After Church – Passion

Well, I can’t write about video games every day, can I?

After Church will be a Sunday weekly series about Christianity and theology, by itself and without all that video gamey kinda thing with it. I know that video games don’t appeal to absolutely everyone (heck, how many people do I know in real life that actually play the darn things? I could probably could them on two hands, if I’m lucky). After all, I do actually go to church, as much as that might surprise you all, and listen to sermons and read the Bible and theology books.

I’ve always found this, specifically, an interesting thought: are we too reflective? We can think of this in the context of other human societies. Frankly, most people of the past had little time for the frivolities of debating one’s sexual preferences or the neccesity of universal healthcare. In truth, most people were just struggling to stay alive in a world where life was nasty, brutish, and short. It’s a past where God was a neccessary element because life forever held onto the fringe of the cliff, where one’s next day could easily be the last. You might say it’s easy to have faith in an environment where constant struggle and tribulation are absolute neccesities.

But what if convenience comes in? What if faith in Christianity is no longer something worth dying for because, well, nobody has to actually die for it? What if it becomes one intellectual idea amongst many, and therefore enters in the discourse of human ideas? This was exactly the train of thought that led Søren Kierkegaard to comment:

Our age is essentially one of understanding and reflection, without passion, momentarily bursting into enthusiasm, and shrewdly relapsing into repose.

If this isn’t a complete diagnosis of modern Christianity, I can’t imagine what is. When’s the last time in America that someone was martyred, if ever? We have truly had the easy path and the easy road. The most struggle I’m ever going to face in my life, for the most part, is just an argument, a look of disgust, and perhaps a bout of misunderstand between two parties on a conversational dispute. It’s not as if, say, Richard Dawkins will jump across his desk when I say “God exists” and have me tarred and feathered. Our “civilized” society has gone beyond such notions. But, it is by following these very same notions of civilization that we also reinforce Christianity as “one amongst the many”. How many times has a new believer in Christian been “on fire”, and then have that fire summarily snuffed out like a lantern? How can the blazing inferno of new faith simply dissapear?

Even John Steinbeck, though not directly referring to our topic at hand, could see the coming problems in American society:

 Now we face the danger which in the past has been most destructive to the human: success – plenty, comfort, and ever-increasing leisure. No dynamic people has ever survived these dangers. If the anasthetic of satisfaction were added to our hazards, we would not have a chance of survival – as Americans.

Granted, the solution isn’t to whisk one’s self to a country where Christianity is either persecuted or outlawed – there are people called by God to that specific vocation, and that is certainly not my calling. But there’s something wrong with our collective attitude towards faith. Once we’ve started teaching Holy Scripture as a diet book, I think you might have lost the whole story. You may not being taking it seriously.

If Jesus was willing to suffer and die, I can’t imagine that any Christian worth his/her salt, in becoming Christ-like, wouldn’t also be called to do the same. Have we simply had collective amnesia of how important and crucial it is? Can a Christian ever permanentaly remain in tergiversation and call his/herself a Christian?

Christianity might be, for a believer, an objective truth, but Kierkegaard sees that this “objectivity” can’t lay within the realm of scientific fact or something of the sort; if that’s the case, than it becomes an assumption of reality. Rather, Christianity is a lived faith, a subjective faith that is true for me as well as for the world at large. Even if it is “true”, in that it accords with the state of aff airs, that does not mean a passionate desire arises when, for example, one discovers that water is constructed of two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen. Christianity, and faith, do not function in that sort of way; it cannot become a dispassionate enterprise, for why should anyone care if it were merely a “fact” of reality?

What work would it require? Why would it matter if faith, contrary to what usually occurs, did not have any bearing on one’s actions or way of thinking? That is why faith is not, for Kierkegaard, a rational belief – it is a personal one, and speculative thought will not abrogate personal problems. Kierkegaard, if it was not obvious enough, believes that God objectively exists, but the truth of “faith” rather than “fact” becomes a purely subjective application. So it must be for faith to be faith. Even Scripture is a component of faith for Kierkegaard, a rule to live that is authoritative by virtue of being “attested”.

If anyone affirms a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it must be just that – personal. If God is a person, than He is also a subject, one’s Lord and one’s friends all wrapped up into one divine entity. To treat Him as anything less than with passion simply misses the whole point. Even Jesus knew the value of this; who else in his right mind would directly confront the religious and political authorities of his time? Yet Jesus did just that in John 2:

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14  And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “ Zeal for Your house will consume me.”

That is not an invitation to simply accept things as they are or to simply “feel”, but to passionately engage with Christian living. Otherwise, what is it other than one idea among many?

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.