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Christians are Lazy--a personal theory.


Glass Cowcatcher

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Rambling ahead, but I'll connect it to fundies at the end.

Anybody here who's grown up Christian has probably heard two things-- Christianity is not about works, it's about grace.

One of the selling points is supposed to be that no matter what you do, God will forgive you and let you in to heaven. Besides the very obvious drawback that even the most heinous people really could get into heaven and avoid punishment for their sins, I have always thought that the deemphasis on personal works as a part of salvation has some unfortunate implications.

Basically, Christianity is a lazy man's religion, and I think it, as a group, has a chip on its shoulder when comparing itself to religions that actually do require their members to change some aspect of their lives.

The first time I ever thought anything like this was when I was a kid, and my mom complained about Jehova's witnesses that came to the door and always had well attended services throughout the week. It seemed somewhat defensive to me. This crystalized into a theory for me, though, after 9/11, and the way that Muslims were treated in the media.

It occurred to me that a person can become or remain a Christian with very little effort, but being a Muslim would be a lot of work--fitting a schedule around daily prayers, following a special diet, wearing a certain type of clothing if you're a woman, and arranging a trip across the world. Christians have NONE of these obligations.

Once I thought this, I started seeing shirking in between the lines every time Christians criticized another relgion. How do they talk about Jews, for example? They missed the Messiah, who was supposed to free them from the burden of Old Testement ceremonialism--essentially, they object to the idea that being Jewish requires a lifestyle beyond just putting one's faith in a certain doctrine. How do Christians talk about Buddhists? They object to the doctrine of karma, that a person must actually shoulder the burden, good or bad, of all of the things they do. Catholicism is much the same, though opinions vary whether that's actually Christian or not.

I have a theory that, beyond powergrabbing, the ease by which one can be a mainline Christian accounts for much of the recent rightward and legalistic shift within the religion. Fundy Christians proscribe a certain method of dress for themselves--modest, clothes, skirts only, denim--they limit the activities they participate in (no public school, for example, which burdens the teaching parent)--the paranoia about processed foods and mainstream medicine (not that either is in itself bad) mimics in some ways halal or kosher dietary codes, and the endless rules about courtship, parental interactions, and relations between the opposite sex put some emphasize consequences for personal actions, in a warped way (show an ankle, make him sin.)

This, I think, is why the fundies sell themselves as "true biblical christianity," and why so many who have made the descent talk about why they felt like they were getting a high off of following the rules at first.

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There surely are some lazy Christians.

But the whole "cheap grace" thing has been a vigorous debate among Christians for ages. Depending on denominations, and well before American fundamentalism, there have been a great deal of obligations (historically, most denominations up until the 20th century "revival" type evangelicalism started getting underway).

I think it depends a lot on perspective. "Grace" is not supposed to mean "I can do whatever the heck I want and not worry about it." In common theological understanding it's usually along the lines of "I cannot be perfect/be my own salvation, which is why I'm so desperately in need of Jesus." The need for grace doesn't in any way remove obligations of holiness/prayer/morality, etc. though I think in Evangelicalism those things are supposed to spring out of love for God, rather than be attempts to gain salvation.

I do agree that the kookier fundamentalism is probably in large part an over-reactive pendulum swing away from "lazy Christianity" or "cheap grace" that has occurred in some segments of Christianity.

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There surely are some lazy Christians.

But the whole "cheap grace" thing has been a vigorous debate among Christians for ages. Depending on denominations, and well before American fundamentalism, there have been a great deal of obligations (historically, most denominations up until the 20th century "revival" type evangelicalism started getting underway).

I think it depends a lot on perspective. "Grace" is not supposed to mean "I can do whatever the heck I want and not worry about it." In common theological understanding it's usually along the lines of "I cannot be perfect/be my own salvation, which is why I'm so desperately in need of Jesus." The need for grace doesn't in any way remove obligations of holiness/prayer/morality, etc. though I think in Evangelicalism those things are supposed to spring out of love for God, rather than be attempts to gain salvation.

I do agree that the kookier fundamentalism is probably in large part an over-reactive pendulum swing away from "lazy Christianity" or "cheap grace" that has occurred in some segments of Christianity.

