May 2011

posted 4 May 2011, 08:41 by Richard Jones   [ updated 30 May 2011, 00:16 ]
The Vicar writes . . .

WHY CAN’T CHRISTIANS HAVE FUN? One of the most common objections to Christianity is that it restricts the enjoyment of life’s pleasures.

    It’s a very personal objection and usually one that’s expressed with passion. People feel that religion is a threat to their lifestyle and a judgement on their behaviour.

    I’ve actually heard the argument expressed in two different ways. In one, the main objection seems to be that Christians are killjoys who follow a God who punishes those who enjoy themselves. The other way that the objection is raised is when people claim that Christians are hypocrites, who say that they are loving and caring, but in practice are just as selfish and cruel as everyone else. When you look at these views closely though, it’s easy to see that they apply just as much to people who say that they’re not religious as they do to Christians.

    There’s nothing unique in a religion claiming that there must be limits to individual behaviour or the good of everyone will suffer. And in just the same way that religion says that it’s wrong to harm other people to get your own way, so does the law. We can’t live in a society that has no limits.

    And whilst there must be limits on individual behaviour, there are always people who pretend to obey those limits only to ignore them in practice. Like driving slowly past speed-cameras then speeding up again once you’re past the road markings. It isn’t only Christians who behave hypocritically.

    The argument that we Christians are a load of killjoys is unfair. Christianity doesn’t attempt to stop anyone from enjoying themselves. Nowhere does Christianity say that eating, drinking, or making love are wrong in themselves and not to be enjoyed. But what Christianity does say is that you mustn’t enjoy these things at the expense of others.

    Building on ancient Jewish law, and centuries of human experience, Christianity sets out to show where the necessary limits of individual behaviour should lie. Christianity starts from the assumption that we’re all generally selfish and we need controls on our selfishness. But it goes beyond that, always wanting to move us beyond our weaknesses, it doesn’t want us to deny us pleasure, but it does want us to recognise our responsibilities.

    There will always be a gap between what we are and what we aspire to be. But the fact that there’s a gap is not a reason to give up trying to be better.

    Christianity stops us from settling down on the wrong side of the gap and Jesus gives us the example, the inspiration, and the power to bridge the gap.

    People who distort Christianity by making themselves noticeable as they loudly preach against pleasure only distort the truth of Christianity presumably more from a desire to control others than from an understanding of the teachings of Jesus.

    Unfortunately these days, it’s the loud and the domineering who get reported and listened to. But there’s a far bigger danger in the subtle, and more insidious message that we hear from the mass media and from moral liberals that “You can enjoy yourself as much as you like: nobody else really gets hurt by it”.

    Whatever our beliefs, we all have to come to terms with limits to our desire for pleasure. The great strength of Christianity is that it holds out the promise of infinitely greater pleasure, the love of God.

May God’s blessing be with you all