Thursday, August 19, 2010

What’s the Point of Being Christian?

Many people wonder what the big deal about being Christian is. I can hardily blame them. The divorce rate among Christians is no better than that among non-Christians. Affiliation with Christianity doesn’t—in my experience—always correlate to generosity, kindness, or even basic etiquette. What difference does it make?

Sure it’s obvious that Christianity on the whole is a good thing. No other cause has educated, fed, and nursed anywhere near as many people as Christian people and organizations have. For example, when the earthquake hit Haiti not too long ago a group of atheists got the great idea to raise money for victims proving that they were “just as caring as Christians”. That’s kind of funny when you ask where these caring atheists were before the earthquake. Catholic and other Christian organizations were serving the poor and needy there long before it became in vogue to be generous there.

But on the individual level, what difference does belonging to a Christian church or group make? I’m pretty sure the answer is none. No difference at all. The difference comes in those who allow themselves to be changed, who actually live the Christian principles. These individuals—though rare—make it obvious that Christianity does matter in daily life.

For example, the divorce rate in America is roughly 50% for Christian and non-Christian couples. Those couples who practice natural family planning (NFP) have a divorce rate below 2%. Yes, below two percent! In other words, people who belong to Christian churches but live the same lifestyles as non-Christians are little or no different from non-Christians. This is just one of many examples of the difference Christianity can make if we let it.

Consider today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 22:1-14. It’s the story of a king who invites his chosen guests to a wedding feast but they won’t come so the king opens the invitation to everyone. Then at the feast he sees a man not dressed in a wedding garment and orders his servants to throw the man out. Why? The man hadn’t changed. He was at the feast but he was the same person he was before entering.

I’m regularly disappointed with myself at how little my lifestyle and choices have in common with my role models; the saints. I have much more in common with the generous atheists; caring when the media tells me to care. While baptized I regularly refuse to cooperate with the Spirit within me. Clearly the required change is a slow process but I wish I were farther along the path!

Let’s pray for each other that this thing we call Christianity may be more than a club, more than a social identity, but a real way of life.


Charisms on Campus said...

very encouraging! loved this post, I too am guilty of not changing completely and recently I have been discouraged by this unfortunate fact...

I'll be praying for you and for all of us trying to change, but falling short...May God have mercy on us
Blessings always :)

Anonymous said...

Former Catholic here, in that magic 2% that got divorced then saw the Church support adultery and all that follows.

Don't be so smug and self-righteous.

TB said...

I loved this post!!! You encouraged me to want to be a better person each day. As I read through this I thought of the many times today that I was irritated, short tempered or rushed. In those instances I was surely not Christ to those around me. Lord help me, a sinner, to do your will and be more like you!!! I will pray for all of us as we strive to be like Christ in all we do.

I am not sure that Anonymous will ever read this, but if you do I am sorry that you fall into a 2% statistic. I, however do not think the author was being smug or self-righteous. Actually quite the opposite, they humbly stated that they are in need of God's mercy. In the instance that you refer to the author was merely stating factual statistics. I sense you are bitter with the human beings (in need of grace) who represent the Catholic Church today. I am sorry that you have been hurt by the Church and I will pray that you find it in your heart to forgive those that offended or hurt you.

Dan & Tara Brooke said...

Thank you all for your honest thoughts.

Anon, I regret very much that what you read here was the last thing you needed/wanted to hear. The purpose of the divorce example was to illustrate our need for real conversion; not to pour salt in the wounds of you or anyone else.

My heart goes out to you and all affected by the situation you're in. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post.