For several years now I have been asking Christian fundamentalists and conservatives a question. I particularly like to address it to those who think I am “heretical” because my beliefs and teachings do not conform to their version of Christian orthodoxy.
Here’s the question: Why would God care more about what we believe about God, than how we live for God? Why would God care more about the beliefs we hold in our minds about God, Jesus, the Trinity, salvation, etc., than the way we actually love, care, and treat one another in our daily lives?
Rarely does a fundamentalist/conservative even attempt to offer some rational explanation. Generally, they respond in one of three ways:
1. Some shout louder: “You are denying the truth!” “That’s the wrong question to ask!” “The question has no bearing on what is true!” They respond with accusations and denials, and never get around to actually wrestling with the question.
2. Others simply quote Bible verses or recite the talking points of doctrines they believe.
3. A few try to approach it rationally, but never really respond to the question directly. (For example, they usually say something about God’s holiness demanding that Jesus die in our place and that we have to believe in him, that is, accept substitutionary atonement, which, in the end, amounts to nothing more than a recitation of a doctrine they think essential for salvation.)
And still the question waits and lingers . . .
The reason no fundamentalist can reasonably answer the question is because no reasonable answer exists. No answer makes sense based on common sense, reason, human dignity, and our best intuitive sense of what is good, right, just, fair, and of most value. So about all they can do is quote the Bible, deny the importance of the question, cling to their creed, and stumble around it the best they can.
These responses suggest to me that these Christians are so completely locked into their belief systems that they have relinquished all responsibility for self-critique. They are, for whatever reason, unable or unwilling to question, probe, and sincerely struggle with their faith. They settle for a second-hand faith that offers them security (heaven when they die), comfort (God is on their side), and feelings that they are really special (they have the truth).
I think many fundamentalists who are most ardent in their attempts to win/convert others into their system of belief engage in such activity as a defense mechanism. It’s a way of keeping all their repressed and denied fears, anxieties, and insecurities at bay.
True religion is not about believing doctrines. It’s about falling in love with God and learning how to love everyone and everything the way God loves everyone and everything.
It is much easier to believe doctrines, perform rituals, and enforce policies than actually live in union with God and allow God’s love to fill and overflow in our lives.
Living in union with God means letting go of our egoism, pride, and false attachments to power, prominence, and possessions. It means letting go of our need to control, label, judge, and create “in” and “out” groups. Union with Divine Love means change and who wants to do that?