“In the end, it’s always seemed to be about salvation really. I think this is what really bothers me about Christianity, because when you take away the threat of burning for eternity, what is left?”
This point (brought up by an online friend) strikes me. I find that the popular concept of “being saved” just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. Perhaps because it seems to imply escaping from what’s real, gritty, and rough in this life. The focus of much of Christianity seems to be on an abstract afterlife and its benefits for us, but not on what an encounter with the divine can look like right now when all those abstract motivations are taken away.
I guess I see the “salvation message” and much of Christianity as over-spiritualized and of little practical application. If a genuine life with God can only really be had after we die, then why does God make Himself known to us in our flesh at all? Why do we have to accept him now if “now” doesn’t really matter as long as we’re “saved”? Why did God choose to become incarnate if all we’re supposed to hope for is an eternity of harp playing and gold streets up in the air? Why would God show so much love by becoming like us if this life and this physical world wasn’t vitally important? If this life is more than just a test–just a field exam to rack up points before the final exam at Judgment–then what is it all about?
This is why I have such a huge beef with the ascetic lifestyle as glorified by Christianity throughout the centuries. Why do we focus on avoiding the true glorious pleasures in life that can give such glory to the God who created them? Why hide away from the real world in hopes of being called “saintly” later? God became flesh. He lived a real, poor, dirty, hard life. He had a regular job. He had close friends, he got pissed off, he was real. And yet, he was God. So God decided to be real–like us–to show us what? That we can not burn when we die? Shoot, He could have just said that without going through all that trouble.
It gets back to that “sacred vs. secular” concept. Is life a battle between the two? I’ve been taught that it is. I avoid the secular, and embrace the sacred. I shun the world and seek the spiritual. Why am I forced to separate who I am into two pieces? If God is in all and is infinite in all ways… how can He not be a deeply important part of what most deem secular? why isn’t all of life spiritual?
That is one aspect of Judaism that I most admire. They make it a point to acknowledge and seek God in every single event in life. There are blessings for basically everything–from going to the bathroom to seeing someone die. this is because they realize that God is the source of all of these things. God is a part of even the most dull and “secular” of events and activities. I’m trying to imagine what impact this mindset would make on my life if I truly embraced it. Because right now, it’s easy to compartmentalize my God Stuff and my Life Stuff into different sections so they don’t intermingle. I don’t mean for this to occur, but I’m afraid it’s a longstanding practice.
I know there’s a lot more to the salvation message than just these ideas. And I know I’m simplifying. But honestly, it’s getting under my skin. The most Jesus-like people I’ve ever known didn’t obsess over whether they were saved or going to heaven or not. They lived. They laughed, worked, and loved people by reaching out and sacrificing themselves for the good of others. They got pissed off once in a while. They missed the mark a lot. But did this stop their lifestyle of love? No. Now that’s what I call salvation. Salvation from living selfishly. Salvation from hopelessness. Salvation to live this life as it ought to be lived, not just because they got a golden ticket with a “fireproof” sticker on it.
Salvation isn’t about heaven and hell to me–not anymore. If it were, I’m sure life could be easier.
When I take away escape-based motivation, my spiritual walk is forced to change; I can either forget it completely or turn it into something practical. It has to become a part of my fleshy, imperfect, human essence–not just a dream of a willowy afterlife. “Faith, without works, is dead.” If faith doesn’t involve my gritty rough life, then I don’t see how I could ever truly appreciate an afterlife. God help me.