There are a lot of contradictions to be had if one truly delves into the world that is religion, specifically so when relating to Christianity. My aim through this entry isn’t to tackle all that may exist out there, but rather, one particular thought that I came across on my regular paths of idling time away on the internetz.
The context of how I came to be pondering one distinct paradox occurred as I was reading about the life of Fred Rogers, better know to many as Mister Rodgers of the show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Quick anecdote, I think it’s pretty sad how many kids who’re in high school today may not have a recollection of this show, as they were probably born between the years of 1995-1999, with the end of the show in 2001 and Mr. Rogers’ passing in 2003.) For nearly a third of a century, Mr. Rogers entertained and spoke to children and helped to educate them about the many things in life, keeping everything on a level they could comprehend without necessarily acting or speaking condescendingly towards them. As “America’s best neighbor,” he was the kindest and gentlest soul you could meet, all of which could possibly be traced to his Presbyterian background. But even with the medium of television and the numerous hours of air time he had that was broadcasted throughout nation, he never pushed a religious agenda to try and preach and convert people from his soapbox. Someone made mention of a quote they once heard in church: “Don’t tell people you’re a Christian, but don’t let them be surprised when they find out.” Such a quote can be analogously traced to what St. Francis of Assissi once said, that one should “preach the gospel always and when necessary use words.” In our modern day and age that screams for tolerance and shuns the extremely conservative right that seeks to push their own agenda into the face of the unwilling, such a saying and such actions and in line with what atheists and other non-believers can agree with; that anyone is free to follow whatever religion they desire, so long as you can be accepting of other’s beliefs. It sort goes in the sense of, you do what you do, and I’ll do what I do, and everyone’ll be happy that way.
I’d venture to say that’s quite a Utopian thought, and of course, with the idealistic nature that evokes, it almost begging to fall down and crumble at the slightest tremor. While the paragraph and quotes from the above center around the idea of having your religion (i.e. Christianity) be the moral compass that guides you in life, there exists another view that says Christianity and salvation should be the ultimate goal in one’s life. Allow me to clarify that statement by positing that, Christianity, as a faith, holds one of its core tenets to believe that there exists life after death, and it is our actions (read: beliefs) here on earth in this life that determine which fork in the road we’ll be taking in the next life. Either we’ll get to go to heaven because we believe in God, or we’ll go to hell (of which the only concrete definition of hell is separation from God. There may be fires and punishments and tortures, but that’s not necessarily explicitly written, if memory serves me correctly). And as a Christian who values the life and well-being of others, in this life and the next, the most compassionate thing they can do for their fellow humans is to ensure that they are saved and will be able to go to heaven with them. So some Christians work towards their salvation for others under the guise that they will do everything in their power to convert you to save you from the damnation that is hell.
So there you have a proactive action-driven faith. Contrast that against the passive faith-driven action. Which is correct? Are both? Possibly neither? What do?
p.s. Here’s a tangent add-on that has nothing to do with the contradictory topic of being a good person who has religion vs. a religious person trying to do good (salvation). Mr. Rogers once got into a limo and started chatting with the driver who was driving him to the house of the CEO of Public Broadcasting. Mr. Rogers insisted on sitting up front with the driver for the ride, and during the drive, inquired about the driver’s family. When they got to the house, he found out that the drive was just supposed to sit and wait until dinner was over so he could drive Mr. Rogers home. He wouldn’t hear of that so he insisted the driver come up and join him and the executive. The CEO was kinda awkward about it, but apparently you just don’t question Mr. Rogers. (source)