This tweet from Pope Francis had several people taking pot-shots a the pope.
I love the pope’s tweets. I love the fact that the pope tweets. And yes, I enjoy reading all of the responses, both positive and negative that pope’s tweets generate. Normally the negative responses are your boring, run-of-the-mill cheap potshots about peadophile priests or child abuse. But this tweet brought about a different response:
File these shots under #missingthepoint. Not that they aren’t predictable responses – the church’s wealth, grandeur, ceremony, and so on are all issues that many atheists take issue with (and something which would make good material for future posts). But as with many of the twitter argument points atheists push, they are arguing the wrong point.
Why Atheists Should Love This Tweet
I really think atheists should love this tweet. While a misread of it may sound hypocritical, at its core it exposes one of the great faults of modern day Christianity: for many, Christianity has become a social code, a mere rule of life which supposedly promises happiness and contentment. This is not Christianity and in my opinion anyone who exposes this for the falsity that it is, atheist or otherwise, is doing those Christians a favor.
You can see this modern day Christianity wrapped up in a neat little package in any of the Alex Kendrick Affirm Films releases (Fireproof, Couragous, Flywheel, etc). You may be more familiar with these films as the Kirk Cameron films. These films all follow the same arc. The protagonist is a lost individual (read ‘non-Christian’) whose life begins to fall apart. The protagonist starts to look for answers, either through the prompting of friends and family or through their own questioning. Finally the protagonist finds Christ, has their conversion moment, and suddenly their life turns around for the better. Everything is fine. While I am comfortable tipping my hat to Alex Kendrick & co for attempting to put out a movie that would help people, this is not the promise of Christianity.
Christianity is not just a social code or a even just a moral code that leads to a WASP’y life. And it certainly does not work like these movies: despite giving ones self to Christ, suffering in life will continue. Christianity should not be taken on because a person believes it will make their lives easy. In many of the conversations I follow on Twitter between atheists and Christians, I see this frustration come out on the side of the atheist which inevitably leads to tweets like this:
Many atheists see Christianity as portrayed in the mainstream and call it out for the shallow moral code that it is. It is for that reason that I believe that much of mainstream Christianity has the potential to do more harm than good for our society. It allows people to accept Christ without fully committing themselves to the life that this acceptance requires.
So What Did The Pope Actually Say?
Faith is not something decorative or for show…
Faith in Christ is not just something to wear for social acceptance to belong to a club. It isn’t something we take on for a false sense of security that, because we accepted Christ, we are now suddenly saved. Often times people claim themselves as Christian because it gives them a certain social acceptance among friends. This is not faith, this is decorative and for show.
To have faith means to put Christ truly at the centre of our lives.
Faith in Christ requires that we strive every day, every minute, to literally transform our lives, not just to wear our faith on the surface for social acceptance. Faith in Christ requires a genuine spirit, honest intentions, humility, perseverance, and dedication to a life that will not, by any means, be easy. Christ himself told us this in Matthew 16:24:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Following Christ is much more than just going to Church on Sundays, more than telling people you are a Christian. Following Christ is a full commitment to a relationship that requires allowing oneself to be entirely transformed. As Christians we should commit ourselves to this faith because we believe Him to be the fullness of truth, the primary life source, and out of a response to His invitation to a close and intimate relationship that can only be, at best, mirrored among humans. Faith is not about making life easy, but it is about making life full and delving into the depths and grandeur that is the source of Truth.
So Why Should Atheists Like This?
I’m sure many atheists would disagree with me that this is a tweet they should like. But it is my opinion that much of what many atheists find illogical about theism in general is the hypocritical nature and the surface treatment many Christians give their faith.
The pope’s tweet was not a comment on liturgy or style of prayer as many took it to be, it was an encouragement to make our faith more than just a social status. This encouragement is a struggle and a lifelong journey. It is a struggle that every Christian, myself included, works on in an imperfect way. But the pope’s tweet was an invitation to become more personal, more genuine, and more honest with what our faith is really calling us towards.
And regardless of whether you believe in God or not, a call to being more honest to what you claim is a call that we should all respect and follow.