Making Christianity Easier

Making Christianity Easier March 18, 2015

Benjamin Corey wrote a post that offers an explanation of the popularity of end-times Christianity:

The end times version of Christianity that many of us grew up with has been immensely popular, not because it’s true, but because it’s easy. Prior to the invention of end times fanaticism, Christians were busy trying to change the world on a massive scale- changing broken social systems, uplifting the poor and oppressed, and addressing all sorts of other problems they referred to as “social ills.” They labored to help those around them experience God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, the presence of the Kingdom of God here-and-now, and the transformative nature of God’s reconciliation– all things that were truly Good News in every respect.

But Christianity within an end times paradigm? Things went radically down hill after Darby’s teachings caught on because the alternate version of Christianity is so much easier. I used to live that kind of Christianity, and it was cake.

In fact, I remember traveling on a missions trip to the former Soviet Union just within a year or two after the fall of communism. The economy was in shambles, people were hungry, unemployed, and desperate. What did we bring them? We brought them a message of “good news” conveyed through street skits/silent drama and singing “People Need The Lord” to a boombox (remember those?). After our presentation we’d grab a translator and quickly try to get as many people as possible to ask Jesus into their hearts before moving on to the next place.

Supposedly, that was all good news. However, what I’ve learned as an adult is that the Good News isn’t about escaping the world, it’s about transforming it. The Good News is an invitation to empty oneself the way Christ did, and to be agents of reconciliation who act as a soothing balm on hurting lives.

Fred Clark shared thoughts along similar lines, talking about how some Evangelical Christians try to liven up their mundane lives by imagining that they are key warriors in a spiritual battle with demonic adversaries:

Deceiving the elect is actually Wall’s entire agenda there — with Deception No. 1 being the idea that they are, exclusively, “the elect.” As such, she urges them to accept that they are immune to deception — that they have unique access to the meaning of scripture and “the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Others have fallen away, bowing to “none other than Satan himself.” But we — Wall and anyone who accepts her invitation to participate in this deception — we are “the remnant that keeps the commandments of God.”

The self-aggrandizing fantasy here would be hilarious except for the fact that so many people aren’t in on the joke. Not only do many white evangelical Christians see this fantasy as deadly serious, they’ve accepted the bargain being offered by Wall and countless others — the agreement to help one another fantasize that their otherwise unremarkable lives set them apart as ultra-special saints who are better than everyone else.

It’s easy to see how such fantasizing can be briefly intoxicating. I fully understand the allure of imagining ourselves to be exceptional. Most of us understand this — just look at our most popular stories, from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Buffy to Cinderella in all its endless iterations.

But it’s one think to relate to the longing that Luke or Harry or Cinderella feels and to indulge in those escapist fantasies. It’s something else entirely to decide that you actually are a Jedi knight or a wizard or a princess, and then to try to sustain that fantasy throughout your daily life. Your daily life usually won’t cooperate with such a pretense.

Sustaining the kind of fantasy Linda Wall invites her readers to indulge in takes an enormous amount of imagination. It requires the collaborative effort of a community of fantasists who agree to cooperate by reinforcing one another’s fantasies. And it requires a willingness to reinterpret every mundane detail of the world around you into something fraught with all the drama of the pageant you’re creating in your head.

Both posts are really about the same thing. Many Christians, instead of transforming the world, choose the easier route of believing the world cannot be transformed except through preaching which one can do briefly and then leave, hoping for the best. Many Christians, instead of examining themselves and seeking to root out the evil within ourselves, prefer to proudly embrace the role of heroic warrior against enemies who in turn are demonized.



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  • Michael Wilson

    James, what do you think was Jesus position on the end time? Whole I like to think it was an apocalypse that transformed the metaphor of cosmic battle into a metaphor for his message transfirming the world by natural means and persuasion, I can’t be sure that he didn’t really imagine that a supernatural force was going to magical overthrow human government and natural law.

    • It is hard to know for certain. But the language of the “kingdom of God” certainly had connotations of God ruling in a way that transformed human history. There are certainly hints that Jesus’ message included elements of both – divine action and human, ideally in harmony as people responded to his proclamation of the drawing near of the kingdom.

