often express confusion
in their religion
-oriented writeups over the sometimes hostile
divisions within Christianity
over what seem to them to be meaningless issues. It's nearly impossible to fully convey to nonbelievers why they exist, but it boils down to two facts of which they may not be aware:
- We believe our theological propositions are objectively true, not just a matter of personal opinion.
- Some of these are vastly important to our well-being.
A parable involving pigs:
Once upon a time, at the edge of a large forest, there lived three little pigs: Orthodox Pig, Heretical Pig, and Agnostic Pig. One day Agnostic Pig was out for a walk when he came upon Orthodox and Heretical Pig arguing furiously.
"What's up, guys?" he said cheerfully.
"Thank goodness you're here," Orthodox Pig said. "Yesterday a messenger arrived to tell me that the Big Bad Wolf is loose in the woods, and is heading this way to eat us all. He gave me a blueprint to build a house of bricks that will protect us till help arrives. I got it built as quickly as I could and then sent some friends out to warn everyone and see that they got to safety." He peered at him curiously. "Did you not get the message?"
Come to think of it, someone had come knocking on Agnostic Pig's door yesterday, babbling something similar to what Orthodox Pig was saying. He'd had a little fun with her, explaining that he was actually part of a wolf-worshipping cult and was looking forward to the carnage. The look on her face had been priceless.
"Ha!" Heretical Pig said. "Your vaunted house of bricks is a prison, a way for you to control others! I had a prophetic dream last night in which I learned that the only road to safety is to realize that the 'wolf' is but an illusion, and that we are all free pigs of pure Spirit, immune to physical harm. I have therefore built this house of sticks for shelter, using no blueprint but my own inspiration." He gestured toward a rickety-looking hut made of wood.
"In fact," he continued, "I've persuaded some of the people in Orthodox Pig's house to come stay in mine instead."
"WHAT?" said Orthodox Pig. "In that thing? They'll be slaughtered like...like pigs! That's it. I forbid you to even speak to anyone else until you've given up this ridiculous plan."
"They deserve to know the truth!" Heretical Pig replied hotly.
"Truth? I have half a mind to knock down your house myself, just to prove how stupid it is."
"Aha! Now we see the violence inherent in the system!"
Agnostic Pig shook his head as the two continued to argue. What a dumb thing to get mad over, he thought. Though it was certainly possible that a wolf existed, Orthodox Pig had so far offered no real proof of this. Well, except for the word of this "messenger" whom Agnostic had never laid eyes on. It seemed just as likely that Orthodox had gotten the message all wrong. Maybe there had never even been a messenger at all.
Honestly, both Orthodox's and Heretical's stories seemed equally far-fetched, but their fanaticism kept them from seeing that. If only they could abandon their foolish house-building and simply agree that getting eaten by wolves (assuming they exist) is an unappealing prospect.
He turned away and headed for his house of straw. He'd believe in wolves when he was face to face with one, and not a minute before.
So how does the story end? Well, it depends.
If there is no wolf, then everyone will be okay. Brick, wood straw--who cares? What's important is that you like your house.
But if there is a wolf, then the relative merits of brick and wood as protection against it assume supreme importance. Both sides, desperate to save the community, may be strongly tempted to use force to prevent people from sheltering in one or the other. It's possible that Heretical's house will stand, but various glaring architectural flaws have convinced most people that brick is a safer bet.
And unlike the members of some other world religions, who believe in reincarnation, Christians believe that you only get one shot against the wolf.
You must choose...wisely.