The burdens of grace

Originally published April 28, 2011

Recently David Brooks in the NY Times mused on the nature of religion.  His musing was related to the nominally anti-religious musical, The Book of Mormon.  One of the things he said is;
“Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiosity doesn’t actually last. The religions that grow,
         succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically
         rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and
         False.”

Other commentors have suggested that Brooks is seeking to promote fundamentalism.  I think I can see where they’re coming from, but I have to say that my experience suggests that Brooks is more right than his detractors are willing to admit.  Much of what passes for religious life in modern American Christianity is lacking in heft or substance and seems designed to confirm already treasured prejudices and to promote self-affirming impulses.

Jesus says “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  If you look at the picture, the big wooden thing around the Oxen’s neck, that’s a yoke and the rickety cart full of wood, that’s the burden.
An easy yoke and a light burden are still confining and still burdensome.  If we are to take our faith seriously, we have to acknowledge that a particularly important element of faith is submission, in our case submission to God who is most fully revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  If we claim to be Christians, but if nothing of our lives is altered, we are fooling ourselves.  Being yoked and burdened is about giving up doing what we want and walking where we desire, and instead submitting to the driver and his desires for our lives.

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