I popped in to say being gay is cool on an Orthodox blog, and was treated to two long and considered comments from the host, AR. Her comments cover nearly four pages of A4. So what is it you get, for being Christian? Heaven, obviously, which is Wonderful. You have to die first, but you could take the Heaven and the dying as figurative, too.
You get discipline. Deferring gratification has been worthwhile since farming started, and that takes discipline. Avoiding instant gratification is a good way of practising, though the temptation is to enjoy it: you get a rosy glow when you do your ascetic thing, and that rosy glow gives, well, instant gratification.
You get The Unity of the Faith. Through Obedience to a standard outside myself, I find myself in a community which agrees with me, in which Jesus Christ is the lover of my soul and in which God has set the parameters of that community. The obedience continues in an unbroken line from Christ and the Apostles, and before that through the faithful Hebrew community, so we are still the One body that wrote the Scriptures.
Because we are one with them, agreeing with them, we have the assurance of being Right: they, and we, agree, and how can two billion Christians be wrong?
Against this, there is the abnormal life people lead today, detached from the experience of nature, and assailed by sexualised images of both sexes, and surrounded by stories- all those television dramas- which invite us to submerge in the subjective feelings of an individual.
So. Through obedience and discipline I would join a Community bathed in the love of God, bringing joy on Earth and hereafter, and escape from illusory joys and hellish jabberings.
What do I have instead?
The search for a truth which I cannot know. We know in part, and we prophesy in part. The faith that I, like all God made, am “very good”. The search for an individual relationship with God. You know that every single hair on my head is numbered, God knit me together- me personally- in my mother’s womb: why would my individual hairs have value, but not my individual thoughts?
I have a post-modern Christianity of feelings rather than doctrines, but it uses my full rational mind as well. In the Bible I see a growth of understanding of God, from the God that demands Abraham’s first born son to the God that gives God’s own. We have not fully entered the spirit of that new paradigm.
AR knows her Church is right because of all those who have submitted to it, and I know that all those who disagree with me are as right as I am. That frees me to connect with the wisdom of all of humanity, writhing in its birth pains, in a state of becoming, growing towards wisdom. I have my faith, and always the possibility is that I am wrong, and the horror of that possible wrongness grows.
I have faith enough.