What are we living for? Or, more specifically, if Christianity is, as it claims, more or less the most important thing ever, what is it that the Christian is Christian for? What is it that Christianity offers that makes it worth living for?
The most basic answer here is that it is the Truth. But we can respond, so what? There are those who say that even if Christianity is true, they want no part in it. It seems to be something worse than other lives and thus hardly worth living, no matter how true (we do love us our denial).
In the National Study of Youth and Religion, American religious beliefs were said to be “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” They are “moralistic” in that God expects Christians to be good; “Therapeutic” in that Christian’s expect God to make them feel better, and “Deism” because through this all God just hangs in the background, waiting for the moments in which he’s needed.
This really should not be at all surprising to anyone. One needs only spend a few minutes looking at the average Christian (not simply self-professed, but one who at least regularly attends church) to see that they believe because it helps them with their problems and, in sense, to pay of God’s help with being good. Morality quickly becomes the debt owed to a better life.
Yet a quick glance at ancient Christianity throws this whole system into a tizzy (I’m not usually as antediluvian as that phrase sounds). St. Irenaeus’s most famous quote: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” This is (as future posts will show) in many ways the fullest expression of the Christian life.
What does this mean for “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?” It means religion is not about being good, not about being helped with your problems, and not about keeping God in the background. It is about being most fully human. A man becomes Christian because a Christian becomes a Man; a woman becomes Christian because a Christian becomes a Woman. One does not do good because God demands it, one does it because it makes them what God expects.
This is, obviously, barely scratching the surface of the issue. Christianity today is deeply rooted in moralistic norms, in the idea that one does good for no other reason than it’s the rule of God. To reclaim morality as a good in and of itself is a large project, and future posts will hopefully illumine the path some more.