“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity”—C.S. Lewis
When I think about it, there is no good reason to follow Christ. Faith in Christ promises the assurance that Someone has come to save us but it comes with a claustrophobic feeling that someone is going to get you.
I belong to a targeted minority in my own country—with equal rights on paper but limited rights in practice—where nuns are raped, churches are vandalised, forced conversions lead to forced reconversions and Mother Theresa is a manipulate shrew who faked compassion for decades so she could savour the power of converting a few.
Of course, this is not the norm but the norm is not so reassuring.
As a young Christian, reading the Bible privately and listening to poor preachers publicly, I realised that Christianity was regularly misrepresented by religious people.
The Jesus I met in the Bible was difficult to find in urban Indian Christianity.
In the Bible, self-righteous people were suspicious of Jesus and non-religious people were drawn to Him. In the city, non-religious people were suspicious of Jesus and self-righteous people were drawn to Him.
Christianity gave me no good reason to be a Christian. Its obvious benefits of social stability, a sense of belonging, a healthy moral framework and community support could easily be found outside of it.
But its understated dark side of being judgmental, self-righteous, moralistic and suspicion of reasonable questions were good enough reasons to leave.
There was no real need for Christianity to have a fulfilling life.
I found myself bound to a faith that was constantly undermining its Christ with blind, thoughtless, self-righteous pronouncements that were echoed in film, literature, the news, universities and everyone who had a vague familiarity with Marx, Freud and Darwin.
Religious christianity is to a thinking Christian what a drunk relative is to a family at a wedding. It’s embarrassing and humiliating but there’s very little you can do to change your name.
As an insecure teenager struggling to find my identity, Jesus only complicated matters by demanding my allegiance to Him.
I knew I would have more social freedom and acceptance as a non-religious person than as a follower of Christ.
The internet-driven globalised urban culture I regularly engaged with, was conditioned to be suspicious of authority, tired of religion and indifferent to faith. It gave itself license to ridicule believing people and separate them from thinking people.
It made Christians look like people plugged into their walkman at a rock concert—stubborn old-fashioned people clinging to the relics of a forgotten generation.
I listened to this culture of suspicion and I am grateful for its scepticism because it forced me to ask questions I may have otherwise ignored.
It helped me see that I felt the same way about religious Christianity as its critics without feeling the need to be non-religious. But it was not a shared conviction.
Religious Christianity is to Jesus what Kenny G is to Jazz—it belongs to the genre but it is a terrible representation of its greatness. Separating religion from Christianity felt like trying to separate Kenny G from Jazz so that anyone who heard the word Jesus did not want to hear anything more about religion.
As an impressionable college student without much knowledge or maturity, I was not prepared for the challenges to Christianity from my college professors.
One of my favourite teachers, whom I deeply admired and respected, was an atheist whose questioning was always firm, but never without respect and often with a sense of humour. She enriched my faith by questioning it because she was always direct but never disrespectful.
But there were other professors who regularly caricatured, misrepresented and dismissed Christianity as fable, fantasy and fiction—not with reason and respect, but with the force of personality, ridicule and rhetoric.
Their reasoning was as biased, distorted and emotional as manipulative preachers who made me wonder what Bible they were reading.
My work with college students in the last year tells me that nothing has changed.
I understand the value of a good question and I am happy for faith to be questioned and explored but what remains disturbing is the emotional force of disgust that comes with the questioning.
It’s the kind of shallow arrogance I thought was only found among drunk relatives in my own family.
Disgust is a strong revulsion aroused by something offensive. But it reveals more about the disgusted person than it does about what provokes the feeling.
The strange thing about disgust is that many religious and non-religious people are as guilty of it as they are offended by it, which probably should be reason enough for all of us to be done with it.
A Quiet Resurrection
The only reason I am a Christian is because Christ is risen.
I do not need to be a Christian to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and live a fulfilling life. I do not need the church to find a loving community of generous people for a satisfying social life.
I certainly would like to be free from being a Christian so that I can live without the fear of being an outspoken minority in a time where silence and anonymity can mean safety and security.
But if Jesus really rose from the dead and is preparing the world for His return, any embarrassment I feel because of self-righteous people and any opposition I face from non-religious people seems soft, slight and insignificant because He is risen.
What makes Christianity provocative and attractive at the same time is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In an age shaped by the philosophy of the Greeks, the might of the Romans and the religion of the Hebrews, it was provocative to proclaim that a dead man was alive.
It was no simpler for a Jewish, Roman or Greek thinker to accept that someone could be raised from the dead than it is for any present-day philosopher to believe.
It is more obvious today that we need someone to save us but it remains so strangely undesirable to speak of a Saviour.
But when I look at the reasons for the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for the world, it is a deeply attractive thing to know that the evil upon us has not been answered with silence but with self-giving sacrifice.
When I think about it, there is no good reason to follow Christ, unless He is risen from the dead and has fit us for heaven.
Heaven, being the rule of God—not some angelic, cloud-infused, harp-infested fantasy that looks and feels like a never-ending church service, custom-made for musicians and extroverts.
If Jesus is risen, a new governance has come into the world with a just King who writes His laws on human hearts—not on pieces of paper; and moves people to follow Him by the power of His love—not His love of power; so we can showcase the nature of His rule through the nature of our lives; by being His people of justice in the world until He returns to bring justice to all the world.
This Easter, while some religious people abandon reason and other non-religious people ridicule faith, I remember there is still one good reason to be hopeful and thankful.
Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed.
Image Credit: sari_dennise