I think perhaps one of the greater arguments for the Christian lifestyle and in opposition to a secular, hedonistic lifestyle is that there is such great freedom to be found in the former. Now, you may ask: how can a life of restraint, flight from immorality, and continual repentance and prayer to a judgmental God be any more freeing than a life that consists purely of the pursuit of pleasure, and the supposed obtaining of it?
This is a good question, and it is the question I find myself frequently faced with in the setting of a secular university. Many of my peers find religion to be horribly oppressive and despise it with every fiber of their being. They despise it so much, in fact, that they will get extremely angry with anyone that does not share their hatred, and begin verbally abusing him or her. Of course, the abuse is rather shallow: it's mostly just name-calling; bigot, racist, misogynist, Nazi. I've heard them all. But I am not convinced that the names that have been used to describe me are accurate. There seems to be this perception of me based on the things I say that is not entirely accurate. People stereotype me a lot. If I say that I'm a Christian, that means something entirely different to atheists than how I intend it, because atheists have a notion of Christianity that is rather flawed, which is most likely a big reason for their being atheists in the first place.
I think it is important to realize that humans have done some pretty messed up things in the name of religion. But they've also done some pretty messed up things in the name science, and of a nation or government as well. And they've done some pretty messed up things for themselves, let's not forget. So it really isn't hard to see where the hatred of religion is coming from. There are a lot of people that call themselves Christians, but I would postulate that far fewer actually are in the truest sense of the word, especially in the United States. This means that there are a lot of people that say that they are Christians, but are actually very far from Christ. Naturally, then, we see a lot of things being done in the name of Christianity that are actually rather horrible. It is these things that turn people away from religion, because they ask: how can someone believe what Christians are supposed to believe, but then clearly not practice it?
The most popular conclusion, I've noticed, is the one that suggests that Christianity is not coherent. The people that adhere to it must have an awful lot of cognitive dissonance going on if they can rest easy being so hypocritical. This conclusion must not be, however. I think it is far more accurate to say that "false Christians" are simply ignorant to the Bible, or don't actually accept it as truth for some reason that is beyond me. It's also likely that they try to take matters into their own hands, instead of trusting God to work in them.
Of course, I am not one to judge. Only God knows our hearts. But at the same time, we can observe the fruits of people's lives, and if the fruit is no good, we can safely assume the roots are bad.
Anyway, all this is to say that I don't believe I am such a "Christian." I believe that I am a Christian in the sense that honors Jesus Christ himself. By this I mean that I believe my world view is coherent and logical, unlike so many world views held by progressive Christians and non-Christians alike. That is why I say that there is great freedom in the Christian lifestyle. When I make that statement, I intend you to interpret the "Christian lifestyle" as the lifestyle that follows in the footsteps of Jesus as closely as possible. I intend it to mean the lifestyle that has high moral standards for itself and for others. I intend it to mean the lifestyle of persecution and suffering brought about by people of this world.
So, back to the original question then: how is this lifestyle freeing? What burdens does it lift? This latter question might be easier to start with, because we can look at the burdens of the world, something that most people can relate to, given that most people are of the world.
Lately, in my honors class, we have been working through the play Angels in America, by Tony Kushner. This is a play about religion and sex, and how the two interact or don't interact. It is a filthy play, but it has sparked some interesting conversation nonetheless. We have spent a great deal of time exploring sexuality, and in doing so, I have become even more educated on the common perception of sex in the United States in 2022.
It is on the topic of sex that I see most clearly how God's good design for marriage is infinitely more freeing than the hookup culture we see today. It may seem contradictory or paradoxical at first, but something that really puts things into perspective is the AIDS crisis, which we have spent the bulk of our discussion in class on lately. We know that AIDS is only spread through sexual contact, and so the fact that it ran rampant in the 80s is a sure sign that there was a lot of sexual contact going on. And of course, we know that this has not changed. In class, we talked about how terrified people were of AIDS, and how the knowledge that they could possibly contract HIV from their next partner absolutely consumed them. It is horrible, and that is something that both sides of the political spectrum can and should admit.