I was really thinking of modern Christianity--within the past 50 years or so--and I should have clarified that.

Also, I am not saying that individual Christians are lazy, but that the theology, over all, does not require a person to make significant lifestyle changes as a condition of salvation.

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gotcha. :)

It is true that lifestyle changes aren't a condition of salvation, and that is one selling point of Christianity by evangelists. For many though, those changes are regarded as necessary *evidence* of salvation. IE, we don't have to do those things to be saved, but when saved, we will do them because we are saved (I think the reformed-y folks like the term "regeneration", but I'm halfway-arminian so I'm not sure I've got that right) and the lack of those changes is viewed as evidence of not being saved. Kind of a more round about way to get to the same requirements in the end.

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This is a little OT, and sort of counter to your point, but I always thought of fundies as incredibly lazy.

Fundamentalism is all about having your lifestyle prescribed for you. I think a lot of people get into fundamentalism to be free of the burden of choice.

IMO, it doesn't get any more lazy than that.

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gotcha. :)

It is true that lifestyle changes aren't a condition of salvation, and that is one selling point of Christianity by evangelists. For many though, those changes are regarded as necessary *evidence* of salvation. IE, we don't have to do those things to be saved, but when saved, we will do them because we are saved (I think the reformed-y folks like the term "regeneration", but I'm halfway-arminian so I'm not sure I've got that right) and the lack of those changes is viewed as evidence of not being saved. Kind of a more round about way to get to the same requirements in the end.

There is no codified idea of what "evidence" is required, though, other than tithing to the church which just seems like a practical thing.

Going on a voluntary mission trip, or giving up certain kinds of music or television, or committing to attend a bible study isn't the same as wearing a different style of clothes or strict dietary rules, which visible idenfity the person as part of a religion and require significant personal effort. (on that note I should have put Mormons in there, I can' imagine life without caffeine.)

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This is a little OT, and sort of counter to your point, but I always thought of fundies as incredibly lazy.

Fundamentalism is all about having your lifestyle prescribed for you. I think a lot of people get into fundamentalism to be free of the burden of choice.

IMO, it doesn't get any more lazy than that.

Interesting point, I do not think the fundy converts themselves would see it as lazy though. More as giving up on worldly things and following rules to be closer to God.

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Rambling ahead, but I'll connect it to fundies at the end.

Anybody here who's grown up Christian has probably heard two things-- Christianity is not about works, it's about grace.

One of the selling points is supposed to be that no matter what you do, God will forgive you and let you in to heaven. Besides the very obvious drawback that even the most heinous people really could get into heaven and avoid punishment for their sins, I have always thought that the deemphasis on personal works as a part of salvation has some unfortunate implications.

Basically, Christianity is a lazy man's religion, and I think it, as a group, has a chip on its shoulder when comparing itself to religions that actually do require their members to change some aspect of their lives.

The first time I ever thought anything like this was when I was a kid, and my mom complained about Jehova's witnesses that came to the door and always had well attended services throughout the week. It seemed somewhat defensive to me. This crystalized into a theory for me, though, after 9/11, and the way that Muslims were treated in the media.

It occurred to me that a person can become or remain a Christian with very little effort, but being a Muslim would be a lot of work--fitting a schedule around daily prayers, following a special diet, wearing a certain type of clothing if you're a woman, and arranging a trip across the world. Christians have NONE of these obligations.

Once I thought this, I started seeing shirking in between the lines every time Christians criticized another relgion. How do they talk about Jews, for example? They missed the Messiah, who was supposed to free them from the burden of Old Testement ceremonialism--essentially, they object to the idea that being Jewish requires a lifestyle beyond just putting one's faith in a certain doctrine. How do Christians talk about Buddhists? They object to the doctrine of karma, that a person must actually shoulder the burden, good or bad, of all of the things they do. Catholicism is much the same, though opinions vary whether that's actually Christian or not.

I have a theory that, beyond powergrabbing, the ease by which one can be a mainline Christian accounts for much of the recent rightward and legalistic shift within the religion. Fundy Christians proscribe a certain method of dress for themselves--modest, clothes, skirts only, denim--they limit the activities they participate in (no public school, for example, which burdens the teaching parent)--the paranoia about processed foods and mainstream medicine (not that either is in itself bad) mimics in some ways halal or kosher dietary codes, and the endless rules about courtship, parental interactions, and relations between the opposite sex put some emphasize consequences for personal actions, in a warped way (show an ankle, make him sin.)

