Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Christians Should Not be Narcissists

A journalist, writing the lead article in the Catholic Magazine this month, recalls a priest saying that the majority of our Korean Christians, 60 to 70 percent, are asking for earthly blessings.  For Protestants the percentage is 80 percent, for Buddhists and Confucianists the percentage would be higher.

What is more shocking  is that the Church is contributing to this situation, believing it necessary for the Church to  grow. The leaders in the Church preach that if you come to the Church you will have health and prosperity, in effect promising Christians what society has prepared them to desire.  And there is no denying its effect: It would be difficult to find another country so successful in this area.

However, we have to get rid of this asking-for-blessing approach to religion. Forgotten are the words of Jesus to love our neighbor and to fulfill our mission and duty to society. Although this is known, it is difficult to free oneself from it. The journalist has been baptized for 13 years but still can't rid himself from this attitude.       

After baptism, he remembers saying his morning  prayers that had the line,  "Lord I return to you my body and heart which I have received from you and offer them back to you  with praise and service to others; may you look upon them worthily."  This was difficult for the writer to say. He had no difficulty with others doing this, but it was not his desire. This, he acknowledged,was selfish.

In this same morning prayer, the line he liked the most was the last, "Today may my thoughts, words and actions be guided by your  peace." It's true that God's love is a 
descending love more so than that of parents for their children. God does not only love me but all of creation. When we are not conscious of God and don't believe, we have chaos, division, and wars.  Selfish love is the  kind of love nurtured by materialism and secularism, which leads to unhappiness. To only ask for blessings is not to see God correctly, and breeds selfish love, which paradoxically leads us further away from what we really want.

Knowing something is not the same, of course, as doing something. When we have a distorted idea of what it means to be a Christian this will affect not only Christians but society. If Christians have a selfish seeking-for-blessing understanding of Christianity, they will only be interested in themselves or their Church and the Church's influence. Jesus gave birth to the Church to be as he was  for others-- to give and not to receive. We are not only interested in numbers entering the Church but for those that do-- to be doers of the word and  help change the world, and oneself in the process. It this is not our attitude the mission we have as Christians will be jeopardized. We will be a community of narcissists. Numbers and the Church's influence are not our primary interest but to create a  Church that will give life to the world.  The writer ends by asking how much confidence does our society have in the Church and Christians.

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