Reasons Not To Be A Christian Pt. 3

Christianity is a communal experience. The Gospel, as I understand it, is extremely communal. It is the reconciliation of all things. The reconciliation of the relationships between humans and God, humans with themselves and humans with others. How I understand myself, how I understand my identity is built around the notion of community. Brennan Manning says it so wonderfully when he says, “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” This presumes that we are in community with Jesus, we are in relationship with God. I am who I am because of the relationships between me and God and those I am in fellowship with. Christianity is a public affair. Its why we are called to share our gifts, with the community. We are told to confess our sins to one another. Jesus makes statements about how we are to love him, by loving others.

The way of the Jewish lifestyle surrounded itself solely around the existence of community. This is part of the horror of the Cross. Yes, it was bad enough being lashed, being impaled with nails and grasping for breath on the cross. But, the symbolism of the Cross was exile from the community that defined you. If  Christianity is a communal religion. Then it doesn’t allow itself to be defined by what is truly individual.

This is the problem of Politics, especially American Politics. Stanley Hauerwas makes a profound point in his book Resident Aliens, “The primary entity of democracy is the individual, the individual for whom society exists mainly to assist assertions of individuality. Society is formed to supply our needs, no matter the content of those needs. Rather than helping us to judge our needs, to have the right needs which we exercise in right ways, our society becomes a vast supermarket of desire under the assumption that if we are free enough to assert and to choose whatever we want we can defer eternally the question what needs are worth having and on what basis right choices are made. What we call ‘freedom’ becomes to the tyranny of our own desires. We are kept detached, strangers to one another as we go about fulfilling our needs and asserting our rights. The individual is given a status that makes incomprehensible the Christian notion of salvation as a political, social phenomenon in the family of God. Our economics correlates to our politics. Capitalism thrives in a climate where ‘rights’ are the main political agenda. The church becomes one more consumer-oriented organization, existing to encourage individual fulfillment rather than being a crucible to engender individual conversion into the Body.”

What this isn’t is a call to stop political action, what it is a call is to step away and re-analyze what is truly significant. If Christianity was meant to be communal, then it ought to mean I am going to surrender my rights for the sake of the other. It means we can vote as we feel led, but my citizenship, my identity, my energy and livelihood belongs to God and his people. We go out to the world to serve, love and care for it but we are not consumed with matters of the individual. Politics, no matter how we voted, will always trample someone else’s individual ‘right.’

American Christians have become lost in their individuality. It has been lost to nationalism. Leslie Newbigin says this in his book The Other Side of 1984, “The charge of blasphemy, if it is ever made, is treated as a quaint anachronism; but the charge of treason, of placing another loyalty above that to the nation state, is treated as the unforgivable crime. The nation state has taken the place of God.” This is the wisdom of a man who can call us to a careful consideration of our political choices and what is truly more important, a we or a me. Being political, is no reason to be a Christian.

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8 thoughts on “Reasons Not To Be A Christian Pt. 3

  1. Rev. Dana says:

    Hauerwas misses the other dynamic of American politics, E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one.” Individualism and the needs of many are appropriately held in tension, or should be and normally, they are. That is not to say that individualism (as distinct from individuality) isn’t a problem in this culture. Olds and Schwartz argue that point in “The Lonely American,” suggesting we have a problem with loneliness and narcissism at the same time. Religion in general and Christianity specifically are not addressing the problem.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Great point Dana. In Jesus we see that need of individualism met through the Cross. Also, with the level we have built on Hollywood and become separated from real community and lapsed into incomplete community (things like social media…. which aren’t bad, just doesn’t offer us the emotional and psychological needs we meet with face-to-face contact), we fall deeper into narcissism. We all fall into the habits of the ego and the false-self that needs to die. Community is perfect for these things.

  2. David says:

    By fighting in the political arena, don’t we become the monsters (Nietzsche) we are trying to resist? Don’t we allow them to then frame all our interactions with them, especially if met on their ground, directly?

    This is still so fresh and unformed for me. I’m young, a little liberal, etc., how can I not be a fan of Jim Wallis/Sojourners, Harvey Milk, social-justice, etc. But I look at Christ, and he didn’t seem very interested in how oppressive Rome was, or how broken it was, or how to fix it. He seemed to take it for granted that this was the way it was to me until the end of things (or am I overreaching here?). His actions seemed more interstitial than institutional to me.

    Maybe I’m just too darned wary of people sticking crosses on their flags and then doing whatever the heck they want.

    Peace

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I agree David. I don’t necessarily have a problem with those people you mention, in fact they have done good things. But, I don’t think Jesus would have done it.

      Have you read Greg Boyd’s Myth of A Christian Nation or John Howard-Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus?

      • David says:

        I haven’t – can you give me a cliff-notes version? (my book-addiction is pretty funn right now, heh).

      • Mike Friesen says:

        Basically, the Nationalistic Christianity is part of a Post-Constantine view of Christianity where the Cross and the Sword collide. Where Christians fell in love with the power of the state, rather than the submission and love of the Cross.

    • Yet Jesus acts and teachings do subvert the structures and systems of the world, the political, the religious, and the social. And didn’t He teach that this is what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like and that it is here and now? However, In America at least our political opinions have been fused with our theologies and doctrines in some unholy idol we pass off as Christianity. Jesus never promoted the structures, He subverted them

  3. Couldn’t agree more. And this self-centered attitude is currently bring our country down.

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