Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any issues of ego, control, power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be like everyone else. We often give only a bogus version of the gospel, a fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of Christian countries that tend to be so consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else and often even more so, I’m afraid. (Richard Rohr, posted in “Mindful Christianity” on Facebook.)
I do think that most Christians are “well-intentioned,” even those who I fiercely disagree with. But speaking from what I have seen and from my own personal experience, the influence of human needs for, “ego (gratification), control, power, money, pleasure, and security” play a greater role in faith than it is comfortable to acknowledge. Each of these needs can be subsumed under the rubric “ego” which is the Pauline “flesh” in modern terms. As a result of this we turn out faith into an ego enterprise and even though our announced purpose with our faith is often very noble, the ego is at work getting its “pound of flesh” so that the effectiveness of our noble impulses is diminished…or even obliterated. I quoted W. Ian Thomas recently who noted that often our spirituality can be merely a stage upon which the ego can strut itself, merely “a platform on which to display our carnal abilities.”
This is not to suggest that anyone’s motives are pure. Many “noble pursuits” which I am here putting into question accomplish a lot of good. If one waits until he is “pure” then he will have to wait until he has returned to Eternity! But a willingness to look at our motives from time to time can help us identify the ego’s machinations and chip away at its tyranny. However, this insight is painful as often we see just our foolish and self-promoting we have been and often that this has been our primary purpose. The result can be disillusionment, and disillusionment can be gut-wrenchingly painful and often will lead us to distraction at the first sign of being threatened with it.
Rohr noted also that when we succumb to this ego-tyranny, “we become just like everyone else” as culture, i.e. “the world,” is built upon ego and this is necessary in a sense. But when we have “become just like everyone else” we are driven by the same whims and fancies of self-gratification those pose the grievous situation we see in the world on this Christmas day. But a caveat is in order. Being something other than “just like everyone else” is a perilous notion as many in my spiritual tradition, reading Paul’s admonishment to, “Come out from them and be ye separate” do so with foolishness, and sometimes pure insanity, and thus accomplishing “difference.” But Rohr’s teachings, and those of the Apostle Paul, had to do with where our heart is rooted and the spiritual call in most all religions is to be rooted the Ineffable, not the ephemeral that keeps the world going. Often a specious spirituality will drive one to the extremes which present with us the Alabama spiritual lunacy.