I’ve written before about how my entry into evangelicalism was a mixed bag of awkwardness and excitement. At the same time, it was also wrought with frequent panic attacks and anxiety. Because part of the whole Christian package is the concept of afterlife: heaven for those who believe in Jesus, and hell for those who don’t.
Many people are surprised to hear this, but fear wasn’t a prime motivator for my conversion. The person of Jesus was. The idea of a tangible god in human form appealed to me, as someone who grew up with a notion of God as some faraway being off in the clouds who could never be seen.
Also integral to conversion was Christianity’s view of humanity, which I already believed through personal experiences. In the Christian worldview, human beings are born sinners. I never used the word “sinners” or even “sin” much, growing up, but I already didn’t believe people were born intrinsically “good.” Since the human race first came into existence, values and customs shifted with time, but one thing has remained consistent: human nature. An instinctual selfish drive.
This is what I mean when I say I believe in original sin: that the default setting of human beings is selfishness. Are we not all driven by a need for survival? The only way for an individual to advance is to constantly look out for Number One. I believe people are capable of acting good (some more than others), but that doesn’t automatically make us good. Ask five random people on the street how they define “good,” and you’ll realize there is no universal explanation for this word that so many people use flippantly.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with the notion of hell.
I struggle with the idea of eternal punishment for the finite crime of refusing to believe something without sufficient evidence. For many people, a book that uses itself to prove the existence of something is not sufficient evidence.
I struggle with the idea that, if hell is real and imminent for the majority of the world’s population, God didn’t make it more obvious. I struggle with the idea that God chose to give human beings the burden task of trying to convince people to convert when people cannot be convinced; they have to choose to believe on their own.
I struggle with the idea that God, being omnipotent and all-powerful, cannot simply do away with eternal torment altogether. He can do whatever he wants…right?
But no matter how much I struggle, I can’t walk away from faith. I can’t view the world without my “God glasses” because it blows my mind that this planet, and the universe in its deep, unknowable vastness, came into being by some random, cosmic accident.
I can’t walk away because the moments in my life when I experienced supernatural convictions cannot be discredited, or accurately explained any other way.
Bottom line? I can’t walk away from faith because I don’t want to. Because I realize that, in all my confusion, there is a man named Jesus who preached beautiful, revolutionary things: loving your enemies. Taking the high road of forgiveness. He preached things that go against human nature as we understand it.
Those are the things I pay attention to, and choose to focus on when everything else gets murky. Those are the things I focus on when I wonder why I still call myself a Christian in the first place.