Friday, January 20, 2012

Christianity: The Egocentric Religion (Part 2)

There is probably salt on this food. Probably.

Should we be egocentric? Or should we care about others? Should we be selfish, or selfless?

It seems that we like to assert that Christianity is about others, not ourselves. But who did Christ come to save? Individuals. I’s. Ego’s (Greek for “I”). And what is the fate of the individual? The Christian heaven is not an individual soul (e.g. Hindu Ä€tman) dissolving into a universal spirit (Brahman) like salt dissolving into water. It is every tribe, tongue, people and nation worshipping before the throne of God; a Church full of selves. We do not worship God by becoming less ourselves (selfless). We worship God by becoming more ourselves. Indeed, Jesus didn’t recommend dissolving salt in the ocean, but putting it on food. Salt brings out individual flavors. It makes mashed potatoes and green beans more themselves and thus more different; the potatoes become more potatoey and the green beans more green beany.

The word “Selfless” doesn’t appear anywhere in any popular Bible translations (KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NLT). “Selfishness” is absent from KJV, NKJV, NIV, and ESV, and appears only twice in NLT. “Selfish” itself is used only a handful of times and never in the Gospels. Being that the Bible does not talk about it at all, I contend that selflessness is not a Christian virtue. Selflessness is a virtue born of a false dichotomy in a zero-sum world. You or them. If you are benefitted, it is because you hurt them. But we don’t live in a zero-sum world. That which most benefits me, most benefits God and others.

Of course we’re supposed to love our neighbors. But that doesn’t require self hatred or self neglect. The more alive we are, the more of our true, uncorrupted natures we express, the more love we give to others. I can love best when I am acting as God created me to be, when I am being more David-ish. So too when you are self-ish. When we are being purely and rationally self-ish, we can truly see the joy of service and perform it; we can remember the satisfaction of charity, and do it. The best days of my life have not been days of taking, but of giving. The days that I really acted or thought in ways that most benefitted me in short-term satisfaction and long-term eternal reward, the days I most expressed myself and my nature, the days I’ve been most properly selfish have been my best days.

Being egocentric, focusing on oneself, on the “I”, and seeing real and true Divine value in it is Christian. The Great Commandment itself is predicated on selfishness. It cannot be completed without self love: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It presumes self-love is universal and necessarily central. So, insofar as Christianity is an egocentric religion, it is a realistic religion. There is no alternative. Jesus acknowledges the self-love He created people with, and then uses that to argue for love of others.

Christian Sacrifice as Good Business (Part 1)

Christianity: The Egocentric Religion (Part 2) 
Lusting Like Jesus (Part 3) 

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