Religion’s Required Commitments

The fake ad for Mammon posted previously lists “a huge amount of commitment” required to take advantage of most “spiritual providers”.  Single deity clauses, compulsory goodness, and so on…  When you look at Scripture, there certainly are a long list of things you’re supposed to do and things you aren’t supposed to do.  There is a huge amount of commitment.

I think, though, that we tend to look at this in the wrong way.  We grow up learning rules, and, if Lawrence Kohlberg is correct, a psychologist who devised a scheme for development of morals, we start by figuring out what generates punishment and what gets us rewards.  There’s no reasonable scheme to the rules when we’re young; we just know them.  Why is it bad to touch the power outlet?  I don’t know; I just know that whenever I reach for it, Mommy slaps my hand.  The rules are arbitrary in our minds.

Over time, we grow from looking at rules as arbitrary to looking at rules as what makes up “good boys and girls”.  So we know that we’re not supposed to pull the girls’ hair because that’s not what good boys do, and it’s better to be a good boy (even though we’re DYING inside to yank on that ponytail!).

There are more stages beyond this, but I think in our understanding of some of God’s commands, we sort of get stuck here, and sometimes we even end up jaded.  I’m so sick of being good; what has it gotten me?  I don’t ever get to do what I want, and I don’t get anything back from it!  We  still are stuck looking at the commands as arbitrary, just in a more complex arbitrariness.  These things are good; those are bad.  But what’s the point?

What if the rules aren’t arbitrary, though?  What if the rules are for the same reason that Mommy slapped my hand away?  My hand wasn’t designed for the electrical socket, and using my hand (or the outlet) the way it wasn’t designed tends to cause problems.  The human person is designed in a particular way.  We were designed to be in loving relationship with God and with one another, and the rules, one way or another, are all designed to help us align ourselves with that design.

Of course, we’re already knocked out of whack, thanks to sin, and what we’re inclined to do is to go against our design.  But that’s why the rules are there, to keep us in line so that we don’t damage ourselves, or at least do so more than what sin has already done.

Of course, if the rules, given by God, are to help us match with the way we’re made, then that sort of implies that God’s on our side.  He’s trying to help us rather than just be the cosmic killjoy that we’re sometimes convinced He is.  He made us, with a particular pattern, and He knows what’s good for that pattern.  Our required commitments aren’t for immediately God’s sake (though ultimately, all things are), but for our own.  He loves us enough to try to work us back to that right state.

So if your religion has required commitments, that’s probably a darn good thing (even if the sin in us is screaming otherwise).


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