“It’s time to recognize that Christianity is not a comfortable religion. The doctrines we profess are stumbling blocks, and the demands are uncomfortable.”
We have gotten too comfortable. Walking around as baptized Christians, we probably don’t often think about what that means. Christianity is radical. If we really profess what Christianity professes and live what Christianity demands, we will not be comfortable. We will be weird.
I frequently read and hear people lamenting how we no longer live in a Christian culture. Yes – being Christian these days makes us strange. We stand up for marriage and unborn life. We assert that all human beings have dignity and a right to life, regardless of their health or mental capacity or criminal record. We believe in things like good and evil, right and wrong, and male and female.
While some of these issues are new, some are not. But what is definitely not new is the uncomfortableness of Christianity.
Christianity is uncomfortable – both for what it professes and what it demands.
We have become jaded to the craziness that is Christianity, actually. We think nothing of saying that God died on the cross or that a man rose from the dead. As Christians, we believe that God was an embryo for nine months in a woman’s womb. We believe that God suffered horrendous abuses and died a painful death.
These are things that should shock us. But they don’t. We have become used to them. We assume that the majority of our neighbors and friends at least profess some of those things. And so we go about our lives, not really thinking about them.
I remember a Scripture scholar picking apart the story of the Magi and making everyone in an audience feel ridiculous if they believed the wise men actually existed. I thought to myself, “You have a problem with wise men following a star, but not the Creator of the universe being born of a woman? That’s not a stretch?”
If God can take on a human nature and become man, wise men can travel to come find him.
Don’t get me wrong – I believe our Christian Faith is reasonable. I don’t suggest that Church requires us to submit blindly to crazy notions. At the same time, Christian beliefs are radical.
It’s time to recognize that Christianity is not a comfortable religion. The doctrines we profess are stumbling blocks, and the demands are uncomfortable.
Paul’s listeners in Athens called the beliefs of Christians “strange notions” and mocked him for the resurrection (Acts 17). Perhaps he was thinking of this when he later wrote to the Corinthians, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:22-25).
Are Christian doctrines a stumbling block in our modern society? In many places, the cross or even the crucifix garners little reaction. We have become desensitized to the radical nature of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection – the entire Pascal Mystery. Perhaps in becoming too comfortable with the stumbling blocks, we have learned to ignore the demands.
Christianity is not an easy religion. Jesus never promised us it would be. He promised it would divide us from our own family members. Yes, he assured us an “easy burden,” and a yoke that was “light,” but it’s because he will help us carry it. Otherwise, why would he choose to use the language of burden or yoke, if this way was comfortable and free of demands?
Christianity is countercultural. In a sense, it always has been. Even when the western world was Christian, when we had Catholic monarchs and our seasons revolved around the Church calendar and Angelus bells rang out and people stopped to pray… Christianity was still demanding. Because it calls us to resist temptation, persevere in prayer, and love our enemies.
We follow a God that suffered. Do we think we are going to get off without suffering ourselves? Rather, the way of Christianity is the way of the Cross. It is not a comfortable religion. It is a religion that, if followed, will make us look weird. People will snicker at us when we stand up for the truth. They will point fingers at us and mock us as old-fashioned or even accuse us of being haters. They will roll their eyes, they will criticize us, they will taunt us. Who knows – maybe they will physically persecute us. But that’s okay. We didn’t sign up for an easy religion, did we?
“The ways of the Lord are not easy, but we were not created for an easy life, but for great things, for goodness.” (Pope Benedict XVI)