I was thinking about this the other day as I watched the biography of David Koresh, the leader of the Waco Brach Davidians who claimed to be a messiah etc. I could write an entire blog on him, but really I was just thinking about this one idea I got from it. That maybe cult leaders aren't as crazy as I always thought, because Christianity has some ridiculous claims.
If you actually do believe that Jesus will immenently return to earth or that the Anti-Christ could appear at any time and start seizing Christians, and that as Joel prophesied that the moon will turn to blood and the Day of the Lord will come upon us, it makes it hard to focus on alot of the more medial parts of life. I mean who wants to be doing laundry and miss the 2nd coming, really maybe those adventists and joho's who sat on mountains waiting for Jesus to return were just extremely sincere. I'm not advocating any of this - I'm an Amillenialist, so I won't be waiting on mountains anytime soon. But the reality is that if you really believe these ideas, you cannot be a normal person.
If you actually do believe that Jesus said 'go and sell all you have and give it to the poor among you' then you have to either live in a desert or the suburbs to find a loophole to the 'among you' part. But I mean it just doesn't make sense to me how Jesus preached take up your cross - equivalent to saying - take up your nooses, your handcuffs, and follow me. Sell everything. Basically become a communist. I'm sure alot of 'metaphorical' metaphors exist and that there are impressive exegetical gymnastics to get out of all those commands, but honestly, when people say 'you don't need to be so extreme' - where is that in the bible? Where is that in Church Tradition, or Christian history. Just read the life of St. Anthony of the Desert, he'll tell you what those verses mean. Ask the first generation of Christians that were labelled as masochists because they so desired martyrdom. I would be more open to someone telling me that Jesus was wrong or that his words are unapplicable to us, than someone telling me when he says 'take up your cross' he really means 'experience slight discomfort while praying in a restuarant' or any of the other 'modern equivalents'.
If you actually do believe that people will be sent to an eternity of eternal damnation for not hearing about Jesus, then maybe the people who ram the gospel down your throat are just acting in an honest way. If you believe that someone who is born in Mongolia and knows nothing about the Christian Triune God and will suffer the wages of sin for it, and you have the intellectual boldness to say that out of every single religion, out of every philosophy, mine is the only right one (or if you're 'humble' - my churches' philosophy). I've actually seen alot of this last one in my conversion to Catholicism, it's amazing how much people care about perceived 'heresy' (ironically defined as 'any teaching in conflict with the Magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church') more than about Christian living or about any of the above. I'm sorry for jabs at protestantism but I have to include the idea of one Eastern Orthodox who claimed all Protestants are crypto-papists (hidden papists) they believe that the Pope is not infallible but that they are. So congratulations Christendom we have acheived the appropriate level of Doctrinal honesty, we have hated enough and acted proud enough in our bold assertion of our own mutual claims of infalliblity... maybe we could start on the poverty issue now, and all the rest.
I guess I'm just trying to say, that in my mind, sometimes I think that you can't be a Christian and be normal. Sometimes I think (like Leo Tolstoy) that if Jesus Christ was on earth today, a very small group of people would like him. I don't think an honestly and integrally Christian worldview can ever be popular. I mean it is predicated on Jesus' statements that you will be persecuted. St. Paul says 'for all who wish to live a Godly live in Christ Jesus MUST be persecuted (Tim 3:12). You never see that verse on a bookmark at a Christian bookstore. I'm NOT saying that I live this out, please hear me again and again in saying that I do not live what I am complaining about out. I am no better than anyone I have criticized in practice. I just have come to believe that the only people I really think who are living out a biblically and historically Christian life are persecuted Christians of all kind in the 3rd world, missionaries, priests and all clergy who take vows of poverty, chastity, and celibacy, and others who can honestly say 'if I wasn't a Christian you wouldn't even be able to recognize me I would be so different' - I cannot say that, but I certainly am starting to think that being able to have the honesty to live a 'Real' Christian life, filled with worldly faillure, poverty (which is historically viewed as a Christian virtue), suffering, and the deepest devotion and Sacrifice for Christ, is alot more important than half the stuff we waste our lives caught up in. I'm not saying that those things are good in and of themselves, I mean there are many Muslims who do all that for their faith, I just mean motivated out of a love for God and grounded in that, all those things are to be our 'signs of success' in Christianity.
Thus I've come to believe that to truly be a Christian in the strictest sense, you have to be crazy.