A friend of mine on another forum posted this recently in a discussion about Christianity. I thought that she did such a great job and was excited and moved by the post, so I got her permission to re-post it here.....
I know how boring Christian writings can be. They're soaked in philosophy and thinking-thinking-thing, or they seem like they're all about bossing us around. Many of them are dusty and stagnant and over-translated. If you read about Christianity from the outside, it can be the intellectual equivalent of choking down dry toast on a sore throat. I get that.
But from the inside, it's nothing like that. I want to try to describe what it *feels* like. No judgments or insinuations that it ought to be like this for you; just my personal experience of the sensation of having faith, with some generalization of other Christians based on who I've talked to. For those of you who're uncomfortable about this sort of thing, take this as due warning.
Faith is a passion that feels a great deal like love. It can be warming like a balm to the soul, or burning, a fire that sears you and everything around you. Like love, it's separate from happiness and misery and even hate, and it can be the source of all of those. You can hate and love at the same time. You can believe and love and hate and want to move forward and run away all at the same time. It all depends on how you relate to your passion--your faith, your love--and the target of it. And how you relate to it can change depending on the day and what's happened recently.
Like love, faith can be nurturing or abusive. I've met Christians who frankly wished (at least at times) that they could shuck their faith and be rid of the burdens it motivated them to take up. In fact, I dare to say that every...I'll say serious Christian has or will at some time share that feeling. Because some days, it *sucks* to care, it *sucks* to be made fun of, to care about people and watch them hurt, to put yourself out and break your back or your heart to help people. Sometimes, in fact, you wash your hands of it for a little while because you just can't find the strength to keep going. But always, you pick yourself back up and do it again, put yourself through that again, because you know it's right and you love them and you want to and can help. Faith is also like honor that way, prodding you toward your duty, no matter how much that duty hurts. It can, quite literally, drive you to quests. As all the world knows.
And what's special about Christianity with all this is how far it asks you to go, and exactly what it wants of you. Most religions agree that there is great suffering in the world--it's fairly obvious. Some ask you to ease that suffering. But Christianity throws it baldly in your face: as a human, you have the capacity to love and to suffer. To love is to suffer, to hurt when the things you love hurt. Christianity takes it a step further: it asks you to take their pain away from them when you can, and to bear it upon yourself. God asks you to hurt, because everyone suffers, but through the divine alchemy of generosity, that suffering taken on willingly can become something better than just the ugly, dirty pain of life.
It's hard for Christians to show people that it's not just a dry faith of words. There's *magic* at the heart of Christianity. It's the most ancient, primal magic--blood sacrifice, self-sacrifice--and also it's no coincidence that the Christian tradition harbored the Western tradition of alchemy. It's transformative...and all sorts of transformation involve death in some respect--the death of the past, the loss of what was before the change. Christianity seeks to conquer the fear of change/death by ensuring that what you become will be better than what you were. Life after death is an extension of this--perhaps a metaphor for it, or maybe those small changes are metaphors for the big one.