Friday, March 07, 2003

Mom: "Would you be offended if I became religious?"
Me: "Umm...Why would I be offended if you were religious?"
Mom: "Because you're so anti-religion!"

It always makes me laugh when people seem to assume that I'm anti-religious because I've made a comment against some particular religious group or practice in the past. I'm not anti-religious at all. I find religion insanely fascinating; primarily the concepts themselves, but also the ways in which religion motivates people. To assume I'm anti-religious is analagous to assuming that, because I don't like to eat chicken, I don't like to eat food at all. It's not food I've thrown out, it's chicken and that's all.

I told her I didn't care what she did as long as she didn't become some dumb Baptist or Pentecostal; which, considering the "religious" people she knows, she'll probably end up doing anyway. She could convert to Catholicism, or Orthodoxy, or Episcopalianism, and I'd even tolerate Lutheranism, or high church Methodism, but none of that low church mess. Becoming a low church Protestant in my mind is like having a scholarship to Harvard and squandering it all on clown college.

It's not that I hate everything about Protestantism. It's just the core doctrines that I hate. And primarily, the doctrine that I really hate is sola fida. Faith alone is not only obviously contradictory with scripture, it also completely undermines the sanctity of human life. The first Protestant preachers I ever dealt with would always walk around talking about how humans are worthless and unworthy and they're filthy and disgusting in their sin. I thought it was a peculiarity until I started reading Protestant theologians.

Oh, I'll agree to an extent, that modern human beings have some serious fundamental flaws. But human beings aren't "bad." When God created the world, He created everything in the world utterly good. Human beings are part of that world, and so in essence we're utterly good too. Protestantism, in its zealotry to emphasize the depravity of human sin, have conflated human sin with human beings. They've acted as if people are fundamentally not only flawed because of their actions, but as if they're fundamentally evil in their being. I won't accept any doctrine that dogmatizes low self-esteem. Humility is a different thing entirely. Low self-esteem is about finding ones self utterly worthless and bad; humility is about knowing how small your goodness is in a truly great and awesome world. Low self-esteem theology is dogmatized despair; it blasphemes because it refuses to accept that God in His ultimate goodness creates only goodness. Humility makes no idol of shame; it estimates rightly that the worth of the individual is infinite, but is still part of a greater world of infinite worth. To be made in the image and likeness of God is no small thing.

I believe that God loves people because they're good enough to love. Because, no matter how bad an individual gets, there's still that original divine spark of goodness in them. Almost as if reality as we know it, and even our human flesh, has been sewn together and holds together only by Love, which is God. No individual can be totally depraved so long as God continues to inhabit their being, which He must, for them to be. I believe that people were created to love God, and to be loved by God. It's a simple function of things; like hammers exist to hammer nails. People exist to love God. And I find it a sin to abuse God by abusing the self; I find it an assault on God's worth to assault the individual's worth.

I have to go and write my brother now. I will struggle, as always, with what it means to be merciful to someone who's suffering by their own hand. The human tendency to self-destruct is amazing. It may be the quintessential human act. What did we do in the garden but undermine, and act directly in opposition, to our own best interest?