fixation on the death and sacrifice of Jesus to the point where all other teachings of Christ fall by the wayside. I think it would be fair to say that to some extent they could be called a Jesus-cult. A cult which is hung up on the humanity of Jesus instead of on his divinity and his teaching.
Let me clarify a bit. I am not, I repeat Not, saying that loving Christ or the sacrifice made by him for humanity is not important or in anyway a bad thing. What I am saying is that it would seem that Christians today, esspecially in America, have become stuck in a rut of making those the focal point of their entire lives. Why, though, is that a bad thing? Christ did come to die for our sins, no doubt. However, if that was all he was here to do then he could have done that at any time. What makes a Jesus-cult bad is that it religates the teachings and the life of Christ to the back burner if not cuts it out all together and begins to teach that all that is needed for salvation is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior and all is forgiven and you are heaven bound. If that was really all there was to it we would be no better than the Buddhist cult that believes that they can lead any kind of life, but as long as they call upon the name of the Buddha before they die they are guaranteed to be reincarnated in the Pure Land.
Christ did not come just to die so that we could claim him as a savior and then go about our merry way so long as we worship his name every noe and again. He came to teach us how to live–Not only as a guideline, but as a requirement. It is not enough that we say “I believe in Jesus.” We must become like Christ. We must live like Christ. We must follow his teachings: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind; to love your neighbor as yourself regardless of what he has done or what he believes; to be charitable and merciful; and to seek peace within ourselves and to spread that peace to others. As Hanh says, “If you only satisfy yourself with praising a name, even the name of Jesus, it is not practicing the life of Jesus.”
The Jesus-cult is so prevelant because it is so easy. In today’s society we like things that are simple, easy, and convenient. Showing up to church, praising the name of Jesus, getting swept up in the emotion of a crowd (as opposed to fostering true emotions within one’s self), claiming Jesus as a personal savior, and going home, these are easy and simple. There is no real life change except maybe for a new schedule to follow and a few new social norms to abide by. But the true person has not, I think, been changed at all. What has been changed are only the clothes of the person. Being a true Christian is hard, strenuous, and tough. It requires not only “rebelling” against a society in which we are in to be “good” but requires us to change ourselves from the soul out. It demands us discovering who we are, who this person is whom I call “I”. It requires knowledge and wisdom, something that has become hard to aquire as those who could pass it on have themselves passed on and those who seek the easy path have nothing to offer. When Christ said that there were two paths, a wide, easy path a rocky, narrow one, he did not mean just “being evil is easy and good is hard”, he also meant that being good is easy, but following his life and his teachings is hard.
Examine your own faith, if you are a Christian. Are you being as Christ or are you simply praising the name of a man?

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote anything. I apologize for that. It seems that for the last year or so I have been wrestling with some questions. Some of these questions are about religion in general and some of them are directed solely at the Christian Church. A lot of these questions remain unanswered, even after taking so long to meditae on them. The other night, though, I found something that opened my eyes to a new way of seeing things. I found a new way of looking at not only my own questions, but of the things the questions themselves were questioning.

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