Sunday, January 23, 2005

Christianity is Difficult

What amazes me is that many people, including both Christians and non-Christians, have this belief that Christianity is an easy religion. Or better yet, that the Christian God is so benevolent that nothing bad can happen to those who worship Him. I'm really sorry to dispel your illusions, but Christianity is anything but easy. In fact, being a Christian will give you extraordinary burdens and might even land you in trouble depending on the situation.

First off, those expecting rewards and riches from being a Christian should forget all that. If you look closely at the New Testament, you'll see that Jesus died on the cross, suffering for our sins. And along the way, a lot of good people suffered as well, be it the Apostles, Jesus's disciples, and sincere believers. If you're a Catholic, a lot of martyrs and saints died a horrible death and lived problematic lives. Now I'm not saying all this to scare you. I'm just setting expectations, and showing how Christianity never promised paradise on Earth if that's what you're expecting. And don't be disheartened by all the gloom and doom surrounding the protagonists of the Church. They might have suffered a lot but it was in the service of a cause they believed in. Just look at your modern day heroes, and not just the Christian ones. Every hero had to endure suffering at one point or another in order to achieve their goal. War heroes sacrificed their life for the glory of their country, artists starve and get criticized before creating their masterpieces, and even successful entrepreneurs have their fair share of failed businesses. The point? They all felt that the cost was well worth it. And in the end, they found their sense of worth and purpose. I always believed that everything came at a price. In the case of Christianity, part of the price you pay will be suffering. We can't take that away, although some Christians do suffer less than others. No one can guarantee that you won't suffer for your belief, but I can guarantee you that you don't have genuine belief in something if you're not willing to suffer for it.

Another common complaint I hear is "why does God allow this to happen?" or "why do good people suffer?". First and foremost, I'd like to point out that the value system of Christianity is a meritocracy: people get what they deserve, or that life should be fair. Understand that Christians are striving for that because that's not the reality. That might be the case in heaven but obviously, that's not the case here on Earth. Why does God allow it to happen? Well, what most believers will tell you is that God has a purpose for us and only He knows where it'll take us. And in certain ways, that's true. I mean I don't know what tomorrow might bring. An unfortunate event today might shape my life so that it'll be a boon in the future. Let's say you get into an accident today, rendering you temporarily paralyzed. And then tomorrow there's a war and the army conscripts all able-bodied people to go to war. The previous day, my accident might seem like the worst thing that could have happened. But in light of recent events, it might appear like a blessing in disguise since I don't have to go to war. My other take on it is that well, unfortunate events do happen to everyone and not just to Christians. In fact, the true test of a Christian is when he faces adversity. I mean let's face it, it's easy to be good and kind when the situation is in your favor: if you're rich, it's easier to give; if you're in a good mood, it's easier to smile; when you have time, it's easier to be there for others. But when the situation is reversed, it's similarly more difficult. And in the end, if you look at things, the only reason the human race has evolved is because it continues to strive, to become better than it already is. The only reason that can occur is when we face adversity. As for the question "why do good people suffer", well, why not? Suffering makes us human. It enables us to empathize with other suffering people as well. Honestly, would you go back to the archaic belief that sick people are possessed by evil spirits? Life is far from black and white and not as distinguishable as that. As long as you're living, you will suffer. Your moral outlook on life won't change that. And for all this negative talk about what God allows and what he doesn't allow, have you ever stopped to ask "how has God blessed me today?" or "does God reward good people?" Sure, even evil people are blessed and rewarded. I can't deny that. But good people tend to be happier about it (not that evil people aren't happy when they're blessed and rewarded) because they usually attribute it to an external source, whether it be God, their friends, or some other agency. Good people don't think their achievement is the result of their own effort alone. They recognize that it was possible through the aid of others, and how fortunate they really are to have those kind of people around.

When we were children, some of us were criticized by our parents for our grades. If we got a 99 out of a 100, they'd give us a sermon for not getting that one question right. If you were in that situation, don't you wish that they'd praise you for getting the 99 other questions correct rather than focus on your one mistake? In a certain way, that's how we see God when disaster falls upon us. We don't stop and thank him for the fact that we're still alive and that we have friends, family, and whatever wealth (no matter how small or big that sum is) we have. Rather, some of us criticize God for this and that. Honestly, when you look at the bigger picture, we have a lot more to be thankful for more than to be angry about. And the cynics out there might tell me God has no right to be 99 out of a 100 because he's supposed to perfect. Well, to me, God is perfect in the fact that he gives us imperfect conditions. Because people are imperfect, and I honestly doubt it if we'd appreciate perfect conditions. I mean if you suddenly had the perfect friend or boyfriend/girlfriend, at some point, you'll be jealous of him/her or be annoyed at him/her; because they can do no wrong, while your mistakes just keep on piling up. As human beings, we have imperfect needs, and the only way we grow is usually through imperfect experiences. Or think of it as God as your guardian angel (and He actually is). The dilemma of the guardian angel is that the only time you only realize he's around (or rather, he's not around) is when disaster strikes you. Does one really get to appreciate the rest of the time he's guarding you? And hey, I personally wouldn't blame God if he faltered for just a moment just to make us realize that He's there. But I don't think God is that petty.

Being a Christian is difficult, huh? Well, anything worthwhile is usually difficult. In fact, the only time people grow, mature, and learn is when we encounter something difficult. If Christianity was easy, everyone would sign on and we'd all be living in paradise. But that's not the case. The call to be a Christian is difficult. And many of us are reluctant to heed that call precisely because of that fact. But in my perspective, life will be difficult either way. You'll still encounter problems (although not necessarily the same problems a Christian will face) and have to wake up every morning to the same planet. Perhaps what differentiates a Christian from a non-Christian is their genuine belief. More than their actions, a Christian's belief is what separates him or her from non-Christians. Because if you have a genuine faith, you'll know that there's meaning in your life, no matter what the results of your actions will be. If you don't have that kind of belief, the best you can come up with is the statement of "we'll never know". And in a certain sense, even for Christians, that is true. There's a lot of things at this point in time that we'll never know. But I'd rather go on living with a belief in something, rather than live a life without one. As one of my philosophy teachers would say, even if in the end, Christianity is one big hoax, at the very least, I'll be a better person for my belief.


Guan said...

Hi Charles, this is creative reader. Hope you don't mind me posting up your article on a blog co-shared with friends of mine. I felt that your article was extremely insightful and helpful. Therefore, I posted up your article.

Do be assured. I've acknowledged that the article is yours. Hoping to see more exciting posts.

creative reader

Charles said...

Sure, no problem. Linking to this site would also be appreciated. =)

Anonymous said...

I may link to your blog on my main blog. Just interested - are you a christian? Because I noticed that you knew quite a bit about christianity.

Creative Reader

Charles said...

It's nice to get a link attached to my essay (along with credit of course).

Yup, I'm a Christian, although Christians aren't necessarily the target audience of my writings.