But, the thing is, because of my strict—and yes, rather conservative— views on sex, I never have to be afraid of any sexually transmitted disease or infection, and that brings great peace. People always talk in my class about how they're afraid to contract an STD, and how they get tested continuously, but for me the solution is quite simple: don't have sex, or at least not in the same way. And I am happy. There is a whole area of hardship and burden that faces people today that is completely alleviated from me. We live in a culture that is totally obsessed with sex, where anyone will have sex with anyone or any thing he or she possibly can. It is is absolutely everywhere. But we see that this only brings about chaos and destruction. It brings disease and death.
It is—and I'm sure this is a rather unfavorable statement, especially the way I am about to say it—almost as though God is punishing those that are liberal with their sex lives. He punishes them both in the sense that they become afraid and overwhelmed, but also in the sense that they eventually contract a disease anyway. This is what I mean when I say that Christian values and lifestyles bring freedom. There is a great freedom from pain and suffering brought about by our actions. By not engaging in certain activities, we are saving ourselves from a world of burden and hurt.
This is also how we know that the Christian God is a good God. He puts these moral rules in place to protect us from ourselves and the sin that we have cursed the world with. It is only when we dismiss the moral rules and insist on having things our way that we are met with anxiety and worry about all the potential side-effects of our actions.
In a more general sense, there is great peace and joy that comes from following the moral law that Jesus laid out so eloquently for us. We as Christians know that it is good for us, and it also glorifies God, which is our sole purpose for existing. We will never feel internal conflict as a result of helping those in need and abstaining from what we consider to be immoral activities, such as sex outside of a heterosexual, monogamous, permanent marriage, for example.
There are, of course, other examples in which God's moral law protects us, but I urge you to explore those for yourself. The fact is, we don't have to be slaves to our own sin. Sure, maybe sex does bring us pleasure, but it is momentary, and fleeting. It lasts no longer after it is finished. But there is a purpose that we have been called to can bring us not only pleasure, but eternal joy and everlasting life.
The very fact that sex in our culture today brings so much destruction, I think is great evidence that it is morally wrong and that our perception of sex needs to be drastically changed. It seems so painfully obvious, which is why I am constantly surprised that nobody else can see this. I'm appalled that some of my peers have made it their sole mission in life to become the secretary of education so they can abolish the teaching of abstinence in public schools.
This is most certainly not the answer. There is something very wrong with our culture's understanding of sex and relationships. It is no wonder that over half of all marriages end in divorce. In a vast majority of cases, this is because relationships have become more about personal satisfaction than the love of the other person. That's really all sex has become as well, and I'd wager that relationships have primarily become about sex, which would perfectly explain why they fail so frequently.
Is there not more to our lives than our bodies? I suppose the answer that secular humanism offers is a clear "no," which helps explain why our views of sexuality are so twisted. After all, if we are only flesh, why not try to satisfy the flesh? I'd like to challenge this way of thinking and suggest that maybe there is more to existence than just our bodies. There simply has to be. There must be some greater meaning or purpose, if for no other reason than the fact that we simply cannot comprehend an existence that is absurd. If we were truly just animals, like the other animals of the earth, we could have no understanding of a spiritual or moral reality. Morality becomes simply the good of the collective race of humans, which arguably is what many people see it as today. No longer do we care about individuals, but we care about making ourselves look good and furthering our existence. Nothing more.
This is wrong, however, because we don't live as though life is absurd. Each and every one of us wrestles with the idea of a spiritual reality. Even the most outspoken atheists that I have had the privilege—and it is a privilege, I'm not being sarcastic here—of engaging wrestle with this idea, which sends them into existential crises that tear at their minds. They verbally insist that existence is absurd and meaningless, and they can offer some pretty impressive evidence, but their mind screams at them that it simply cannot be so. Why might this be?
Christian values are much more than just following the rules of the Bible because that's what we were told to do. The Christian world view is the innate understanding that there is a spiritual reality, and the exercise of the lifestyle that such a reality requires. I don't only live a moral life to avoid the physical consequences, but the spiritual ones too. There are things that all of us as humans can say are absolutely wrong. The reason for this is simple: a basic moral code-of-conduct has been written on our hearts from before our birth. The whole concept of morality, in many ways, implies that life is not merely a physical experience, but a spiritual existence as well.
If we properly grasp this reality, we are given great peace. If we accept Jesus for who he says he is, he grants us joy in him. No longer are we slaves to our bodies, but we are servants of the living God, in whom we can eternally delight as he loves us and cares for us like a loving parent loves and cares for a helpless child.
© 2019-2023 Jordan Bancino.