Posts tagged ‘chrisitianity’
“God has a plan for your life!”
Many people have heard this bold declaration from fundamentalist Christian apologists. It is meant, and heard as, an invitation to join the great story of redemption that God is authoring, to be a part of the inevitable sweep of human history and indeed of all Creation. It is an invitation experienced by believers as deeply personal and yet, simultaneously, epic. And judging from the numbers and influence of evangelical Christianity, this claim has a powerful appeal. But I want to look more closely at this appeal, and to try to understand it better from a psychological perspective. As rhetoric, how does this work?
Most people living in Western culture have some familiarity Christian stories. I say “stories” because there are more than one – the individual events and legends in the life of Jesus, the parables he told, and the overarching narrative of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus himself. More importantly, the Christian story seamlessly weaves a believers own, individual story – his or her life – into this grand Christian drama. Stories, in Christianity (as in all religions), are a big deal.
The is a growing convergence of thought that storytelling may be relatively central to the functioning of the human mind itself. We are, after all, enveloped by stories from birth to death. Stories exist in every culture that has ever been recorded. Young children naturally tell stories, and crave to hear them. Moreover, so far as we know, no other animal tells stories. We tell stories about sports teams and figures, about celebrities and politicians, and about each other around the proverbial water cooler every day. We gossip. Television, books, movies, and many internet blogs provide a constant stream of stories into our homes every day…
Welcome to the End of the World! Er, well, um… maybe not quite yet.
For 2000 years Christians have been expecting the end of history. If you’re reading this and you haven’t been whisked away (and you have had no strange new microchips implanted), then odds are it hasn’t happened yet. In Robert Price’s new book, The Paperback Apocalypse, he gives us a look inside the sausage factory of that belief system – its origins, its theology and, even more, the implied psychology. What we see is as fascinating as it is appalling.
Price is something of a folk hero to former Christians. His Beyond Born Again has been a springboard for many who are struggling to extricate themselves form the Christian faith – serving, as it does, to encapsulate and put to words many of their thoughts, and point them toward a brighter, better way. He manages to avoid the shrillness of many currently popular writers that are also critical of religion, because he understands, I think, what fundamentalist beliefs mean to and do for people. And he graciously made the whole book available for free online.
Christian apocalypticism has become immensely important to modern evangelical Protestants, and in particular came to widespread prominence with Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth which was the number one “nonfiction” bestseller for the 1970’s (and the fact that it predicted the End in 1988, and yet still sells, is emblematic of the whole phenomenon). In its highly popular modern incarnation, the Left Behind series of books novelize the unfolding of this myth…