Let us now discuss Christianity, the faith of our ancestors. For the love of them, I have always tried to believe, but the gift of faith has not been given to me. Still, the desire is genuine, and that at least I can try to justify.
You yourself provide my first argument. It is no small virtue that Christianity short circuits the dualistic spirituality you were just describing. Christianity reconciles paganism and Judaism, because it is in fact paganized Judaism. The transcendent One ratifies our love of the little and particular. For when God humbled Himself to commune with us, He did it not by drawing us out of the world of humanity but by entering into it, making Himself a particular human person to be related to as such.
That’s all well and good, but already we see the reason you cannot be more than a theoretical Christian. You want to be a Christian because you love your ancestors, but they were Christians because they loved Christ. What you have given is a reason to love the idea of loving Christ, because relating to God in a certain way validates that way of relating in general, but not any indication that you yourself find Jesus Christ lovable, probably because you do not. If you’re like most people, you can’t help but hate Him.
Nothing breeds resentment more than a sense that one is indebted to someone else. Men always hate their creditors, especially when the debt is waived, and thus transferred to the plane of moral superiority! And is this not the one thing we have been drilled to believe about Jesus, that we are in His debt, eternally in His debt, that there is no way we can even hope to rectify this degrading condition? That even our own moral improvement only makes us owe Him more? Were they honest, I’m sure more than 9 people out of 10 find this idea Bad News rather than Good News.
But this brings me to the second argument for Christianity–that in it one must forever give up the hope of enjoying “righteousness”, as you call it, or “self-righteousness” as I would call it. One must forever make do with borrowed righteousness, with never being better than others, but at most more gifted.
If it were true that Christianity could cause men to renounce righteousness, that would be a remarkable feat indeed, for men covet this pleasure above all others. To stand before the reprobate, the “racist” or the “sexist”, glaring with bulging eyes, accusatory finger outstretched, to say “how dare you!”, it’s the best thing in life. The euphoria induced by certain drugs is the only experience to which it could be compared, and righteousness is more intense and addictive than any drug. When a man has tasted sweet righteousness, he will do anything to experience it again.
If what you say is true, then this craving for moral superiority and indignation must be countered. What would a society be like where everyone was locked in a race with everyone else, each person trying to position himself to condemn all his neighbors? It would be a nightmare. Fortunately, people will renounce this pleasure. The fact that there was once a Christendom proves it.
History in fact tells us something different, that Christian civilization is uniquely susceptible to the pharisaical arms race. Having to live for so long without the assured intrinsic righteousness other peoples take for granted, when Christians were granted the slightest taste, they completely lost their heads, like non-drinkers with no tolerance for alcohol.
Why do people call WWII “the good war”? We bombed civilians, incarcerated citizens, atomized cities of defenseless civilians in an already prostrate foe, made the outrageous insistence of surrender without terms, all so that Joseph Stalin could be lord of Eurasia. Yet we look back to this time with pride and relish, because for a short moment in time, our Jewish cultural masters shared with us their precious righteousness. For once, we were not ignorant bigots but righteous men on a holy crusade against Hitler. Is it a coincidence that the West rejected Christianity so soon after WWII? Having had the slightest taste of sweet righteousness, they were hooked, would do anything for another hit. The next generation, consumed with jealousy of their fathers, rushed to Jew-approved Social Justice movements. What was the Civil Rights movement but an exercise in Nazi-hunting, a craving for that glow of moralistic certainty they think their fathers must have enjoyed while incinerating the women and children of Dresden? The point was never to help blacks, but to hunt down racists, people who could be identified, shrieked at, and destroyed in an orgy of sweet, sweet righteousness. And so it goes on today, with Social Justice making more and more outrageous demands. Often the Nazi enemy retreats so fast he must be pursued, and escalation must proceed beyond all reason (mentally ill men in the women’s restroom?) just to get the slightest pushback, and with it that delicious frisson of righteousness.
I don’t deny that this is a danger for Christian peoples. Hedonism offers the pleasure of indulgence. Pharisaism offers the pleasure of self-righteousness. Christianity offers neither. Leftism offers both. It’s no wonder so many have traded Christianity for Social Justice. But there is at least this to be said for Christianity, that it won’t coexist, at least not for long, with Social Justice Pharisaism. Having embraced the latter, Westerners find it impossible to hold onto the former.
That’s small comfort, but I grant it. Christianity is certainly a finer thing than anything that can coexist comfortably with Social Justice. Like you, I wish I could be a Christian; I know my ancestors would have wanted it. Only some are given faith, but even the desire for faith is a great gift, one that I will guard and cling to.
Filed under: Uncategorized |