Lunchbar: Christianity – just a crutch for the weak?

Lunchbar has started again at Nottingham University – every Friday at 1pm in the Students’ Union (Portland) Building. Yesterday’s topic was “Christianity – just a crutch for the weak?”

It is often alleged that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, are good insofar as they provide comfort and meaning to “weak” people, but that “normal” or “strong” people can get by just fine without any help from religion. It’s a similar claim to that made by Marx; that religion was the “opiate of the masses” used to stop them complaining about conditions in this life, because they would be rewarded in heaven. It can take a subtler and less aggressive tone: “That’s great if it helps you, but I don’t think I need it”, but it is perhaps a confused and arrogant attitude, as our speaker suggested.

Viewing Christianity as a crutch for the weak is potentially confusing because we don’t necessarily see accepting help or a solution from someone else as weakness in other areas of life. We also don’t see the admission of weakness as a weakness itself. For example, we don’t see somebody as weak if they need help to understand Quantum Physics, or fix their television set. We don’t see it as weak to see a doctor when we are sick. In short, we don’t see it as weakness to accept an external solution to a genuine need.

Christianity claims that Jesus Christ offers a solution to genuine needs. Two important ones are our need for love, purpose and meaning in life, and our need for a solution to the problem of death.

Humanity as a whole recognises a need or desire for answers to the big questions of life; and most people are even more aware of the need for meaning on the personal scale. What is the point of life? What should I do with mine? Is it all worth it? Christianity claims to provide real, true and fulfilling answers to these kinds of questions.

The second need is that with which we are presented by the problem of death. Everybody dies. Most of us have a sneaking suspicion that this is not right; that there is something wrong about death. There is. The Bible speaks about death as an enemy, as something evil, and as something deeply ambiguous even where it is not to be feared. Horror is a legitimate emotion when considering the grave. And yet, Christianity claims that Jesus Christ has overcome death; that it will be destroyed; and that with Christ we can be raised immortal. Christians do not hope merely for an ethereal existence after death, floating around playing harps all day, but a real, embodied, corporeal existence. As was helpfully pointed out during the questions, this is one of the things the resurrection demonstrates: it does not simply vindicate Jesus’ claims to be who he says he is (although it does), nor simply that he has solved the problem of death (although it does), but also what kind of solution Jesus has provided. As Jesus was raised, bodily, immortal and glorified; so too the Christian will be. Jesus offers a genuine, complete, and wonderful solution to the problem of death – something we all need.

The existence of needs does not, as was pointed out, necessarily mean that a solution to those needs actually exists. But it does mean that serious offers of solutions to those needs are worth investigating – and the Christian claims stand up to this kind of investigation. They also show that Christians are not being “weak” in accepting the solutions offered by Christ to these needs. They genuinely accept genuine solutions to genuine needs. It is, perhaps,merely a different kind of weakness to refuse an external solution to these kind of needs and to seek only the kind of solutions which we can provide for ourselves.

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