So this post is about the religion crisis.
And it’s not quite the same religion crisis the media or even the religious press gets all jazzed about, especially in light of recent events. No, the crisis I’m talking about is much more personal.
The crisis I’m talking about I actually first noticed in the comment section of some article I was reading, and the commentator was a sixteen-year-old girl who was raised Catholic and had a serious fear of going to hell. Now don’t you dare make fun of her, I think a lot of us have that insecurity and I think that also explains why most of us try to place death as far from our minds as possible.
The idea of eternal judgment can be a bit terrifying, and I think many a weak intellectual rejects it simply because they don’t like the idea at all (I say weak intellectuals not to imply that they are stupid, merely that they lack strong philosophical debating skills). Because it’s a very proud person who will assert a premise that boldly states something is not true merely because he doesn’t like it, as if I could will away Abercrombie and Fitch’s existence because it doesn’t fit my idea of what a clothing store should be (if only).
Anyway, this poor girl had herself in knots. And it made me really sad. Because even though she’s gone to Catholic schools and has some idea of God and hears the word God thrown around all over the internet and mainstream media outlets, she does not know God.
Now I am twenty-four years old. I still have much to learn about God, as He is infinite and I honestly believe you could spend all eternity getting to know God and that each second would be better than the last. But more to the point, it breaks my heart when people don’t think God loves them. In fact I’ve come across the following attitudes while blogging (and I’m still pretty new at it):
“God doesn’t love me because I’ve made so many mistakes and always break His rules”
“God doesn’t love me because I’m not religious”
“God doesn’t love me because God is not love He is wrath and what kind of moron believes that?” (This moron!)
You get the idea…
And the reason these attitudes are so particularly heartbreaking is because you must believe God loves you if you ever hope to have any sort of a relationship with Him. In the United States, I can’t speak for other countries, there is the prevailing notion of the self-made man. That success goes to the worthy, that we figure things out on our own, that we’re independent and don’t need anyone else. Not to insult the purple mountain majesties or amber waves of grain, but in our workaholic modern world this idea has evolved from owning your own land and having a roof over your head to include what I will call the Hollywood lifestyle. A succession of the ultimate luxuries where you are the center of the universe and have every worldly thing a human could possibly want. And they wave this dream over our heads as something so tantalizingly out of our reach, but could be ours if we dedicate enough to whatever dream will get us there. (I would encourage you to dream on, but that’s a separate article.)
But this worldview comes into a direct clash with Christian morality, the epitome of selfless love (as opposed to the world’s selfish indulgence). And every person really gets a choice on where they will seek their satisfaction, in love or in themselves. And to finally bring this back around before you think I’ve totally lost my topic, most people do not understand Christian morality in that way. They see Christian morality as a set of rules, a set of angrily shouted Bible verses of condemnation and woe, with God as their merciless final judge, and they proceed to reject it in some way.
Some people get anxious like the girl who wrote the comment. Some people get angry at God, for being that way when they can find it in them to forgive. Some people place barriers, thinking who is God to judge them anyway? Some people give up because they know they can’t follow these rules perfectly. Again you get the idea, they mistrust the nature of God (if He even exists) and place distance between themselves and God, which I know must break his Fatherly heart.
And yet though these responses to God are very different (and I’m sure it’s possible to feel any number of combinations) the overall result of these responses is strikingly similar. The moderns create a strange alternative. A formless, rule barren religion-ish movement based on a vague universal love where anything goes and everyone is free as a bird. It’s a religion-ish movement that believes in only general human decency and the accumulation of knowledge but is devoid of the most important thing actual religion has to offer: a relationship. And not just any relationship, a relationship with God Himself. And because of how misrepresented God is in today’s day and age people write that relationship off as if it were nothing when in fact, it is everything. Because whether you’ve realized it yet or not, God is everything you’ve been after, everything you’ve always wanted in your soul (and He even cares about your externals too, everything that matters to you matters to God because He loves you).
And I say this not just because I both love God and enjoy His company, but because this hazy universalism is a cheap substitute. It will not satisfy the girl who made the comment, nor will it calm her fears or make her feel whole, and it will not fully explain the mysterious connection she feels to her fellow human beings. Only God can do those things. And she’s too afraid to begin that conversation because of the lies that surround God and the people who choose to worship Him. That is the real religion crisis, and we are not blameless in it.
It’s not just the media’s fault that religion of any kind has a bad reputation, it also has to do with us and the compromises we make with the world: likening heaven to some happy suburbia and marriage to a big party where the bride acts like a princess for a very expensive day. Insisting that the primary purpose of religion should be the feelings you get from the sermon… In a word, blending when we were meant to stand out so that anyone feeling lost and afraid like the girl who made this comment would be able to look at us and see the light of the truth from the way that we live. The truth that we are joyful not because we are perfect, not because we have all the answers, but because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves us and that He will always love us (even though we don’t deserve it) because that is who He truly is and that is what He died to prove to us. The God of the cosmos who became a baby so that His children would no longer be afraid of the dark, but bask in the light of redemption. That those looking from the outside might recognize this divine reality that makes us true brothers and sisters, our universally shared belief that God will be true to His every promise and bring us safely home to heaven, where we were always meant to be.
Because true evangelization, sharing of this good news, is not about merely winning over people’s minds, culture, or media (although I’m sure it helps). If we really want to solve the religion crisis we must first allow God to enter our own hearts and minds that we might be ready to extend His invitation to all to come and join our family. Because before anyone could accept such an invitation from us they would have to genuinely believe us when we tell them the only truth that can overcome the hardness of the human heart, the same thing that I attempted to tell this girl so that she would not be afraid anymore:
“God loves you, and so do I.”