Friday, January 21, 2011

Faith is Nonsense Part IV: Obey your thirst (part two)

 . . . so we finished last time with the idea that sin is an emotional crow bar that followers of Jesus use to get people to act in accordance with the ideas they receive from the institution of the church and a book over 2,000 years old.

Well, yeah, if I was an atheist, this would probably be one of my more solid arguments trying to dislodge people’s faith in Christianity:  sin is not something that leads us to lives of guilt and shame, it is the idea of sin that has been socialized into us via the people of Christianity and the text of scripture that makes us feel shameful about normal urges and desires.  Those outside of the Christian footprint have lead lives unobservant of the morals of Christianity and felt no shame at all.

What I would be forgetting in launching this attack on believers is that this is not a new critique – it was Jesus who first railed against the way that humans take something like sin and make people feel ashamed of their sin so that they can impose a moral conformity and feel better about themselves. 

There was a clear difference in the way that the religious people of Jesus’ day saw sin and the way that Jesus talked about it.  The Jewish contemporaries of Jesus took great pride in how they were morally superior to their Roman counterparts.  Religious Jews thought that they were really making God happy by following a moral code – even to the point of thinking that they could manipulate His divine favor by their actions.  In ancient Judaism the “Holy of the Land” thought that if everyone in Israel kept the Sabbath for two consecutive weeks that Messiah would come. 

Jesus comes at it from a completely different angle.  Jesus describes sin as the departure from the will of God . . . and since God is what brings about life, the departure from God’s will winds up in death.  Since so much of Jesus’ mission was invested in overturning disease, decay and death, it was obvious that Jesus would be preaching for people to repent.  Funny, though, He was preaching to the religious folks that they should repent.

Read that again – it was the religious that needed to repent just as much as the sinners.

But think about it, how do you call people to repent who place a high priority on following a strict moral code?  Wasn’t it redundant for Jesus to call them to obedience of God’s law?  Why were the religious Jews of Jesus’ day so upset with Him is that was what His message was?

Because when we make following God into a religious game concocted to assuage guilt you have stopped following God.  Instead you have formed a club where all the people follow behavioral norms in order to keep their lives serene – and everyone else in check.  Jesus knew that following God is more than psycho-social balance, it meant following the rhythms of the author of life. 

So the atheist is right – guilt comes from the social pressure of religious people, not from the acts themselves.  A person could be practicing all kinds of what religious people would call sin and not feel a thing.  Even Jesus was annoyed at religious people that load people up with pseudo-spiritual baggage.

But the point of following God was never to feel better about yourself – it was to ‘obey your thirst’ for things beyond the urges of your body.

No comments:

Post a Comment