Saturday 26 December 2020

The courage of Christians - with and without church

Christians, and those of some other religions, have been (in some times and places) a byword of courage. 

Christians have given not just time and effort, but sacrificed their livelihood, their lives, to their religion. 

Risked and indeed suffered a lifetime of threat - indeed terror, oppression, subordination, humiliation, torment and torture - rather than give-up what they regarded as essential practices of their faith. 


Those days are gone, and nearly-all self-identified Christians now embrace worldly values as primary; and welcome the closure of churches, and cessation of (what were until last years) essential practices. 


Well one reason is that the courage of past Christians was embedded in a community, a church. A courageous Christian did not feel himself alone but was aware of a solid group of co-religionists behind him, backing him up with prayers, thoughts and practical help. 

All that has gone, and a courageous Christian is now On His Own; with supposed-coreligionists standing behind him to stab his back, mock his motives and intelligence, spy and inform-on his Christian resistance.   

So modern Christian courage is a solo business; hence much less prevalent - less recognised, less known as such.


But why has the group and community disappeared (as an effective factor in Christian life)? Partly because Men have changed; and such things no longer have the power to motivate. 

I mean that the decline of groupishness, community, social cohesion all have roots in a change of consciousness. We became first insensitive, then immune, to the power of symbol, ritual and the sacred. 

From where we are, we cannot return to what we were - because that kind of objectivity of Faith simply does not work anymore

That is the depth of our crisis. 


From where-we-are we can only go forward-and-through, out the other side of isolated subjectivity


Christians - here-and-now - can only be motivated by that which actually motivates Christians.

It is therefore the task of each Christian to find that Christian motivation for himself, and (partly) from-himself

Because nowadays we need to go out and meet God halfway, to work-with the divine - rather than (as in the past) trying to be subordinate- and obedient-to the divine.  


And for this to happen; we need to overcome fear, resentment and despair - need to have trust that when we personally are motivated actually to do what needs to be done and for the right reasons; God will makes things right* for us as individuals.

And insofar as many people do this: we need faith that God will also make things right for us as groups -- even though we are currently in no position to be able to see what 'right' might be, nor how right might be accomplished... 

This requires a very high level of Trust in God, and hope for eternal resurrected life; requires this from each Christian As An Individual.

That is what is demanded. 

*Right, that is, in an eternal context.


whitney said...

Christians and Christianity always been under attack because the devil wants to attack the truth but it has really ramped up in scale since the birth of the Jesus myther movement in the 19th century. Most reputable historians believe that there was a man apocalyptic preacher and the first century named Jesus but the rage filled atheist Community just cannot accept that. And they like to pretend that it's about all religions but it's not, it's only about Christianity. Most of these people probably have a Buddha statue in their home. Even Richard Dawkins new book Outgrowing God purports to be about religion in general and he starts off talking about belief in God, then narrows that to “the Abrahamic religions”. But after the first few pages it’s pretty much Christianity all the way, and a particularly naïve and fundamentalist form at that. I wish they would notice. My movement from atheism to Christianity started with noticing that.

Thomas Henderson said...

The church once saw itself as a reflection of the Trinity, persons living in communion. If human beings are created in the image of God, and if that God takes the form of a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then it follows each person is distinctive yet moves and has their being in relation to one another and in unity of purpose greater than the sum of its parts. The Trinity became the Christian model for marriage, the family, the neighbourhood, the church, and even the universal household, the oecumene, which was the political/theological premise of the Constantine settlement called Christendom. Such an order sought to comport, however imperfectly, to the will of God and the mind of Christ.

Starting with the revolutionary mindset of previous centuries and culminating in the catastrophe of the First World War, by 1918 the old order had been rent asunder. Nihilism was in the air and materialist ideologies took hold. Ironically these ideologies were defined by either individualism (American material liberalism) or collectivism (Bolshevism, Fascism, socialism, welfare state, etc.), representing respectively the personhood or the communion of the Trinity equation. A world without God leads to entropy and so even the Trinity itself was bifurcated. Now, paradoxically, atomization and collectivism are being pursued full speed ahead in tandem, mutually enforcing each part, but without much correlation.

A century or more of a materialist hegemony has affected the church profoundly. The Trinity is acknowledged in name only. Progressive Christianity, including the shepherds of the faith, pursues the collective (social justice). Salvation, if it is to be sought at all requires the individual to act apart from the body.

The problem is God has left the building.

Bruce Charlton said...

TH - I agree God has left the building; but partly this is because Men have, as individuals, refused consciously to take up responsibility - each for his own faith.

When Men were able and willing to merge their consciousness into the group (as you describe above) then being A Christian was passive obedience, and might even be almost unconscious - just being a part of the community.

But for the past 200 plus years and increasingly, this does not happen spontaneously. In principle, Christianity (from the Fourth Gospel) is something that can be chosen and lived *primarily* by individual persons, without a communal aspect. This (what I call Romantic Christianity, because this change in Men came as Romanticism) is something that should (I believe) have been done by individual choice, and preferance - and to develop the 'spritual' rather than material aspect of Christianity; but is now being forced upon Christians like it or not, 'Hobson's Choice'.

Now - with only absent, closed and/or corrupted churches - we must first be Christians from our own responsibility, then any communal aspect (which is certainly desirable) will need to come by choice of these individuals; a choice to work together - and perhaps in units bound by genuine personal love - within marriages and more extended families - mostly, and close committed friends where this happens (but this relationship seems to be rare - considerably rarer than loving families).