Faith versus action

I came across an article the other day on the web about how evangelical churches behave a particular way. Or rather, why their attendees behave that way. I’ve been taught evangelical Christianity practically all my life, so you would think I know it inside out. But years of living in it does not deconstruct easily or quickly and it is easy to overlook details that can be important.

One of the facts that modern evangelical Christianity teaches is that believers are saved by faith and not by works. In the surface this is part of the teaching that you don’t earn your salvation, it is yours for the asking. Sometimes it is contrasted with other spiritual paths where salvation or the equivalent is earnt by one’s actions.

There is a lot of teaching by churches of many stripes down through the centuries that rest on history. The quirk of this is that the history behind certain pieces of doctrine are easily lost and rarely taught. Without realizing it, there is a piece of context lost and it is often difficult to even tell it is missing. For converts to Christianity who have been raised in another faith, the inversion of the relationship of grace and works would be novel. It would also not need explaining – it is a concept that would be understood properly. It has the correct context.

I’m guessing of course. Like I said, I was raised a Christian. And one side-effect of being raised in this doctrine is that creates a disconnect between earthly behaviour and heavenly rewards. And one thing I am learning in my journey into Paganism is that maybe that’s not a good thing.

The article I mentioned at the start talks about how badly evangelical Christians can behave towards those who have left their church and their religion. Because they can. The disconnect between having a faith and being accountable for your actions in the name of that faith mean that bad-mouthing such people is not seen as a bad thing.

Yet it should be.

Once upon a time I thought like that. For a long time, in fact. I would like to think I never behaved as badly as the church-goers in that article, though, who criticised the author’s lack of faith to his own daughter behind his back. But I can see this is a valid course of action defined by the twin aspects of “saved by grace, not works” and “make disciples of all the nations”. It shouldn’t be a valid outcome, but it is.

Now, though? I can’t say “saved by works” because that’s not how Wicca is structured. In fact, the two alternatives don’t even make sense in Wicca, partly because the natural response to either choice is “saved from what?”

Saved from what, indeed. We need to be saved from such thinking. And then we need to do some saving of our own. Like the planet. It’s our only home, after all, and we’re killing it.

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