Fuzzy Christmas Musings
In the light of the Christmas holidays, I had put some thought into what Christianity means to me, as well as where do I stand as a Christian at the moment.
Component I: Fear
When I look back on my journey as a Christian, I realize that there has always been a significant component that has been poisoning me. That component was fear — fear of death, suffering, punishment. Also the component of hatred toward self and the fallen human nature.
Since the Western civilization is Christian at the core, I can see that I am not the only one to whom fear of hellfire has been a more “convincing” argument than that of love to/of God and to your neighbor.
Images that come to mind as I’m writing this are scenes from Disney’s rendition of Notre Dame de Paris — Frollo's hatred toward Esmeralda — and Patrick Suskind’s “Perfume.” Not to mention Ivan IV (the Terrible) of Russia and Oprichnina. Oh, I almost forgot Rasputin.
Christianity has a really bitter taste. It’s kind of brutal.
Being an Orthodox Christian, I have read many accounts of the lives of Saints. A big portion of those are accounts of the martyrs. I call those stories — Orthodox horror stories — a graphic galore.
Component II: Intellect
A component that has always been appealing to me along the journey was that of theology and history.
I really find the argumentation of famous theologians, ranging from Tertullian up to C. S. Lewis and beyond, extremely stimulating for the mind. This component has always been inspiring me. It occupied so much of my thought.
The history of Christianity has also been fascinating to me. The fact that Christian civilization is in essence “barbarian” — the rise of Christianity happened after the fall of the Roman empire in the “barbarian” Europe — has always been a bit funny to me. No wonder that during the middle ages (which is the name of the initial period in Europe after the fall of Rome) Christianity had been so brutal.
Component III: Jesus Christ
I also have always felt a lot of sympathy toward Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, but the reason I mention Him only in the third place is that along the journey it is easy to get desensitized to Him.
Similarly, to how we forget about the fact that we are breathing, it is really unrealistic to constantly think of something or someone and to expect to feel the same response.
I really am fascinated by the entire Gospel and the depiction of Jesus. I like His argumentation, His demeanor, His courage, the metaphors He was using — I have very few issues with His persona, personally.
If I was granted a wish to meet one historic figure, I would choose Jesus Christ, and if He wouldn’t be too annoyed would ask Him a million questions.
Component IV: Salvation
It is really strange realizing that in the Christian world view the main battle has been won, there is no longer a divide between Heaven and Earth, but we are still living as if the battle is ongoing and we don’t know the outcome in the afterlife.
So the story goes like this — the battle has been won, yet it’s no time to celebrate. Like you’re on the top of Mount Everest, but you can’t celebrate until you get home.
It is kind of a poisoning moment too. The feeling that something is missing. The feeling that you have been fooled. Like you won a lottery but it’s a volatile cryptocurrency so you can’t be happy just yet.
The main argument is that we are still free to decide whether we want to join the Heavenly Kingdom and accept the Spirit to dwell in us. However, here I feel even more fooled as we have to make this free choice not only once but our entire lives to join the Kingdom. It’s like signing a mortgage instead of paying in advance.
Component V: Freedom
Freedom is the main theme of Christianity, and it seems no Christian church can really handle freedom.
Services, prayers, and all aspects surrounding the Church become very dogmatic. Rules build on top of rules until at some point it becomes obvious that you are not even sure if it’s you or them that don’t understand something.
Of course, freedom is a very tricky concept, but one thing for sure is that if you don’t feel free, I think you are not free.
I like that freedom is the main value in Christianity, but I disagree with how it’s handled.
Component VI: Religious Feeling
However, despite all this nightmarish aftertaste, Christianity still feels dear to me. But not just any form of it, rather a form of it that I see depicted by artists.
I realize more and more that the analytical mind is not always my friend in the pursuit of happiness. I realize more and more that what Prince Myshking was explaining to Rogozhin, is what Christianity really is about.
The essence of religious feeling does not fit any reasoning or any atheism; there is something wrong, and it will always be wrong with it; there is something about it which atheisms will forever slide off of and will always talk about something else.
Prince Myshkin, the Idiot by F. M. Dostoyevsky
I realize that I don’t need a great deal of logic or explanations to be happy. Just like our hearts are a convoluted mess of irrational feelings so is the path toward happiness.
And the more I realize how irrational the side we feel with is, the more tolerant I become toward Christianity, the more grateful I grow toward Jesus Christ, and especially toward people in general.
I really love how certain artist depicts their Christian journey. One example I extremely like is “Odyssey” by Florence and the Machine. And of course, as you already realized, Fyodor Dostoyevsky is my all-time favorite author when it comes to Christianity. I really love Andrey Tarkovsky for his ability to magically convey his religious feeling through a motion picture.
I feel really grateful to have expressed some of these thoughts, and I really feel that I’m not even close to being done with Christianity, and I expect to get a lot out of it along my future journey.