Thursday, 21 August 2008

Listen to your Heart

As a Christian, I am at the tail end of thousands of years of tradition and interpretation. I was raised in one tradition/interpretation which was mostly evangelical and Augustinian. Today I find myself in the midst of another tradition/interpretation which is not too dissimilar. The thing that I find most difficult about this is the invisibility of the penetration of contemporary ideas and thoughts.

Here's an example of what I mean. The Christian world around me is predominantly white, middle-class Euro (American, Australian, British...). That very culture penetrates the Christian message in various ways. The middle-class goals of "you can be anything" has become "you can be anything ...for God." Even without going through the reductio ad absurdum arguments against this, it is apparent that this approach is based on the idea that we can base our Christian expression on what is in the heart. "But God gives us the desires of our heart! Those desires come from God!" Bollocks. Desire comes from mammalian drives, honed over many years to ensure survival of the species. Desire is a thickly veiled (and sometimes thinly veiled) excuse to satisfy the more base instincts.

The problem, as I see it, is that we have allowed these kinds of influences to over-inform our interpretation of scripture, whereas we have allowed more relevant influences to under-inform our interpretation. Do we consider, for example, what the ancient Greco-Roman concept of "lord" meant when we interpret the phrase "Jesus is lord" for today? Do we understand what a 2nd temple Jew interpreted by 'father' when we read passages like John 8? Or do we insert a 21st century, middle-class interpretation of 'father' instead?

Applying Christian thought and praxis today is difficult because we are overwhelmed by other cultural influences. Christian life is not defined by gender, job or race - to the point where it disregards those markers. A Christian is not a Manager-Christian or a Mechanic-Christian. That aspect of a person which is Christian is unadulterated and the Same as the next Christian.

I've asked the question before and found it to be generally unanswered, but I will ask it again. What is it that Christians do only because they are Christians? "Be nice," doesn't count because the kindergarten teacher tells everyone to do that. "Give money," doesn't count either, because lots of non-Christians give money.

We who claim to be Christians need to sort this out and decide to do it. Simply going along with the rest of the world's "goodness" is feeble and indicative that God has not intervened at all. Rather, it is crucial that the Christian Act be clear and uncontaminated by the traditions and interpretations of the world around us.



Post-script
I mentioned above that I was going to avoid the reductio ad absurdum argument but now that I've seen this from Cyanide and Happiness, it simply must be added. Enjoy.

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net
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