Harmonics of the Soul, Part 1: Christianity

As the next part of this series on religion, I plan on on taking a look at each some the religions which I have been exposed to, and listing the elements which strike a chord with me, along with those aspects which leave me cold.  This is emphatically not an attempt to judge religions.  It is not intended to be an objective overview of their various belief systems.  Nor is it a list of the practices and beliefs which I find appealing on a surface level.  Note too that the emphasis will be more on the emotional, spiritual, and relational aspects of the religions.  It is assumed that all religions also encourage good works; that isn’t an aspect of any single religion.  These are the facets of religion which have struck a chord deep within me, resonating with what I have called my “personal religion” in a previous post.  The goal is to begin to triangulate on that inner spring by noting it’s intersections with external religions.

It seems appropriate that I begin with Christianity, the religion that has had by far the most impact on my life.  It is important to note that growing up I considered myself a Messianic Jew, which is more than merely a semantic distinction.  But since I was raised in a church, and my beliefs, practices, and worldview as they pertain to this discussion largely coincided with the popular definition of Christianity, I’ll stick to that term in this post.

Here are the aspects of Christianity, as I believed in it,  which struck a chord with me

  • Above all, the romance of it.  If I were asked to sum up the essence of what Christianity meant to me, I could do much worse than to quote a verse from a song by The Violet Burning:

    Mary, she moves
    In a world that’s dark,
    Torn apart at the seams
    She lifts up her eyes
    Up to the sky
    And sings-
    “I am my Beloved’s
    And He loves me
    As I am.”

    The mythology of Christianity is one of an eternal, cosmic romance between a lost Bride, and the Groom who will literally go through hell to retrieve her. This has a great appeal to me. The idea of universe-as-story, rather than as a pointless place where things happen for no particular reason is a compelling one.

  • It is a personal religion.  As a Christian, I was encouraged to see God as a very definite person, with feelings, even moods.  God was someone who took a personally interest in my daily life.  He was not a vast impersonal force.  He was someone I could potentially hold conversations with, laugh with, cry with.  “He walks with me and He talks with me, and he tells me I am His own” – a dumb hymn, but very indicative of the Christian perception of a personal God.
  • The acknowledgment of darkness.  All modern appearences to the contrary, Christianity at it’s core is a profoundly gloomy religion, at least in regards to “this present darkness”.  Jesus was a pretty mopey guy.  He’s recorded as crying more often than laughing.  In Christianity I found a worldview that acknowledged that yes, the world is a broken, darkened place.  The tragedy is real, you aren’t imagining it.  We are all broken and disconnected from God, and no, it’s not supposed to be this way.  To me there was never any contradiction in being a “gothic Christian”.  It seemed perfectly natural, an outward reflection of my worldview.
  • Acknowledgment of guilt.  “Sin” is an unpopular concept in this day and age.  And I think the Church has gone way overboard in taking on the role of judge.  But sin is, at least for some, a useful concept.  In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James quotes an earlier author in positing two kinds of people: the once-born, and the twice-born.  The twice-born find themselves by their very nature weighed down by their guilt and shame for wrongdoings and failings of character.  They are acutely aware of their own depravity, and their powerlessness in the face ot it.   For such people, it is not enough to say “put down your burden and walk away”.  They require an experience of death-and-rebirth, of absolution and redemption.  Christianity offers a framework in which this redemptive process is possible, and prescribes steps by which it is to be carried out.  For some who are unable to simply say “well, that was a mistake” and move on, Christianity holds a key to facing and finally defeating their shame.
  • Confession.  Really a part of the previous point, this deserves to be singled out because I’ve found in my own life that public confession is powerful medicine.
  • The perception of God-in-humankind.  Although never as pronounced as I would have liked, Christianity does include the concept of serving men and women as service to God, and of seeing the divine in other people.  This really clicked with me; an early indicator of my innate humanism.
  • The emphasis on the church-as-family.  Sadly, this never really seemed to pan out in real life.

Aspects of Christianity which haven’t appealed to me: (note, I am including only essential aspects of the religion which failed to strike a chord with me.  The perversions of the faith which I don’t care for could fill books, but that is true of any large religion.)

