Love of God?

Or love of religion?


In the Nordic Germanic dialects (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian), the word “Christendom” is used interchangeably with “Christianity”.

By its nature, Christendom, as most religions, is a “lifestyle package”. You’re supposed to live and act in a certain way, in order to “be” religious and have a chance to “enter God’s Kingdom”.

But hypocrites (“fakers”) can lead religious lives too. Seemingly, the line may be drawn at humility, sincerity and faith. The operative word being humility, as it requires inspection, rather than religious fascism and tyranny.

Some love God, some love religion. The latter as a way to try recreating humanity into one’s own image, and by focusing on how others should act, talk, dress, look. As Jesus noted himself (and experienced through the act of Judas) some love religion far more than they “love” God.

Fake Christians / “Bible Bangers”

1 Samuel 16:7 (in the Bible) reads:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Both Søren Kierkegaard (1813–†1855) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–†1882) took issue with faith as a fashion statement.

Assembly line / Mass production.

Senior Kierkegaard lecturer William McDonald writes:

Kierkegaard’s central problematic was how to become a Christian in Christendom. The task was most difficult for the well-educated, since prevailing educational and cultural institutions tended to produce stereotyped members of “the crowd” rather than to allow individuals to discover their own unique identities. This problem was compounded by the fact that Denmark had recently and very rapidly been transformed from a feudal society into a capitalist society. Universal elementary education, large-scale migration from rural areas into cities, and greatly increased social mobility meant that the social structure changed from a rigidly hierarchical one to a relatively “horizontal” one. In this context it became increasingly difficult to “become who you are” for two reasons: (i) social identities were unusually fluid; and (ii) there was a proliferation of normalizing institutions which produced pseudo-individuals.
Kierkegaard draws attention to Christianity’s “inverted dialectic”, which demands that we exercise “double vision”, to see in worldly things their spiritual opposites, such as hope in hopelessness, strength in weakness and prosperity in adversity. The inverse dialectic also requires that we “reduplicate” our thoughts in our actions, but in so doing that we “work against ourselves”. This was aimed at subverting our focus on worldly goals in order to refocus on other-worldly goals.
Kierkegaard styled himself above all as a religious poet. The religion to which he sought to relate his readers is Christianity. The type of Christianity that underlies his writings is a very serious strain of Lutheran pietism informed by the dour values of sin, guilt, suffering, and individual responsibility. Kierkegaard was immersed in these values in the family home through his father, whose own childhood was lived in the shadow of Herrnhut pietism in Jutland. Kierkegaard’s father subsequently became a member of the lay Congregation of Brothers (Brødremenighed) in Copenhagen, which he and his family attended in addition to the sermons by Bishop J. P. Mynster.
For Kierkegaard Christian faith is not a matter of regurgitating church dogma. It is a matter of individual subjective passion, which cannot be mediated by the clergy or by human artefacts. Faith is the most important task to be achieved by a human being, because only on the basis of faith does an individual have a chance to become a true self. This self is the life-work which God judges for eternity.
Kierkegaard also provided critical commentary on social change. He was an untiring champion of “the single individual” as opposed to “the crowd”. He feared that the opportunity of achieving genuine selfhood was diminished by the social production of stereotypes. He lived in an age when mass society was emerging from a highly stratified feudal order and was contemptuous of the mediocrity the new social order generated. One symptom of the change was that mass society substitutes detached reflection for engaged passionate commitment. Yet the latter is crucial for Christian faith and for authentic selfhood according to Kierkegaard.
William McDonald, PhD.
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