This, I think, is why the fundies sell themselves as "true biblical christianity," and why so many who have made the descent talk about why they felt like they were getting a high off of following the rules at first.

Brilliant post, glass cowcatcher, brilliant!

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Rambling ahead, but I'll connect it to fundies at the end.

Anybody here who's grown up Christian has probably heard two things-- Christianity is not about works, it's about grace.

One of the selling points is supposed to be that no matter what you do, God will forgive you and let you in to heaven. Besides the very obvious drawback that even the most heinous people really could get into heaven and avoid punishment for their sins, I have always thought that the deemphasis on personal works as a part of salvation has some unfortunate implications.

Basically, Christianity is a lazy man's religion, and I think it, as a group, has a chip on its shoulder when comparing itself to religions that actually do require their members to change some aspect of their lives.

The first time I ever thought anything like this was when I was a kid, and my mom complained about Jehova's witnesses that came to the door and always had well attended services throughout the week. It seemed somewhat defensive to me. This crystalized into a theory for me, though, after 9/11, and the way that Muslims were treated in the media.

It occurred to me that a person can become or remain a Christian with very little effort, but being a Muslim would be a lot of work--fitting a schedule around daily prayers, following a special diet, wearing a certain type of clothing if you're a woman, and arranging a trip across the world. Christians have NONE of these obligations.

Once I thought this, I started seeing shirking in between the lines every time Christians criticized another relgion. How do they talk about Jews, for example? They missed the Messiah, who was supposed to free them from the burden of Old Testement ceremonialism--essentially, they object to the idea that being Jewish requires a lifestyle beyond just putting one's faith in a certain doctrine. How do Christians talk about Buddhists? They object to the doctrine of karma, that a person must actually shoulder the burden, good or bad, of all of the things they do. Catholicism is much the same, though opinions vary whether that's actually Christian or not.

I have a theory that, beyond powergrabbing, the ease by which one can be a mainline Christian accounts for much of the recent rightward and legalistic shift within the religion. Fundy Christians proscribe a certain method of dress for themselves--modest, clothes, skirts only, denim--they limit the activities they participate in (no public school, for example, which burdens the teaching parent)--the paranoia about processed foods and mainstream medicine (not that either is in itself bad) mimics in some ways halal or kosher dietary codes, and the endless rules about courtship, parental interactions, and relations between the opposite sex put some emphasize consequences for personal actions, in a warped way (show an ankle, make him sin.)

This, I think, is why the fundies sell themselves as "true biblical christianity," and why so many who have made the descent talk about why they felt like they were getting a high off of following the rules at first.

You need to reconsider this statement in bold. Catholicism is a form of Christianity. It is one of the oldest form , the other being Orthodox. What you said perpetuates an anti-Catholic prejudices and contradicts your point. It would be better if you preface your argument stating that it relates to Protestant Christianity. Catholics are Christian but their faith involves works.

I agree with the rest. ATI and VF seem as legalistic or more so, than the Catholic or Orthodox Churches.

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Interesting point, I do not think the fundy converts themselves would see it as lazy though. More as giving up on worldly things and following rules to be closer to God.

Yes, but something about the lifestyle would have to be attractive for them otherwise they would look to other paths to that end. Fundamentalism is more about following that charismatic guy that has all the answers than actually studying the Bible.

There are plenty of people who renounce worldly things and follow the rules outlined in the text of their choice without becoming what are essentially cult members.

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Yes, but something about the lifestyle would have to be attractive for them otherwise they would look to other paths to that end. Fundamentalism is more about following that charismatic guy that has all the answers than actually studying the Bible.

There are plenty of people who renounce worldly things and follow the rules outlined in the text of their choice without becoming what are essentially cult members.

I think what attracts them is that, at least as best they perceive it, their actions DO have a part in how close they come to God.

Anyway, my post wasn't so much about how individual Christians behave, but how Christian doctrine handles the idea of personal actions and responsibility for sins.

