Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Easy Like Sunday Morning

My girlfriend and I were discussing religion last night. She's a "heathen" (read: unbaptized by the church) and she seems to take a certain pride in that fact. We haven't had many in-depth theological discussions, mostly because she's generally uninterested in abstractions, and so I was relishing the opportunity to trade thoughts.

She said something to me which I thought was pretty interesting. "I like your religion," she said, "it's easier." That got my attention, so I asked what she meant by that. Perhaps thinking me insulted by the assignation of "easier" to my personal religious beliefs, she was quick to explain that she was referring, essentially, to my lack of outward religious signifiers.

I wasn't insulted in the slightest, but I was taken by what she seemed to find "harder" about religious belief. Maybe it's just my rampant liberalism, but I tend to feel that outward displays of faith, whether its going to church, praying in front of others, or wearing crosses, are really the "easy" parts of religion.

It's not all that difficult to show up for an hour of church every Sunday. Most of the Italian Mafia seems to make the effort. It's very easy to slap on a cross or brandish the Bible and call yourself a Christian. It's the other stuff that's always been more difficult for me. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Is there a single law as difficult to follow consistently? If there is, it escapes me.

I quoted what is one of my favorite passages from the Good Book to my girlfriend as a response to her explanation. I think it's an important one.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father, who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
- Matthew 6:5-6

10 Comments:

At 3:19 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

This is, of course, the Christian model of religion. Which was intended to contrast with the earlier Judeo model stressing the importance of community worship. The Christian model intended to improve upon the community model by providing an anthropomorphic version of God (i.e., Jesus), where each individual could have his or her own relationship with God. Which is one reason, of among many, that community or "public" worship is seen as hypocritical.

 
At 3:42 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Another would be the emphasis on appearance over substance that was so prevalent a problem in the time of Jesus. His teachings encouraged a relationship with God that did not depend or focus upon lipservice toward God, but upon communion in the truest, most personal sense.

Judaism was not the problem, for Jesus was, in fact, a Jew. The problem was the same as it has been ever since, be it in the Catholic, Baptist or Protestant churches: the show of religion without the spiritual component.

 
At 8:58 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Okay nizzle on this matter I don't think you know of what you speak.

Judaism already had an anthropomorpic version of God (he walked in the garden and is described variously as having a back, feet, hands, etc.) they just couldn't worship an image of Him. Also community worship is not seen as hypocritical.

Matthew 18:20
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Acts 12:12
So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

Heb 10:24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Community worship is vital in Christianity. Where the individual relationship is important to us is in realizing that we no longer need a priest to interceded between us and God. Christ has done that for us. That does not mean we exist in a spiritual vacuum.

As morse said that passage is about avoiding hypocrisy. That whole chapter is about how to give, love, pray, and live and says nothing about community or public worship being bad so long as it is done in the right spirit.

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Ok. Let me at least set the record straight. First, religion is clearly not my forte. And I will concede that the thought (Christianity with the anthropomorphic God) is not entirely my own. I basically picked it up from an Intro to the Hebrew Bible class at Northwestern where I will admit to picking up very little else. That being said, Christianity does clearly emphasize a personal relationship with God, whereas Judaism was clearly focused on the community relationship (see: Chosen people). That is not to say that there will not be exceptions to both. Particularly in less-than absolutely conflict-free Bible.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

I think that in Christianity you hear a lot about that personal relationship so it's easy I suppose for an outsider (mean no disrespect by the term but I assume you aren't a Christian) t osee that as the focus. You should also look at all of the references to family and to Christians being part of a larger body. In addition the NT talks about us being grafted in to the tree/vine. The sense of community in the NT is stronger than some Protestant theology may have led you to believe. Community is the rule in the NT not the exception.

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Once again, lest my inability to communicate preclude everyone else from understanding what I am trying to say.

First, no, I am not a Christian. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

No, seriously, I understand the importance of community in Christianity. I've been to Communions (spelling?) and have even attended a Church crawfish broil down in the hinterlands of Louisiana. I get it.

I guess I'm talking about the very nature of the relationship with God. It is intended to be more personal, I believe, because we have a walking living person (Jesus) who personifies the holier being to which we pray.

I am not trying to be cantankerous, but I don't think that minor point is fairly debatable.

 
At 1:21 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Well okay I can buy that. We as belivers do practice a more personal/intimate relationship with God than I believe that Jews do, but I confess to being fairly ignorant of what it's like t oworship as a Jew does.

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

And we have consensus. Yeah!!!

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

God, I love having this site.

Great discussion, guys. I enjoyed reading it.

 
At 10:00 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Now if I could just put something comment worthy up on my site we could have a good discussion there.

 

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