Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Sword of Christ

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

Matthew 10:34-37

Thus saith Jesus. When people refers to him by the epithet of 'Prince of Peace', I laugh out loud.

Two days ago, I caught up with Rachel, whom you might remember as a rather integral character in a June 2011 story regarding the psychological blind spots we humans are susceptible to when it comes to the sacred cows we believe in. It was an unexpected but pleasant surprise when I received her text at work, wondering if we could meet before she returns to Adelaide. It would have been something to discuss religion with her again now that I had read the Bible several times through (not to mention dated and accidentally de-converted a Presbyterian in the meantime), but the situation never arrived at a moment when it's appropriate - and the presence of several other mutual friends made the subject impossible to broach.

Then, after excusing myself to use the men's room and returning to the table, I found that the subject had been broached in my absence. It's hard to proceed sans context so here it is: Rachel got engaged last year to a bloke named Fish (probably no relations) who I believe was a freethinker or apatheist of some sort - but the point is, he wasn't Christian. Rachel was relating a story about how he had found the Lord, and His Original Recipe of 11 Herbs and Salvation.

"I made it clear to him that there wasn't going to be a future for the both of us if he isn't Christian," she explained. "It's very important to me."

She also recounted how she questioned him thoroughly after his "repentance" just to make sure that his conversion was sincere and not at all motivated by um, any external pressure (gee, I wonder what made her suspect that). I have no idea what questions you can ask a person in order to gauge the contents of his heart with any reliability, but she apparently knew some. All I know is if it's a pop quiz on Biblical knowledge, I can outscore most of my Christian friends quite effortlessly.

The whole situation is so bizarre to me. It absolutely defies my understanding because I would never ever abandon a girl I'm dating just because she believes differently from me. It's partly because I actually enjoy disagreements and arguments recreationally, but more importantly, I believe that whatever real, palpable thing we share in this world far outweighs what we think might be in the next.

In the atheist community, we have all heard tragic accounts of how religious parents disown their non-believing children, or couples splitting up over differences in faith. We, as a people, know the cut of the Sword of Christ intimately. And the Scimitar of Muhammad. And all the other varied and exotic weapons of religious bigotry and discrimination which dismember families and cleave lovers asunder - all over some stuff some old books say which no one can prove. Well done, humanity! Have an exploding cigar!

Maybe Rachel's fiancé really found the whole human parthenogenesis and resurrection story of the New Testament believable, or maybe he thought that it's a fair concession to win the hand of the woman he loves - it's really not my place to bet on either horse. What matters more here is that it's the coming together of two people who are about to pledge the rest of their lives to one another, and faith in that perpetuity is far more beautiful to me than faith in the eternity of any religion.

Meanwhile, Christ's blade, having spared this pair, moved on to hack its next victims apart.

P.S. Do share your opinions and anecdotes on the intersection between faith and relationships if you have any. I'd love to hear about them.

A believer in love,
k0k s3n w4i


atlantisian said...

thanks for dropping by at my blog.

It's kinda interesting (and refreshing) to see someone writing boldly on this topic. Am a Christian and my husband a catholic, we went to different church and we respect each others beliefs as well as observe the boundaries (there is a lot of differences between the two although its the same God we are talking about, well, that's religion). Well, it works fine for us. Maybe its not in the same context as what you have written here but i don't believe in the whole concept of "converting". In fact, i have "self converted" many times until i found the theological belief/ doctrine which i'm totally comfortable at. Anyway, long story, maybe i will blog about it sometimes.

nicoletta said...

I can vaguely remember in Sunday School (or somewhere else) where a teacher said Christians shouldn't marry non-Christians. Which was weird because my mum is Catholic but my dad wasn't religious then. But I've also come across some atheists who are very insistent that their boyfriends / girlfriends be completely non-religious. Maybe all this will minimise future conflict and lead to a happy ending for some people, who knows.

k0k s3n w4i said...

atlantisian: i think there's not enough people questioning boldly the validity of religion. if you find that interesting and refreshing, i have many, many more in my archive ;)

nicoletta: atheists being insistent that their partners be completely non-religious? that's kind of a rarity in my experience - because atheists tend to be far and few between and most will die alone if they insist on irreligious spouses.

Liz said...

My boyfriend is Catholic, and some of my CHRISTIAN relatives consider that as "not truly saved". I should tell you about CNY last year when I cried my eyes out after hearing some rather unkind and harsh things about my boyfriend being Catholic and half-Chinese from my relatives.

You are so right. Religious differences do separate couples. We are in trouble now. Cos he'd want me to convert, and I'd want him to convert. You cannot deny that it is, at the core, an ego thing sometimes. While I don't mind converting, I'd wish that he would insist on doing the same for me.

And I've heard plenty of stories about other couples going through hell because the parents will never allow their son/daughter to convert to the other party's religion. And the sad thing seems to be that "We can't be together just because we are not of the same religion", and in a lot of cases, "not in the same DENOMINATION", even. Which SUCKS.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Liz: if i'm you, i'd make them feel bad for doing what they did. point out to them that they are doing what jesus admonished; judging others. try matthew 7:1-2 (judge not, that ye be not judged. for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again) and proverbs 21:2 (every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts) - a verse used to great effect in the 2007 western, 3:10 to yuma. call them out on their racism and tell them that jesus wasn't chinese at all but of semitic descent. if they criticise catholics for being heretics (because they venerate mary and apparently indulge in idolatry), tell them that they are hypocrites because they don't follow all of god's instructions either since they wear jewelry (1 timothy 2:9), consume shellfish and pork (leviticus 11:7,10) and pray with their hair uncovered (1 corinthians 11:5). use these in tandem with matthew 7:3-5.

as for the issue of conversion between you and your boyfriend... i imagine that both of you enjoy each other's company? maybe you are right and there's an afterlife and god. maybe there is not. if i'm right and it did turn out that there's really no reality aside from ours, you would have wasted your only life - denying yourself of the limited potential happiness you are ever going to get. i willnot take that chance.

Liz said...

I guess I would have said something then if I wasn't stunned into angry disbelief. Maybe with not as much reference to the Bible (since I frankly know nuts compared to you) but at least about being racist and having no right to judge others. We're all searching, in this world. Who's to say I'm right and you're wrong, right? Last CNY was when my eyes were really opened to the inner thoughts and beliefs of my relatives. Well, I was disappointed, and sadly shocked, to say the least. Couldn't really hold the tears, what more say what I want to say. So yeah, I'm not letting go of this relationship. Die-die also I will find a way. Compromise. Whatever. 7 years means something to me. And I'm not throwing all that away. Thanks for the advice+help :)