In class last week, one of my freshmen presented an inquiry project she completed on “the differences in lifestyle for a woman who moves from India to the US.” She came dressed in a traditional Indian sari and showed us a video of her interviewing some neighbors from her building. Overall, her presentation was pretty good. She had all the right components and seemed genuinely engaged in her research. She received an A.The thing that stood out to me in her presentation was her discussion of the religions in India and in the US. She said that something like 88% of people in India are Hindu and that 10% worship Islam and 2% worship Christianity. I was surprised at this statement; however, I was not surprised at the low number of Christians reported in her statistics. Instead, what caught my ear was her phrasing; the idea that in America most people “worship Christianity” and in the other countries they mostly “worship Islam.” So I started thinking about the ways in which we do “worship Christianity” instead of Christ in this country, and I’ve decided that her syntactical slip-up was probably more in-line with the truth than if she had the religious background to know better.
I know this cartoon is supposed to mock Christianity as idol worship (I pulled it off of a blog about Islam and the West), but I think it demonstrates the idea that many Christians do
worship the cross and the idea of Christianity in a way that appears hypocritical and offensive to other religions that don’t see how Christianity differs from any other systematic institution. The reality is that the cross (even with Jesus’ dead body hanging from it) is just an “it”; it is is a static object that has no intrinsic value for the spiritual development of the Christian believer. It may be a reminder of the person of Christ, but it is not a substitution for that person or our relationship with Him. But, as we can observe in church buildings (which are, incidentally, most often used as metonymy for the church itself creating another misconception of who the church truly is) and billboards and other places for public observation,
the cross has become the object of Christianity. “It” has replaced He.
Another substitution for our relationship with the person of Christ is the relationship many Christians have with the Bible. I believe that it is “God’s Word” and that it is a “lamp for our feet and a light for our path.” However, when we know the SON who is the light of the world, that lamp is something that pales in comparative power to accessing the source of all light: Christ Himself. The Bible is the basis for Christian study, debate, theology and place to build our relationship with Christ. But, if it becomes The Way, The Truth and The Life of our Faith, then we have substituted HIM with another IT because Christ cannot be bested by a book. He is those things.
In “Him or It: Living Christ or Dead Theology” P.T. Forsythe argues, “What makes the church is not Christ as its Founder, but Christ as its Tenant, as its life, as its power, the Christ living in the faith of its members.” We must live with Christ as more than an icon or a founding member of the Church. We must worship Christ Himself as the source of everything and the foundation for our lives. We must know HIM and not get distracted by some of those deceiving ITS out there.