Friday, September 28, 2007

The Augustinian Christian's Dilemma in America

This Christian laments that because Christians are ignorant they are easy targets for an ignorant atheist like Christopher Hitchens. She wishes Dostoyevsky were on the shelves of Christian bookstores. "Dostoyevsky exposed the evils of pride and self-devised 'justice.'"

Atheist characters such as Ivan Karamazov and Stavrogin are chilling portraits of nihilism. Only a Christian, with that religion's twisted and repulsive view of pride as sin, could think these self-destructive, dishonest characters have anything to do with the virtue of pride.

As an atheist I have read Dostoyevsky with great interest. He is a novelist of the first rank, who draws the reader into a world of moral drama and keeps him turning the pages with an exciting plot. It is true that Dostoyevsky was a Christian and his villains are atheists, but I don't see how anyone would be inspired to become a Christian from the example of his tormented Christian characters. Perhaps his novels are not in Christian bookstores because he serves Christianity straight and Americans want all that vale of tears stuff watered down with happy talk and "Jesus loves you." It's hard to sell Christianity to Americans by saying, "Accept Jesus as your savior and be miserable for the rest of your life."

Consistent Augustinian Christians are in a bind. They look down their nose at American Christianity, which is indeed shallow, sugary and idiotic. But this is the only Christianity that Americans, with their heritage of capitalism and individualism and their belief in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will accept. Worldly, happy Americans pick what they want to believe out of the Bible, a vast book full of contradictions. They choose to hear "Go forth and prosper" rather than all that stuff about rich men not getting into Heaven.

Pursuit of happiness is the opposite of how Jesus lived and how famous Christians such as St. Francis of Assisi lived. Consistent Augustinian Christians renounce this world and live in a cave. They wear hair shirts and drink dirty laundry water. They live lives of sacrifice and misery because this world is the realm of Satan, a fleeting illusion, and they will be rewarded for their sacrifice with happiness in the next world. By Augustinian standards the American dream is a Satanic dream. It's a damn hard sell to materialistic Americans.

I would advise Augustinians to look to the left for converts, especially to environmentalists. There they will find Americans who already hate prosperity and capitalism. In many ways they will find comrades in spirit. All the Augustinians have to do is persuade the leftists to destroy the remnants of reason they have and accept the Christian mythology of the big guy in the sky who sent his son to Earth to suffer for our sins.

With normal, happy Americans, the Augustinians must tread with care. Overplaying their hand will scare Americans away from Christianity entirely. It is a burden, but the Augustinian Christians can comfort themselves that this is the cross they must bear. In their suffering they shall know their savior.


Inspector said...


But on a serious note, your observation about Christianity does remind me of how Mother Theresa, in life, spoke of how rewarding her mission was, but confessed on her deathbed how empty and miserable it really made her.

That is the true meaning of Christianity, and it must be quite a dilemma for them, since many of them hold they must be honest as well.

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I don't which essay I enjoyed more: cats vs dogs or Christians vs atheists. I think cats are atheists and dogs, if not quite Christian, are at least Deists - maybe Hindus. Okay, that was dumb. I better have breakfast before commenting.