Saturday, May 17, 2008
The real importance and meaning of Christianity
Mental and spiritual therapy and healing.
If you go to church you are probably labeled, [by the intolerant who pose as the defenders of 'tolerance'], as something little better than a reptile. For the 'tolerant' the Christian church is nothing better than a cult, a fantasy, a power trip, a mass of hypocrites, or a latter day narrow-minded set of medieval [if not primeval] dogma unrelated to the 'rights'; attitudes and self-absorption of the '1960s inspired, me-now' generation.
Nietzschean inanity proliferates in a gross mis-representation of the mental and spiritual therapy which is at the heart of what the Christian church as to offer. For those who feel that the church has nothing to offer remember that your hero Nietzsche, the clinical patient who cited, 'God is dead', was insane and died penniless.
The church in its best and simplest form has much to offer. It is not the supernaturality, the debate about Christ [did he really exist?]; or the endless discussions about church intolerance, bigotry and misdeeds. What institution, culture, race, tribe or civilisation has not committed acts which contravene moral law? The church's importance does not lie in memorisation of scripture, dogmatic interpretation of the same, or an intolerance towards anyone who is not sufficiently fanatical. Its relevance has nothing to do with ritual, submission, or believing that every word in the Bible, written over 1500 years by humans, was somehow inspired by 'God'.
The importance of the Christian church lies in its very real application in the modern world. The Bible is basically a story of ethics, a set of examples; and a history of the the Jews and early Christians – who were themselves of course a Jewish sect. God is used as fountainhead of inspiration to put the human being in its proper place. You are neither a beast nor a deity. You are somewhere in between. God as a concept exists everywhere. It exists in you, in your family, your loved ones, in nature and in the human subconscious. God is simply a representation of what 'goodness' should aspire to. It is not a discernible, human, thing, or object in the sky.
Real Christian sects have a realistic understanding of what the Old and New testaments are trying to tell us. These books are basically conservative documents which give some guidelines and rules to engage in a profitable, mentally aware and emotionally satisfying life. Every successful modern Western state in history has had to apply some aspects of Christian thought to society's development – whether or not it is called 'Christian' is immaterial – but clearly without the rules and ideas of the Bible the modern Western world would not exist.
Take these elements from the Old Testament as an example. You don't need to be a fire-breathing, Bible-thumping, Jimmy Swaggart styled charlatan stealing people's money, to recognise the enormous value in these ideas:
Exodus 21-12: Capital Punishment
'Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death.'
Exodus 21-23: Justice
'You shall not oppress an a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in Egypt.'
Leviticus 19-15: Justice
'You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great'
Psalm 37: 'Do no fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers; for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.'
Ecclisiastes 2: Vanity
'Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind'
'I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.'
These passages are simple illustrations around the idea of justice, self-absorption and doing what is right. Everyone can learn something by reading these and reflecting on their own lives and actions.
The Bible is the first true document which outlines morality, ethics and the golden rule [do unto others as you would have done to you]. Nothing like it had previously existed – nowhere. Some civilisations had their sagas [Gilgamesh; the Bhagavat], but nowhere was the roadmap to living life in an agricultural epoch, in which great disparity between rich the powerful and the poor and the sick existed, developed. It was the creation of the Jews. From thall shou not steal to Christ's admonition that the kingdom of heaven is inside each person, the Jews and their Christian offspring developed a transformation in spiritual and social awareness.
If you are a female or part of the great mass of 'unwealthy' you have a lot to thank Christianity for.
There are of course many passages and stories which are not that relevant for the average person looking for spiritual guidance, faith based therapy; or an emotional link to something greater than themselves. But there are certainly enough passages to help anyone who needs spiritual therapy. The implementation of Christian thought has a lot in common with the designs of Zen Buddhism – quietness, reflection, self-awareness, self-perspective, and an emotional non-judgemental connection to the rest of the world and nature. Christianity is in part an implementation of Zen inspired meditation.
These transcendental reflections of Christianity make it remarkable. The church in its best and most humanist form [pace Erasmus for example] is concerned with human needs now. So-called Evangelicals started as community help movements. Addictions, marriage problems, moral issues and criminality were alleviated in part by well meaning Christian groups focused on improving people's lives. Most charities survive on Christian donations, and Christians are the mainstays of missions, hospitals and institutions which help the poor, the homeless and the disabled.
Remove the Christians from society and your welfare state would collapse.
Christianity in its best form can teach anyone about the key elements of self-awareness, humility and social duty and charity. This quality of the church is vital in developing a strong community. You don't have to read and memorise every word of the Bible to be a good Christian. You only need to take the important spiritual and practical ideas of the Christian faith, understand and implement them, to be a better person.
That is the power of the church.