This post discusses why people might be motivated to share Christianity with others, and was prompted by a comment on one of the Mozilla Yammer instances which is part of an ongoing discussion within Mozilla about this general subject.
[It is also me deciding to try out Mike Hoye’s proposed new Planet Mozilla content policy, which suggests that people posting content to Planet regarding “contentious or personal topics outside of Mozilla’s mission” may do so if they begin with a sentence advising people of that fact. Hence the above. I don’t intend to be contentious, but you could call this personal, and it’s outside Mozilla’s mission. I assume the intent is that the uninterested or potentially offended can just press “Next” in their feed reader. You can join the discussion on the proposed new policy in mozilla.governance.]
I won’t quote the comment directly because it was on a non-public Yammer instance, but the original commenter’s argument went something like: “If you knew something awesome and life-changing, wouldn’t you want to share it with others?”. A follow-up comment from another participant was in general agreement, and compared religion to a life hack – which I understand to mean something that someone has done which has improved their life and so they want to share so that other people’s lives can be improved too. (The original website posting such things was a Gawker site called Lifehacker, but there have been many imitations since.)
I want to engage with that idea, although I’ll talk about “Christianity” rather than “religion” because I don’t believe anyone’s life can be significantly improved by believing falsehoods, and the law of non-contradiction means that if Christianity is true (as I believe it is), all other religions are false.
There is a kernel of truth in the idea that Christianity is a life hack, but there’s a lot misleading about it too. Following Jesus does secure your eternal salvation, which is clearly a long-term improvement, and the confidence that comes from knowing what will happen to you, and having an ongoing relationship with your creator, is something that all Christians find encouraging every day. Who wouldn’t want others to have that? But in the short term, there are many people for whom becoming a Christian makes their life significantly more difficult. Publicly turning to Jesus in Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia, or Eritrea, or Myanmar, will definitely lead to persecution and can even lead to death. Jesus said it would be so:
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. — Jesus (Matthew 24:9)
In addition, the Bible teaches that Christians may encounter troubles in order to help them grow in faith and rely on God more. So the idea that becoming a Christian will definitely make your life better is not borne out by what Jesus said about it.
The other part of the life hack idea that is misleading is the “take it or leave it” aspect. One of the things about a life hack is that if it works for you in your circumstances, great. If not, no big deal. In today’s relativistic world many ideas, including Christianity, are presented this way because it’s far less offensive to people. “Take it or leave it” makes no demands; it does not require change; it does not present itself as the exclusive truth. And, in fact, that was the point of the person making the comparison – paraphrasing, “what’s wrong with offering people life hacks? You don’t have to accept. How can making an offer be offensive?”
But that’s not how Jesus presented his message to people.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jesus — John 14:6)
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18, just 2 verses after the Really Famous Verse.)
This is not a “take it or leave it” position. Jesus was pretty clear about the consequences of rejecting him. And so that’s the other misleading thing about the idea that Christianity is a life hack – the suggestion that if you think it doesn’t work for you, you can just move on. No biggie, and no need to be offended.
Christianity offends and upsets people. (Unsurprisingly, and you may be detecting a pattern here, Jesus said that would happen too.) It does so in different ways in different ages through history; in our current age, one which particularly gets people’s backs up is the idea that it’s an exclusive truth claim rather than an optional “life hack”. Which is why the idea that it is a life hack is actually rather dangerous.
It may seem odd that I am arguing against someone who was arguing for the social acceptability of talking about Jesus in public places. And I don’t doubt their good intentions. But the opportunity to talk about him should not be bought at the cost of denying the difficulty of his path or the exclusivity and urgency of his message.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! :-)