If you’re trying to resolve the problem of suffering and wrap it up in a neat little package, you’ll only be disappointed by Christianity.
Christianity doesn’t answer that question. It dwells in the suffering. It acknowledges it, laments it, and looks for ways to reduce it, but it doesn’t tell you why.
A friend recently said that what strikes him most about Christianity is the image of the Suffering Christ. When tragedy strikes, Christ suffers. He dies again and again. Immeasurably deep empathy for the human condition.
Christianity doesn’t answer the why; it asks us to turn from our inward need to understand and look out to help alleviate suffering in the world. I can sit here and shout “Why?!” or I can go out and do something to end it, even while I knowing it will not end.
Christianity asks me to sit with the questions, but not alone. I am increasingly convinced that Christianity is a communal religion; it must be done with others; we acknowledge what we do not know, together.
Nothing can be wrapped up in a neat little package.
I’ve been burdened by the sentiment above for the past several months. On my old blog, I started a goal called The Secondhand Year whose guidelines demanded I buy as many material goods as possible on the secondhand market instead of buying into an unethical, international fast fashion market. I struggled with it. I excused myself by it. I succeeded and failed in equal measure. But I can’t give it up.
I not only believe but know that it is immoral to participate in our consumerist culture in full knowledge that I contribute to darkness and suffering. When I purchase a garment from Kohl’s or Sears or Forever 21, I implicitly shout that I am ok with treating people who work at their garment factories like crap, that I am ok with the fact that they don’t make enough to give their children better futures, that they consider suicide a viable option, that they could very easily die for the cause of producing cheap garments at less than a liveable wage for gluttonous Americans. We must look like devils to them, absorbed in our coveting and spending and hoarding. We freaking shoot people on Black Friday to buy the products they slaved over at low, low prices without a second thought about their well being.
I’m being dishonest if I toss and turn over this reality and promote its demise but continue to buy into it. Shopping is the thorn in my flesh. I may fight against its flirting gaze for the rest of my life. But I have to keep fighting.