The other day I wrote a post called Why I Couldn’t Be An Atheist Even If I Wanted To, where I wrote about some personal reflections and emotions that I experience when I consider the vastness and complexity of the universe. It wasn’t so much a post about atheism as it was a post about what I feel— I’ve worked hard to build as many bridges with atheists as possible, so I definitely wasn’t looking to pick a fight when I wrote it. All in all, the response from my atheist friends was kind and thoughtful, as usual. However, also as usual, there are a few who make unhelpful comments– probably because they didn’t read this post before commenting.
At this point in my life, comments don’t bother me that much. Heck, I’ve got the religious right putting out books warning parents to keep their kids away from my friends and I, so a stray comment usually doesn’t bother me that much.
Except, one stayed with me and I’ve been pondering it for days. The commenter was dismissive, calling my belief system a “comfortable myth,” that they didn’t need.
Here’s what bothers me about calling Christianity a comfortable myth: following Jesus isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. If anything it has made my life more difficult and far less comfortable than what it could be.
Comfortable myth? I wish that were true. Here’s what a comfortable myth would look like to me:
“Do whatever you want. Take care of number one, and don’t feel guilty about it. Live your life now– and make sure you don’t shortchange yourself.”
That would be a comfortable myth. That would be a narrative that would be easy. It’s even the narrative I’m daily tempted to live, but fight with ever fiber in my being.
But the one I’m living now? Nope.
For someone to say that Christianity is a comfortable myth could only mean two things: (A) Such a person doesn’t actually understand what Jesus taught or (B) such a person has never dared to try it.
There’s a chance that I could be completely wrong about Jesus– maybe, just maybe, it’s all a myth… but comfortable? Let me warn you: following Jesus (as in, actually doing the stuff he taught) isn’t for the faint of heart. If you try it, the life you thought you wanted to live will fall apart, and you will be oh, so very uncomfortable for the rest of your life. Promise.
There’s been nothing comfortable about accepting the fact that the leader of my religion has invited me not to live, but to die– to daily pour myself out in serving others.
There’s nothing comfortable about giving your life to defending the cause of the fatherless. Nothing comfortable about parenting children with severe disabilities, nothing comfortable about hospital stays, spending up to twenty hours a week doing “intensive in-home therapy”, attending endless IEP meetings, or putting that extra Christmas stocking back in the basement because it’s not needed anymore.
There’s nothing comfortable about working hard day-in and day-out while constantly practicing self denial, so that one day you might have just enough set aside to offer another child life in a family.
There’s nothing comfortable about pouring your life into serving other broken people in a setting called the “Church.” Yeah, that place where more and more outsiders don’t want to go because the people inside are obnoxious? Well, some of us have made the uncomfortable decision to love and serve them in hopes that we might actually make things better.
There’s nothing comfortable about embracing Jesus’ teachings on nonviolent enemy love and realizing that loving an enemy is more important than preserving your own life.
There’s nothing comfortable about constantly trying to find redeeming qualities in even the most vile and unlikable people.
There’s nothing comfortable about embracing the calling to be one who kicks back against culture instead of being someone who sits neatly inside. In fact, that’s a ticket to chronic outsiderness.
There’s nothing comfortable about embracing the teaching that my life is not my own– that since I have been bought with a price I exist to do someone else’s bidding, instead of pursuing my own desires.
And, there’s certainly nothing comfortable about believing that one day I’m going to reach the end of my life– tired, depleted and poor, only to stand before God and be judged.
Could this all be a myth?
Maybe. I’ll give them that.
But it sure as hell isn’t comfortable. If you really think it is, I’d invite you to read the things that Jesus actually said– because what he invites us to is an insane way of living that will make me worthy of being a fool if the myth part turns out to be right.
But comfortable? Call it a myth. Call it foolish. Call it insane.
Call it anything– but don’t call it comfortable.