Tags

, , , ,

A problem with Christianity — and shared by most great religions — is its perfection.

The holiness of the call, the excellence of the commands, make it literally impossible to adhere. The standard of religion makes its only true adherent God himself; the rest of us are jesters and foolish observers, if we are not altogether critics.

And so it is with Christianity, which literally demands perfection. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And Be holy, because I am holy. And, more specifically, think of your neighbor before yourself, be fearless, walk humbly, be self-sacrificing, forgive. Do mercy and, in the same breath, practice justice — a divine paradox that we cannot even understand, let alone enact. And, above all, love always and unconditionally.

Even if Jesus accomplished this glory, how can we?

By all appearances, Christianity is a religion for heroes.

And yet, the Christian call is not only — not even chiefly — for those who are well, or good, or free, but for those who are sick, and poor, and enslaved to this world. Christianity is a calling for the weak to become strong — not to earn strength, but to be made strong.

Any Christian supermen out there have not sewn their own capes. Their muscles are not big enough to stop the trains barreling down, loaded with sin. Their masks are as inwardly blinding as they are outwardly deceiving.

Any Christian superman has only become such because he was struck by the lightning of divine election, because he was bitten by the fangs of the Lord’s appointment, or drank the potion of Jesus’ sacred and all-surpassing fountain.

If a Christian is good, it is by no power of his own, but by the power from above, which is transcendent and public and shareable. Christian heroism is from without. It is also, I think, if it exists at all, contagious.

If a Christian is heroic, he is not self-made. He receives power. He does not find it somewhere inside him, in some better nature, some deeply moral, generous, militant corner of his soul that, coming only at night, compels him then in the beams and shadows cast by rain-dropped streetlights to fight crime and pick up all manner of litter.

If a Christian is heroic, he may very likely also be weak, small, meek, crippled, plain. And so there are probably not books about him — not the kind anyone would read. And if there are books, they are probably hardly true. If they are about him and not the one who made him what he is, then they have missed the meaning of all his supposed heroism. For a Christian without God is no more a hero than Aragorn without Tolkien, than Superman without Joe Shuster.

If a Christian is heroic, he could never admit to being a hero, nor could he believe himself to be, even secretly. No matter what our present age professes, egoism, dishonesty, and hypocrisy can never be heroic.

So if Christianity is true, it is not a religion for heroes. It is, in fact, a religion for stock characters and extras and henchmen and villains, one which calls them all to be made, out of their anti-heroism, heroes in the end.

Advertisements