Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Unbelievable

How many times have you heard something like, "I just can't believe that God thinks/cares about _____________"?

I'm hearing it a lot these days what with all the contraception talk and such. It's an odd statement. For a moment, let's ignore the inherent confusion the speaker exhibits in saying that just because they don't believe something it automatically isn't so. Also, let's not ask where the speaker derives their authority for being able to claim to know God's mind (which, granted, they may or may not do in this scenario), as if they somehow possess some sort of special charism, while those promoting the opposing viewpoint don't.

Instead, let's take a moment to reflect on just what the limits of the believable actually are.

We'll have to begin by pretending that there is such a thing as an "average Christian." Typically, you would envision someone for whom a certain set of beliefs are mandatory. Take the following items as exemplary: there is a God; He has intervened in human history, initially via the selection of a particular race of people as His own; He later intervened in the most radical way possible, namely, by assuming the inferior nature of one of His creations; He lived with this inferior nature for 33 years, while still managing to stay God the whole time; He allowed Himself to be tortured and killed because of all the bad things His creations had done. That's not even getting into some more peculiar items such as getting our bodies back at the Last Judgment, the presence of evil spirits trying to make us do bad things, the ability of water and an invocation of God to have a spiritual effect, and so forth.

The aforementioned average Christian will claim to have no difficulty believing these things, so I suppose that we can chalk these up to what is believable. Now, consider the alternative items that are often disregarded as unbelievable: God set up a/the Church with a hierarchy of authority; it's possible for the pastor/Pope to be guided by God to teach a/the Church properly; we are supposed to love our enemies; certain sorts of activities fall into the category of sin (ie- those things God became man to die for); individuals do not determine what pleases or offends God.

Taking for granted the initial group of propositions as being readily accepted, does the second group really look like stuff that should qualify as unbelievable?

"I just can't believe that God thinks contraception is a sin."

Really? You just can't believe that? Take the statement at face value. Do not read things into it. This isn't about someone who just doesn't believe in the authority of the Church, and then proceeds to reject certain of Her teachings. This is the bold incredulity that God would even pass judgment on such things. In fact, if you press a lot of folks on this, the above statement is often the total argument against why the speaker rejects the Church's authority in the first place.

Maybe it's the Sauron in me, but I have a much harder time grappling with the idea that the Almighty God lowered Himself to take on the rather puny and wretched nature of Man. Not only that, but then He let people make fun of Him, beat Him up, torture Him, and then nail Him to a big piece of wood so that He would die the most painful death possible. And the murderers laughing about it the whole time.

Perhaps I'm getting cynical or whatever. It's just a funny thing to hear, and I'm hearing it more and more these days.

1 comment:

Paige said...

One of my favorites- "well, it doesn't *seem* wrong to me." Oh, okay, well, I'm glad that you, with the almighty authority to claim what is wrong or right based on your fallible and fallen nature's gut instinct that is really only applicable to you, since you've justified it for your own set of arguably incredibly special circumstances can tell me that.

On second thought, I think I will go with the celibate dudes in the pink beanies. Something tells me they've got it more figured out...

Like I said in my last blog post-- sin is sin whether you believe it is or not.