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Is Christianity for the Weak Minded?


     It takes no effort to give up and give in. To cease fighting, to succumb. Your mind asks itself: why can’t you just lose? You might respond with desire: if I want it enough, I will seek it. What happens when you do not want the good or the difficult? What happens if you do not want it enough? Some may accept this doctrine—the ease of surrender, stagnancy on the path to almost anything good. Virtue requires effort. Vice is easy. But what consequences come with this way? Accepting something as true does not mean one perpetuates it. German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche propounded the idea that Christianity actually assisted in intellectual laziness and complacency, and as a belief system, was tailored to people who had a mentality of sheep. While he's right, he's also missing half the puzzle pieces.
     Nietzsche himself said, “God is a too palpably clumsy answer; an answer which shows a lack of delicacy towards us thinkers—fundamentally, even a crude prohibition to us: you shall not think!” Nietzsche accused Christianity of turning people into sheep. In a metaphorical and literary sense, sheep are blind followers, weak-minded, and in need of guidance. This is more than the guidance that all people require—no one can figure everything out themselves or always know the right course of action. Rather, the kind of hyper-guidance that Nietzsche is referring to is suicidal. Sheep follow without discernment, without thought, and without question, ambling to the slaughterhouse in the same mood they shuffle to the feeding trough. Some context makes Nietzsche’s accusation of “continual suicide of reason” more poignant.
     Metaphysician and philosopher George Berkeley, in his discussion of ideas we have independent of sense experience, claimed they came from God. His complicated system reduced itself to “God did it.” William Paley, a Christian utilitarian, also frequently used God to bandage his answers, especially in relation to the "design" argument, which maintains that the world is so complex, a Being must have created it intentionally. On some level, this is appropriate. There must be an end to reasons, to “why” questions, and God is the First Cause. But an honest examination of our thought processes leads us to believe that you can say that to anything. Why does the world exist? We can skip thousands of years of history and learning and simply say: God did it. Why am I this kind of person? Remove examination and introspection: God did it. Why do I suffer? Blame Him: God did it. Compound this with the language Jesus uses in the Gospel of John.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14-16, New King James Version
     This passage’s true meaning is about Christ’s sacrifice and death for His people. But note the language—from God's perspective, perhaps the only one that matters, everyone is a sheep. And in Matthew, we see John the Baptist equated with the least in the kingdom of heaven, i.e., Christians are all equal. Our accomplishments and personalities of any kind, intellectual included, do not change God’s treatment of us or the ideas He presents us with. Russian thinker and novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Soul-zin-hen-it-seen) wrote One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich about one day in the Soviet gulags. One of the more prominent characters is Alyoshka, a simple yet Christian prisoner. He is consistently faithful and moral, while protagonist Shukov is shrewd, cunning, smart, and denies practical morals. And why not? Does not faith take things without proof, without asking "why," without using reason? The humility of a little child—"and of such is the kingdom of Heaven"—is a faithful, follower's humility. It walks where the parent leads, trusting the parent to make the right choices. Faith is the criterion for God's kingdom, not intellectual ability.
     So is Nietzsche vindicated? Is Christianity for the weak minded? The answer appears to be yes. But the converse query is equally valid: is Christianity for the strong minded? Consider Augustine. Consider Thomas Aquinas. Consider Blaise Pascal. Consider all the men like them. They were not weak, at least intellectually. Both the intelligent and the simple can be close to God. That’s not a curse, but a blessing. The gospel is for all humans, not any one breed of people. And like Nietzsche so preached, it frees us to be authentic. No one has to pretend to be something they’re not for the gospel. The wise do not have to pretend foolishness and vice versa. The gospel is for people, not certain types of people. Intellectual ability is wonderful and to be highly valued and respected, but pales in comparison to forgiveness for our sins and the universal agape love of Christ. But that's only half the question. Jesus still describes Christians as sheep. But sheep to whom?
     Sheep is in reference to shepherd. Sheep aren't sheep because they are stupid generally, but because they are ready to follow anyone with all their hearts. For human to human authority, that's a horrible plan. Many are unqualified to be leaders, and even the most qualified shepherds make mistakes and have flaws. Being a thinker implies examination, looking at the big picture as clear as possible. This frees us from tyranny and oppression. We examine and we find evil. We reject this evil and learn to act against it or go elsewhere.
     We can't always trust our earthly fathers and leaders. They're imperfect. But there is someone who is always perfect, someone who we can always trust, someone who will always take us in the right direction. The only one—God. People like Augustine and people like Alyoshka, will all stand before Him and say “Thy will be done.” This is something Nietzsche could never accept. Thinking does not always lead to rejection, because thinking looks toward the truth—is something good or evil? Someone who thinks well—knows and accepts the Truth—will follow Him as a sheep.
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