Many people insist on a simple religion…or otherwise a simple philosophy on life. If you don’t want to defend yourself often, the easiest thing is to simply not believe in much. It’s part laziness and part busy-ness.
We’re too busy with media and with constantly reacting to a world that is daily and relentlessly thrust upon us. And we’re too lazy to do anything about our busy-ness. When it comes to our religion, this leads to literal shallowness and a forced kind of false black-and-whiteness that eventually becomes problematic if we’re honest about it.
As an easy example, we see this in many of the endless branches of denominational Christianity. Doctrine like the “bible-alone,” the absolute assurance of salvation, disregarding of Christian Tradition, the “just Jesus and me” mentality and many others. So many people are in search of an easy, nice and neat, contemporarily palatable answer. So when they find something that doesn’t fit that, they just throw it out.
They end up with some great evangelical sound bites that sound simple on the surface and work well in modern-day marketing campaigns. And even though they are far from unproblematic, many are attracted to their seeming simplicity. It’s something people can remember quickly from a 15 minute pep-talk each week and then regurgitate in social situations where such a dogma is generally socially accepted and will most often go unchallenged. I get it. And I’m sure it’s helpful on some level. But it also misses so much.
At the other end of the spectrum many Christians reduce their faith to just “be a good person” or “all you need is love…love.” And here they use an over-simplified definition of “love” that leaves out all the hard parts about what it means to truly love. Both ends of the over-simplification spectrum miss out on the best stuff – on the full mystery and gift of reality itself. In the end, reality is not that simple. And a true religion reflects that.
“It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of – all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain – and, of course, you find that what we call “seeing a table” lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of. A child saying a child’s prayer looks simple. And if you are content to stop there, well and good. But if you are not – and the modern world usually is not – if you want to go on and ask what is really happening – then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
There is something more to Christianity than pop-Christianity likes to admit. Authentic Christianity is a journey through history, the human story and a religion of mystery…and therefore a religion of great humility and adventure. Honestly embrace it – especially the difficult parts. And resist the urge to over-simplify it or you’ll end up missing out.