  • Worship.  The worship service is a central part of modern Christian practice, but it’s never done much for me.  I understand that many people get a tremendous boost from spending time telling God how powerful He is.  I know that for many, it isn’t at all forced, either; they can barely contain themselves in their adoration.  For me it was never that way.  As a catharsis and a way of crying out to heaven, music and prayer have been important to me.  But I never really “got” the emphasis on praise & worship, as it’s called.  Celebration I understood, just not the focus of it.
View All


  1. I really don’t want to get into a religious debate especially because I don’t want my own beliefs to be drug into question and mocked, but I do have to say this…
    Jesus was not a mournful person. THe only occasion where it is noteworth that he wept is after the death of Lazarus. But that was included in the Bible to illustrate how shocking it was for his followers to see him give way to emotion. How could he be said, they wondered, if he knew he could just resurrect him? Well, he was empathetic for Mary and Martha and those who were in mourning. It goes to show us today that Jesus and God do have human feeling and are not cold, detached autocrats.
    The idea of a mopey Jesus comes from the medieval traditions in the Catholic church of this idea–“There’s Jesus—look at him all skinny and self-deprived, we all need to be like that and shun the pleasures of the world IF we want to be close to god.” But if you read your Bible, you will see that Jesus was not opposed to taking in wine and even attending festive events (such as the wedding where he turned water into wine.) But his purpose on earth was not to have fun and be cool..he had a mission so much of the time he was serious because he was representing God to people who had fallen away from God’s true teachings (aka the Pharisees and other religious leaders who had become hippocritical in their practices). You know what I mean?

    1. I apologize for my hideous grammar and spelling, but I am knackered right now…LOL

    2. Oh, I’m not saying he didn’t know how to party (to put it crassly). Jesus generally comes across as pretty balanced – he celebrated when appropriate, mourned when appropriate, got angry when it was called for. And he was above all, as you point out, very, very sympathetic. But that famously short verse is not the only time he’s recorded as being distressed. To name one example off the top of my head, and leaving out the crucifiction, he was in deep distress in the garden before his arrest. Not to mention that if the old-testament prophecies really do refer to him, then in order to fulfill them he must have been a “man of sorrows”.

      The point is that despite the industry that capitalizes no christianity as a wealth-and-happiness cult, Christianity is not all sweetness and light. It is a faith which acknowledges a deep wrongness in the world. And I think Jesus, of all people, was aware of that wrongness.

      1. Oh, I see what you mean. The instance in the Garden of Gethsemane (I do believe) before his arrest when he was sweating blood. Yeah, that’s because he knew what was about to come upon him and what a weight situation it was.

        (BTW, I appreciate that you’re not being rude or mocking about Christianity though you don’t believe in it (or do to some extent, whichever). I went through four years at Macalester where people took as many potshots at Christianity (and Jehovah’s Witnesses) as possible. Since it’s something I hold dearly, it did wear on me. But anyway, thanks again.)

        1. Believe it or not, it wears on me too. Unlike many of my friends and associates, my parting-of-ways with christianity was amicable and somewhat sad, rather than angry and disgusted. I have a lot of respect for those of my friends who are christians, and in religious discussions I find myself defending them more often than not.

  2. How is it that I missed this discussion on religion?
    …of all the stupid times to neglect lj.

    Now I’ll spend the entire day reading and posting…if you’re up for it.

    Can’t say that I’d be a good argument…haven’t read your posts yet.
    At very least it might be fun to re-examine beliefs my own head.
    …or to play devils advocate and prod yours.

    1. Post away πŸ™‚

  3. avdi

    Jesus was a pretty mopey guy. He’s recorded as crying more often than laughing.

    See, now, I think this is an injustice brought about by the medium. The Christ I get from reading the New Testament is rather a triumphant counter-culture figure, expressing a deep love for creation. The fact that the distillation of Christ’s teaching has a lot of bass in the mix has to do with mortal hands and paper, not the reality of the artist. πŸ™‚

    The fact that most of creation, including, sadly, a lot of Chistians, don’t quite grok the Christ is, indeed, a right bummer.

    I, for one, look forward to an eternal party with the Christ.

Comments are closed.