Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Filled Full of Everything We Need": Empowering or Needlessly Self-Deprecating?

One problem I’ve always had with Christian philosophy is that, to me, it implies that humans just aren’t good enough on our own. People talk about feeling fulfilled, or whole, or complete as if some part of them was missing before they allowed Christ to maraud into their thoughts. It’s always seemed oddly self-deprecating to me, as if you need some outside fulfillment—from God, from Jesus, from your peers—just to be yourself.

Take this blog post, for example. It quotes and then explains a passage from the Bible that tells us not to rely on “philosophy… based on human tradition” or “based on the elemental forces of the world”, which is taken to be the struggle for self-improvement. The passage urges readers not to “attain goodness by performance, exercising self-effort… to achieve ‘a good life’”. Apparently, everything that we call the temporal world is useless without Christ in it. We shouldn’t waste our faith on people, or the credo of self-improvement; Christ is the only thing that matters and the only thing we need.

I have a problem with that. I feel that a philosophy like the one I’ve described above is flawed. While it pays tribute to an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God, it also seems to say that everything under the sun simply isn’t good enough when God is out there. “Don’t let the world cheat you by trying to make you think you lack,” the blogger says, but I posit that this philosophy is what’s telling me I'm lacking. It says that this world is simply not good enough, that Christ is the best and the only thing we should rely on.

I have more faith in people than that. I have more faith in the infinite diversity and goodness of the people around me than in a God I’ve never met in person. I’m not a Christian, and thus it’s a fair charge that I simply don’t grok the principles at work here, but I really don’t understand how someone can rely on an entity they’ve never met for support and guidance.

But then, I suppose that’s not really it either; the blog emphasizes that “all you need to do is to appropriate by faith this fullness that lives in you” (bolding mine). The author repeats the phrase several times, emphasizing that you should rely not on an abstract ideal of God, but of the power of Christ in yourself. “We are ships completely outfitted with everything we need”, says another Biblical passage, but apparently we can’t be relied on until Christ is captaining the ship.

So you yourself do have potential, but only through Christ can you realize it. It sounds like a continual self-affirmation to me, like you need Christ to tell you that you can perform any task you wish. It seems like faith in Christ almost replaces faith in yourself in this philosophy.

And speaking personally, I don’t need an external validation from Christ or anybody. I can accomplish whatever I damn well choose to accomplish. I don’t begrudge Christians their sources of solace, but it doesn’t seem to me that I need a spiritual therapist to help me at every turn, and I find the idea that you do—not just that I need one, but that everyone needs one, and that it’s absolutely essential that we all get the same one—more than merely disquieting.

(Disclaimer: My religious opinions are my own and are intended to apply to myself alone. This blog is not intended to proselytize, offend or be used as medical advice.)

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