Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Wide Road

And that is just how easy it is, to take a story in which you intend to tell something good and beautiful about God and make it into a story that tells so much less.

It starts by making the narrow road wider, so wide that everyone in the whole world fits on it, no matter what they believe. You take Jesus and put Him into the same category as Buddha and Mother Nature and whatever other "good" teacher you want to list here, making Him far less than a Savior. And, ironically, it is all these "good" teachers that begins to erode what is good and beautiful in a truly God-centered story.

Because here's the fundamental difference between Jesus and Buddha: Buddha intends to be a teacher. By the faith tradition of Buddhism, Buddha is one who has "made it" and achieved all of the glorification that that particular faith promises, and he has then come back to the faithful in order to teach them how to do the same themselves. He teaches men and women how to be their own saviors. Mother Earth is much the same - she teaches you how to maximize your own existence, how to save yourself. Put Jesus into this category, and He no longer saves you; He is just another one of those teachers who teaches you how to save yourself.

Then take this theology, this theology that tells you that all of these figures are just the same with the mission to teach you nothing more than how to save yourself, and all of a sudden, you've got nothing good and beautiful to bind you to the rest of humanity. Nothing. Whatever is good and beautiful in your life is whatever you make good and beautiful in pursuit of your own self-salvation. Necessarily, your self-salvation is going to look different than my self-salvation, which is going to look different than the next person's self-salvation. There is no hope, no promise, no peace to bind us together; there is only the fact that we are all seeking our own salvation.

If we are all seeking our own salvation, then what we have in common is only our desire to escape this pithole of an existence, and so our "we" has to be centered around the miserableness of our lives here. Our unity comes from the very broken, bad and ugly things we are seeking our own salvation from. We are bonded together by our darkness and our pain, by our broken families and addictions and financial struggles and insults get the picture. Without a common hope, this is all we have in common.

And when this is what we share with one another, when this is what we have in common, it comes to be the thing that most defines our lives. Because it is the most relatable or recognizable. Because it is the thing that others will understand right away in our telling them.

When this becomes the thing that most defines our lives, it becomes the thing that we live by, and this turns us into miserable, bitter, ugly persons, and we become almost proud of this. Not because it's how we truly wanted to be, but because we feel like this is the thing that makes us human. This is the thing that makes us like everyone else. This is the thing that gives us community.

And if there's one thing that's worse than having to find your own salvation in life and not having a common hope with anyone, it's the proposition that you could be truly alone in living.

Hence, the wide road.

We're all welcome here. We're all together here. We're all in some kind of mass migration away from our miseries, and although it's not going to be the same kind of good and beautiful when we all, individually, save ourselves, at least for right now, we're moving together. And that's got to be something, right?

Jesus and Buddha and everything.

I guess that's just what struck me about this book I picked up. It's such a dangerous teaching, not just because it makes Jesus out to be something far less than a Savior, but because look at what happens when it does. Look at what happens when we take the narrow road and try to make it a wide one - we lose our Savior, we lose our hope, and then we lose ourselves. And then we wake up one morning and look around and wonder if there's anything good and beautiful left in the world.

There is.

He's on the narrow road. 

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