Christian spam, “cheap grace” and Commitment

Most spam to this site gets deleted without me ever seeing it.  Some slips past the filters and I manually delete it after scanning it.  The following piece that arrived earlier today felt like I could squeeze it for something bloggy:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow upon ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate…When Christ calls someone, he bids them come and die.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

We like things to be easy. We don’t want to have to think or commit too much to anything. We want to get the most reward for the least amount of effort. We expect it from our technology, our education, and from our God. “I went to church and I even put money in the offering, so we’re cool, right, God?” We did the minimum and we think that should be good enough. Yes, you’re still saved through grace; grace that is a free gift. But that grace is hollow, because you didn’t put yourself on the line for it. For years, our experience of church has been safe. Sit, stand, sing, bread, wine, Jesus loves you. Being a follower of Jesus is mainstream and acceptable. In most cases, we don’t risk anything by being a Christian. We proclaim a cotton candy gospel (that is, mostly sugar and air) and nobody gets stoned to death, crucified, or drawn and quartered. Do you see what I’m getting at? I’m not saying you have to defy the Roman Empire to validate your faith, but if you’re not willing to stand up for it, what is it really worth? What are we worth if we let intolerance and injustice rule over us without a fight?

The message intrigues me.  (Learn wherever you can, I tell myself.  Don’t turn away from a teacher just because you don’t like the color of her skin or the accent of his voice or the flavor of her wisdom.  You might pass up something valuable.)  It also spurred a set of responses.

One is how contrary to much preaching, but how common-sensical, it is:  ya gotta work at anything worthwhile.  Salvation in Christian terms is a gift, unearned, but this post tells a deeper truth.  Salvation isn’t enough; it’s just the start. In eco-spiritual terms, Christians may get saved, but Druids get recycled.

The second probably arises out of the time of year.  A good number of us are halfway into hibernation mode right now.  Yes, we often want the easy path, because we’re lazy.  Why expend energy pointlessly?  Laziness makes good animal sense, up to a point.  Devote your hours and muscles to acquiring food, finding a mate and — later — protecting your offspring.  Anything else is likely not worth the effort.  If you’re human, add in a few comforts you may have come to expect, if they don’t cost you or the planet too much trouble.  Beyond that, it’s almost always diminishing returns for your efforts.  OK, that’s one view.

Another is the universality of suffering, as Buddhists like to remind us. It’s not like Christians have any corner on resisting intolerance and injustice.  To point out just one example, can anyone say Arab Spring?  Any person can reach the tipping point of disgust with tyranny or suffering or despair and rise up to fight it.  It need not be a specifically religious struggle at all — though it can be a profoundly spiritual act.

A fourth response (in case you’re counting):  plenty of Pagans and Druids are also easy in their practices, just like the “cheap-grace” Christians in the spam above.  And we can opt to let them enjoy a space and time where they may practice undisturbed.  But others, depending on what part of the world they live in, may face considerable daily risk.   Does that make them “better” Druids and Pagans — or Christians? Not necessarily.  Maybe more careful, or stronger, or more committed.   But these are character traits, present in some practitioners of all spiritualities and religions — and none.

A fifth response:  the natural world calls Druids and Pagans to live consciously in it.  We all die and are born, along with everything else.  We’re compost after just a handful of decades.  When the path of Druidry calls, it says wake up to the world we’re in right now.  Whether or not it’s the only one, it’s this one, and our lives here, as long as we’re still breathing, are our answers every day. Figuring out what the questions are — well, that’s a task for a lifetime.

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updated 22:15 EST 11 Feb 2013

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