“Mommy, why do I have to go to church?” With choruses of foreign words, series of ritualistic movements, and the drone of pastoral voices, it is no wonder many a whiny child protests attending worship services. In response, some choose to reject faith altogether. Some grow out of their criticisms and simply accept it as their own tradition. But a small fraction of whiny children mature to write classic novels, found humanitarian movements, or become the forerunner for a century of theology. Leo Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, and C.S. Lewis all express discontent with Christianity and the Church, yet instead of absolute rejection or unreflective embrace, they wrestle with faith until they reconcile and identify Christianity as their own.
Because the nature of an enduring autobiography is to share one’s life in a comprehensible, insightful, creative way, these authors share an ability to examine their environment, their relationships, and their internal selves through reason. This self-reflection is both a blessing and a curse for faith, and all three authors worry that Christianity invalidates rationality. In his education, C.S. Lewis encounters many folks who reject Christianity’s principles as subjective experiences to be studied rather than authentic, personal, truthful beliefs. At school, “I was soon altering ‘I believe’ to ‘one does feel.’ And oh the relief of it! . . . I passed into the cool evening of Higher Thought, where there was nothing to be obeyed and nothing to be believed except what was either comforting or exciting” (Lewis 60). Tolstoy, too, is obsessed with obtaining higher thought and cannot help reflecting (as the educated “people who are honest with ...
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... Kissed Dating Good-bye”), the way doctrine is used to encourage even greater self-degradation in women, and the unwillingness many Christians have to give up their comforts for the sake of others. Yet, I would agree with Tolstoy, Day, and Lewis that Christianity is ultimately redemptive. It provides a true meaning for life, not just a crutch for the weak. It acknowledges that longing, desiring, and seeking life are God given pursuits. It surrounds an individual with purpose in community, a support and a joy in service. But most powerfully, it provides an opportunity to understand oneself in relation to God, a relationship meant to be more intimate than a church pew, a theology book, or a creed could ever provide. All this is merely “symbolical and provisional practice,” while the real awakening lies in believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Lewis 234, 237).
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