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I hear what you're saying, Glass Cowcatcher, and I think you are right particularly in terms of the rightward movement of modern Christianity as a backlash against how apparently "easy" it is to be a Christian. I think, though, that I would frame it more in terms of the obsession with appearances -- things like humility and grace aren't obvious from a person's external lifestyle and appearance, so fundies want to add all these external markers of "faith" so that they can tell who is who, so to speak.

I would also say that what you correctly identify as a paranoia about "works" that drives Protestants into a corner where they are almost forced to accept this lazy Christianity is in fact a particularly Protestant problem. From an Orthodox perspective, salvation is a tremendous amount of work because it isn't just saying a prayer so God will save you from hell; it's a whole lifetime and eternity of striving to make yourself more and more like God and more and more capable of receiving grace and communion with God. This definition of salvation as a process of growth and "theosis" is why in Orthodox theology, while someone like Hitler may in fact be converted on his deathbed, he can't just waltz into heaven and be just as close to God as, say, a life-long Christian who spent his or her life in prayer and charitable actions. His soul isn't developed enough to handle it, you might say.

I probably shouldn't try to discuss theology late at night! I know you qualified your observations as related to modern Christianity, but this is one of the big things that made so much more sense to me when I stopped being a Protestant, so I wanted to qualify it a little further. :-)

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I think what attracts them is that, at least as best they perceive it, their actions DO have a part in how close they come to God.

Anyway, my post wasn't so much about how individual Christians behave, but how Christian doctrine handles the idea of personal actions and responsibility for sins.

Yeah well I told you it was OT, you were forewarned! :lol: Derailment over. :D

I agree that they must believe their actions (works) get them closer to god, which moves in opposition to the modern protestant Christian ideas of grace where essentially god does all the work.

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You need to reconsider this statement in bold. Catholicism is a form of Christianity. It is one of the oldest form , the other being Orthodox. What you said perpetuates an anti-Catholic prejudices and contradicts your point. It would be better if you preface your argument stating that it relates to Protestant Christianity. Catholics are Christian but their faith involves works.

I agree with the rest. ATI and VF seem as legalistic or more so, than the Catholic or Orthodox Churches.

I see how that was worded poorly. What I meant what that Protestant's opinions of whether Catholics are truly Christian or not vary. I am not Christian but I am more friendly to Catholic theology than Protestant, so I would not make a generalized negative statement like that.

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I hear what you're saying, Glass Cowcatcher, and I think you are right particularly in terms of the rightward movement of modern Christianity as a backlash against how apparently "easy" it is to be a Christian. I think, though, that I would frame it more in terms of the obsession with appearances -- things like humility and grace aren't obvious from a person's external lifestyle and appearance, so fundies want to add all these external markers of "faith" so that they can tell who is who, so to speak.
I disagree. I've been lucky to know a few truly graceful and humble people--not all of them religious-- and it really is something that shines from the inside. Not as obvious with clothes, but spend 2 minutes with them, and you know.

I would also say that what you correctly identify as a paranoia about "works" that drives Protestants into a corner where they are almost forced to accept this lazy Christianity is in fact a particularly Protestant problem. From an Orthodox perspective, salvation is a tremendous amount of work because it isn't just saying a prayer so God will save you from hell; it's a whole lifetime and eternity of striving to make yourself more and more like God and more and more capable of receiving grace and communion with God. This definition of salvation as a process of growth and "theosis" is why in Orthodox theology, while someone like Hitler may in fact be converted on his deathbed, he can't just waltz into heaven and be just as close to God as, say, a life-long Christian who spent his or her life in prayer and charitable actions. His soul isn't developed enough to handle it, you might say.

I probably shouldn't try to discuss theology late at night! I know you qualified your observations as related to modern Christianity, but this is one of the big things that made so much more sense to me when I stopped being a Protestant, so I wanted to qualify it a little further. :-)

I know next to nothing about Orthodox Christianity, so little that it didn't even occur to me to include it in the post, so I can't say how it fits into the theory at all. Sounds like it's a shame that it's underrepresented in the usual American Christian spectrum.

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In other threads, Burris and MamaJuneBug have both explained the concept of grace in a very understandable and beautiful manner. So, yes, I understand that there is more to the Protestant understanding of grace then just say a prayer and you're in for life.

