Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Well, so much for posting every week . . .

. . . round two! I have been inspired to write again by my dear friend Amanda (of the best stuff, but plain and/or cracked).

This post has nothing to do with you, m'dear, but I wouldn't have posted at all if we hadn't talked last night.

So a few weeks ago (well, weeks ago when I wrote up this post in my word doc; a few months now) I went to an interfaith panel discussion at my college. There were a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew all answering questions about faith and secularism in the modern world. The Muslim's first name was Fez. Even among a panel of academics, he was remarkably articulate, and something he said very much stuck with me. He said that in Islam there is a theological division made between those who follow God for their own reasons (wanting to go to heaven, for example), and those who follow God with no thought of reward, but only for love. He then said that he personally does not like to make this distinction, because it results in too much judging.

I, on the other hand, was thinking how much I wished Christianity made this distinction. I remember a number of months at all, in my ecumenical Bible study which I have mentioned in numerous other essays, I mentioned that my reasons for being a Christian had nothing to do with my salvation at all. I received looks as if I had three heads. It seemed to be the feel of the room that if I was not focused on my salvation, I was missing what Christianity was about.

I don't want to pretend to be more spiritually advanced than anyone else. I wish that we made this distinction in Christianity because I want more ways of looking at faith to be more widely accepted. Maybe the right way IS to be totally focused on one's own salvation (I doubt it, but it's possible), but I wish that, especially among more conservative strains of my religion, other possibilities were acknowledged. I can't quite express how liberating it felt to have someone else, even someone of a different faith, express these different ways of approaching religion. Mmm.


Brian said...

Hmm, that must have been some time after I left because if I had been there I would have backed you on that. I definitely agree. I am Christian because I love God and I personally find him through my particular faith and threats of damnation or promises of reward are at most incidental to my faith.

I was looking through my hymnal earlier looking for wedding hymns and I came across one that reminded me of this post of yours and wanted to share it with you. Now, it doesn't entirely match what you're saying but it is in a similar vein.

I love thee, Lord, but not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet for fear that loving not
I might for ever die;

but for that thou didst all the world
upon the cross embrace;
for us didst bear the nails and spear,
and manifold disgrace,

and griefs and torments numberless,
and sweat of agony;
e'en death itself; and all for one
who was thine enemy.

Then why, most loving Jesus Christ,
should I not love thee well,
not for the sake of winning heaven,
nor any fear of hell;

not with the hope of gaining aught,
nor seeking a reward;
but as thyself hast loved me,
O ever loving Lord!

E'en so I love thee, and will love,
and in thy praise will sing,
solely because thou art my God
and my eternal King.

Words: Spanish, seventeenth century;
trans. Edward Caswall (1814-1878);
adapt. Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), alt.

James Gray said...

This heaven/hell stuff has always felt like a bribe and a threat to me.

"Maybe the right way IS to be totally focused on one's own salvation"

In a world such enormous diversity as this it seems odd to me that we still look for the one best way.

Yvonne said...

That hymn is quoted in Isabel Allende's book Daughter of Fortune.

In the Orthodox liturgy of St John Chrysostom, they have words along the lines of "I don't want to be the only one to be saved".

I personally fell out with Western Christianity because it implies that salvation is only for believers. The fear and loathing that this belief inspires cannot be wholesome.

Anonymous said...

Salvation doesn't resonate with me as central either, when defined as being saved from death.

But God's unconditional love does. And if God loves me, no matter what, is that not a form of salvation -- a lifeline that is always there?

Come back from hiatus, Sarah. I've just met you, and I already miss you.