  • Michael Wilson

    I do think though that the view, especially as expresed in Revelation, of demons ought to be taken more metaphorically. The descriptions of the demons is something that only exist in the vision of the prophet. Its real(which the mtstic may think is the illusion!)form is what ever thing the demon represents. The demons of nations ARE those nation, the demons thoughts and behaviors ARE the thought and behaviors of the nation. What do you think of this way of looking at the demonic?

    • Linnea912

      Yes, I think you’re onto something. Also bear in mind the context in which Revelation was written- a time of Roman persecution against Christians. Revelation was written to give persecuted people hope, and it’s very commonly understood among scholars that “Babylon” was code for Rome.I definitely do not believe in literal demons, or in a literal Satan- I think it’s way of setting people against each other, or of making excuses to do nothing about injustice.

      • JenellYB

        Very true, and relevant. The symbolic imagery used by the author of The Revelation would have been representative of the world as he and the readers to which he directed it, knew it.

    • How would you explain Luke 8:26, then? Jesus clearly believed that he was speaking to actual demons, and he believed that the herd of pigs died as a result of his exorcism.

      • JenellYB

        That is an interesting account, in that it is, as best I can think of, the ONLY incident of “casting out Demons” from anyone, and sending them into anyone or anything else.

        • It may be the only time the demons are sent into something else, but demonic possession is certainly dealt with in other passages:

          Mark 1:23-27 (or Luke 4:33-36), Mark 3:11-12, Matthew 17:14-20, Acts 16:16-18.

      • Michael Wilson

        Good point Vagabond, hence I say more metaphorically but not completely. Jesus does seem to believe in demonic possession though I think the specific story in Luke may be an invention. Ideas of demonology varied and some demons were thought to be the ghost of giants or in a way, the ghost of angels. As ghost they are free roaming souls capable of possessing others. So yes, to a degree, early Christians did maintain that Demons did act apart from what ever force they opperated and could be jumbled with ghost, particularly of ancient races and heroes

    • JenellYB

      Michael, your understanding of demons, or any other “being,” is good. One small correction I’d suggest is to delete “which the mystic may think is the illusion).” This is why the images/forms are represented differently in different cultures, according to that culture’s own mythology as well as real, material environment. If one explores into just what “daemons” were, what they meant, in the ancient Greek culture, this becomes even more clear.

    • R Vogel

      Have you been reading Stringfellow?

      According to the Bible, the principalities are legion in species, number, variety and name…They are designated by such multifarious titles as powers, virtues, thrones, authorities, dominions, demons, princes, strongholds, lords, angels, gods, elements, spirits…

      Terms that characterize are frequently used biblically in naming the principalities: “tempter,” “mocker,” “foul spirit,” “destroyer,” “adversary,” “the enemy.” And the privity of the principalities to the power of death incarnate is shown in mention of their agency to Beelzebub or Satan or the Devil or the Antichrist…

      And if some of these seem quaint, transposed into contemporary language they lose quaintness and the principalities become recognizable and all too familiar: they include all institutions, all ideologies, all images, all movements, all causes, all corporations, all bureaucracies, all traditions, all methods and routines, all conglomerates, all races, all nations, all idols. Thus, the Pentagon or the Ford Motor Company or Harvard University or the Hudson Institute or Consolidated Edison or the Diners Club or the Olympics or the Methodist Church or the Teamsters Union are principalities. So are capitalism, Maoism, humanism, Mormonism, astrology, the Puritan work ethic, science and scientism, white supremacy, patriotism, plus many, many more—sports, sex, any profession or discipline, technology, money, the family—beyond any prospect of full enumeration. The principalities and powers are legion.

      -An Ethic for Christians & Other Aliens in a Strange Land

    • That’s an interesting idea. Have you ever read Walter Wink’s series, demythologizing the powers?

      • Michael Wilson

        No, ill look it up

  • Thumb Billie Mama

    Darbyism and the Darbyites have hijacked Christianity, along with U.S. foreign policy, environmental and social issues. By believing they and their children are not going to be left behind with the rest of us, they claim no responsibility to work for and live in peace with all people or to care for God’s gift of mother earth.

  • R Vogel

    Prior to the invention of end times fanaticism, Christians were busy trying to change the world on a massive scale- changing broken social systems, uplifting the poor and oppressed, and addressing all sorts of other problems they referred to as “social ills.”

    This is a bit of mythologizing the past, no?

    • It certainly is too sweeping a generalization, at the very least.