I found faith alone to be a heavy burden. I could not stop myself from asking questions. First of all, Jesus does talk about works. you can't read your bible and ignore that fact. Second, how do you know if your saved? I was told that a saved person will show fruit. What that word, fruit means depends on the Christian. My former Baptist Pastor claimed it meant the number of people that you saved. I didn't take to soul winning because it seemed rude, so by his reasoning, I wasn't saved. Other Christians believe that fruits means your actions, your ability to love etc. Some Christians believe that questioning too deeply is a sign you aren't a Christian. Which belief is correct? The bible conflicts in several areas so whose interpretation is correct? Regardless of what fruits are, salvation is supposed to change the person. I was very anxious about finding the right interpretation. Hey, my eternal life depended on the answers, of course I was anxious. So, I doubted my salvation.

Faith alone causes some Christians to separate out 'real' or "true' Christians from those Christians who don't act in an approved fashion. This makes it possible for them to ignore the bad actions of their own group. An example would be Christians who swear there are no Christian terrorists because a 'real' Christian would not be a terrorist.

Besides if the Holy Spirit is supposed to change people, why aren't most Christians better then nonChristians? Christians aren't better or worse then other people. They are the same.

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Excuse me, but that is too broad of a statement. There are people who minister to the sick & those in need and work as volunteers and missionaries in their own communities and abroad. The reason you don't hear about, is because it isn't broadcast for the whole world to hear. Why? Well, the Bible itself if full of reasons why. In a nutshell, it's wrong to brag about doing good works. And before anyone points it out, I've been guilty of that very thing especially when I first came to FJ.

Anyway, just because you don't see it on page 1 of the newspaper or the main story on the news, doesn't mean Christians aren't out there helping. But Christians can't solve all of the worlds problems such as hunger, disease, and homelessness. I'm not sure it could be done if all religions put their heads together to try. But what we can do is try and help as many people as we can.

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I disagree. I've been lucky to know a few truly graceful and humble people--not all of them religious-- and it really is something that shines from the inside. Not as obvious with clothes, but spend 2 minutes with them, and you know.

I know next to nothing about Orthodox Christianity, so little that it didn't even occur to me to include it in the post, so I can't say how it fits into the theory at all. Sounds like it's a shame that it's underrepresented in the usual American Christian spectrum.

Purgatory makes sense to me. Once you are saved, you still have the effects of past actions in your life. If you hurt people, your problems with those people don't go away overnight. And the pain from past abuse, etc might make it hard to open yourself to others. If you die, you go to purgatory which is a place where you are cleansed from those problems before you enter heaven. Your sins are still forgiven, of course.

Protestants don't realize it but they do believe in purgatory. Ask any Protestant if there will be jealousy or anger in heaven. They will say no. Ask them if they still feel those emotions and they will admit that they do. God, they believe, will work a miracle when they die so that they are perfected. Guess what? That is purgatory.

There is a lot about Catholicism that I disagree with but there are also aspects of it that, from a Christian perspective, makes sense.

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Excuse me, but that is too broad of a statement. There are people who minister to the sick & those in need and work as volunteers and missionaries in their own communities and abroad. The reason you don't hear about, is because it isn't broadcast for the whole world to hear. Why? Well, the Bible itself if full of reasons why. In a nutshell, it's wrong to brag about doing good works. And before anyone points it out, I've been guilty of that very thing especially when I first came to FJ.

Anyway, just because you don't see it on page 1 of the newspaper or the main story on the news, doesn't mean Christians aren't out there helping. But Christians can't solve all of the worlds problems such as hunger, disease, and homelessness. I'm not sure it could be done if all religions put their heads together to try. But what we can do is try and help as many people as we can.

I agree with you. There are many Christians who do good things. They help others, they sacrifice their own comfort to serve their fellow humans. However, I think that is true of a lot of nonChristians as well. That's why I said that Christians aren't better or worse then other people.

One verse that I appreciated when I was a Christian, and still value, is to not let your right hand know what your left is doing(or was it the other way around) You aren't supposed to do good works for praise but to honor god. However, don't other faiths honor humbleness?

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