[Originally posted April 06, 2007]
A Sociopath is someone who is incapable of any feeling for those around him.
If you call yourself a Christian, you generally fall into one of two camps. One, you are affiliated with an organized Church, you regularly (or at least occasionally) attend its functions, and though perhaps not without quibble you generally subscribe to its teachings and tenets.
Or, you have rejected the cloak of Church authority, and struck out on your own, embracing the name “Christianity” and whatever sweet and smiley aspects that means to you, while rejecting those that do not. I do not speak to you, for how can I? I do not know what precepts you have chosen to follow so I cannot begin to tell you that you are on the right track or not. I will say this: there are many reasons people reject the idea of Church, most probably rooted in negative personal experience, but more often than not it comes from an aversion to living your life in conformation of the Church’s teachings on specific personal behavior. I do not judge you in the slightest, but to have any credibility as a contemplative human being you have to seriously ask yourself every so often how much of your stance is justified, and how much is justification.
(Though it should not matter, the Message is invariably tied to the Messenger, and in that vein I will reveal that I myself fall closer to the above camp than any other. I do not like the word “Christian” applied to myself, mostly because I do not like being associated with so many of those who grab the same name, and because I am utterly convinced that that vast majority of people who call themselves Christians have no idea what that means. I prefer to follow the teachings and examples of Christ himself, but I am not immune to those same questions of self-doubt that should plague anyone who rejects hundreds of years of organized thought in the hubris that he can do better. From time to time I have to seriously wonder, “Am I kidding myself?”)
Let us turn, then, to those who do go to Church.
Whatever Church you go to (And we are definitely not getting into that today), if the Church uses the Bible I’m going to guarantee the following teaching is a fairly essential plot point to your weekly meetings:
“The harvest is white, but the workers are few.”
What does that mean? Let us put that in 21st Century language, so there is absolutely no misunderstanding:
“The Church exists in large part for those who are not there yet. Your major charge as a Christian is to live a Godly life and to TELL OTHERS about your faith.”
Now, telling others is difficult. Sharing something so personal and life changing is a huge risk, and I’m willing to admit that not everyone is equipped to do so with friends or strangers without making quite the mess.
But you see, that’s sort of why they have the building where you go to Church. Your job is to get those friends and strangers to that Church, and the leaders, who have training and expertise teaching about Christianity, take over from there.
Now, you cannot make someone go to church, at least without kidnapping charges eventually being filed. But here’s what you can do: you can ask them.
Asking someone to go to church isn’t very threatening. Heck: you don’t even have to ask the person to go to an actual Church service. Most churches are set up with plenty of activities that don’t directly threaten fire and brimstone right away. There are meals and game nights and a thousand other fan-friendly activities. Most churches also have small groups set up, to talk about things in a home or small classroom, definitely a lot less threatening than pews and pipe organs. In fact, when people who don’t go to church are asked why they do not attend, do you know what is the number one answer given?
No one asked them.
But you, you don’t ask people to go, do you? You come up with reasons, excuses not to.
My mom points out that many people are probably embarrassed about their church, and wouldn’t want anyone to come visit and see how dead it is. That might be true, but I would ask: why aren’t you then going to a church that isn’t dead, or better yet: taking steps to bring yours to life, to make it a place you’d be proud to have friends come hang out?
It really comes down to this: if you go to Church and call yourself a Christian and you are not inviting people to come with you, you are hypocritical in the extreme, and arguably sociopathic.
Let me put that more simply: you either don’t believe, or you don’t care.
Think about it: the scripture has Jesus himself saying, “No one comes to the father except through me.” What that means is you don’t get into heaven without believing in Jesus and accepting him as your savior.
Now, there is a huge debate over a term called “the light that you know,” which basically means what will happen to people in some foreign jungle. Some feel that without Jesus they have no shot, which makes missionary work all the more important, while others feel they will be judged by the right-and-wrong morality of their own experience.
But the people living in North American—which is just about everyone you hang out with—they don’t have that excuse to fall back on. They have heard of Jesus, and according to your religion, if they have not accepted Jesus into their hearts they are probably going to Hell.
There is a lot of argument about what Hell is, but I think we can all agree that if Hell is real it’s the worst eternity you can imagine. But see, there’s the rub: if Hell is real.
If you look at the behavior of the vast majority of Christians I think you have no choice but to accept the premise that they do not believe Hell is real. Or at the very least, that Hell is permanent. My dad and I were talking about this one day, and he said that most people in their heart of hearts think that when it’s all said and done God will give everyone one more shot. Maybe there is no Hell, and they just have to feel bad about what they’ve done here on Earth when they face Jesus. Or maybe Hell exists, but after a time there God will come down and visit and say, “Okay, now you’ve had time to think about what you’ve done. Show of hands: who’s sorry?”
This idea is called Universalism, and you can see the appeal. A loving God wouldn’t make the first 70 years or so count for the next gazillion, right? There are entire Churches set up under this premise, most notably the Unitarians. (And suddenly 18 years of Simpsons’ religion jokes became clear.)
But the odds are your Church doesn’t subscribe to this belief. Are you Roman Catholic? Episcopal? Baptist? Methodist? Presbyterian? Lutheran? Let’s make it simple: if your pastor frequently uses the Bible when preaching, your Church is not Universalist.
So let’s think that through. This means according to your Faith your neighbor, your brother, your co-worker, the guy you buy coffee and a paper from; anyone who has not accepted Jesus is going to Hell.
So I ask again, why in Hell (and I mean that literally) would you not at the very least invite people to Church, so they could hear? I ask people this and they most often say they are uncomfortable.
Really? Are we talking about the kind of uncomfortableness where you feel awkward and embarrassed, and worry that your friend/co-worker/neighbor/checkout girl won’t think you’re cool anymore? Or are you talking about the kind of uncomfortableness where you suffer unbearably for the rest of time?
Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing here.
If you break it down, there cannot possibly be any justifiable reason for professing Christians to not tell others about their faith, or at the very least invite people to Church. Whatever level of discomfort that might bring, whatever cottonmouth or even dry-heaves, whatever loss of “cool” points or social standing might ensue, how can it possibly compare to what unbelievers face?
Are Christians that sociopathic? Do they care that little about the world, that they would be lucky enough to have latched on to the way out of this world, a way out of Hell and into Paradise, and they wouldn’t tell others? They wouldn’t at least lift a finger to get others to a place where someone might let them in on the secret?
But I’m with the first theory: at the heart of it, they just don’t believe.
I’m running short of time so with this I’m closed: the next time you go to Church, perhaps this Easter Sunday, listen to what they say. Chances are you will be told that Jesus Christ died, that he separated himself from God his father for all the sins you will ever commit, that he paid the blood price so you won’t have to. All you have to do is accept Jesus into your heart and you will see Paradise.
Ask yourself if you believe that. Truly believe. Do you think that’s what happened? Did Jesus die for your sins? Is the way to Heaven to believe in him? If so, why did you not invite everyone you know to go with you? Why didn’t you take the time to at least ask? To offer to sit with them, to pick them up, to talk to them afterwards?
And if you don’t believe it, if you can honestly sit in Church and say to yourself, “There is no way people are going to Hell over this,” then you might as well call Jesus a fool. Look up at that cross that adorns the wall and call Jesus a fool. After all, by your logic Jesus is just an idiot who got himself killed so you’d have somewhere to show off your new clothes.
Originally posted April 06, 2007
See all of this year's Easter-themed posts: Easter Parade