November 12, 2015

Selfish Selfishness

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.”
― Stephen Colbert

I might be the most selfish Christian you'll ever meet. I'm selfish because I'm single. I'm selfish because I don't have children. I'm selfish because I don't want to change my lifestyle. I'm selfish because I don't want to answer to anyone. I'm selfish because everything is all about me, what I want, what I think, what I feel, and have been stuck in my ways for years. At least, that's what Christianity would have you believe.

Christianity often struggles to find a reasonable answer for: "Why wouldn't someone want to get married?" So they often fall back on: "Well, it's because they're selfish." Never once would they say, "They counted the cost and decided that it wiser to remain unmarried while they lacked the funds to tie the knot." Same goes with: "Why wouldn't someone want to have children?" Their answer is usually, "It's because they're selfish." They don't think about being reasonable and concluding: "With my job insecurity, I can't guarantee that I'll live have enough money to pay for the food to feed myself on my own, so now would be a really bad time to try to have a child."

Sometimes having a dream that takes you outside of what you're supposed to be doing is selfish. I read an article where a singer was criticized as being selfish for having put off having children because she felt it was more important to share her gift of singing to bless hundreds and thousands of people. Sometimes it's selfish to want to help existing people who are poor, homeless, hungry, because it's selfless to focus your resources on your family. That must mean that couples that struggle with infertility are really selfish, putting off vacations, putting up with junker cars, working over time just to afford another round of fertility treatment to try again for a child that God selfishly decided that they shouldn't have as easily or as cheaply as other couples.

When Christianity assigns the motive of 'selfishness' to someone, it fails to take into account a person's entire situation; how they grew up and what examples they had of marriage and parenting, how their job situation and finances are, how much support and help they have, where they live and what resources are available to them to give their family the best chance for a bright future and their own personal beliefs. You see, the last time I checked, it was considered selfless by being completely motivated and concerned about the welfare of others. I think a lot of the younger generation gets that - after seeing economic woes, rising gun violence, and all of the other issues in the past decade or so - they might rightly decide that as much as they want to marry and have children, that doing so would put a strain on them and their finances so much so that it would tear their relationship apart (as it's common for financial woes to be the the thing couples fight over a lot.) So they have to make tough choices. Which seems to be confirmed by the numbers of people putting off marriage, putting off having children, and having fewer children than in generations past. So it is indeed selfless to pour all your resources into a ministry to help other people even at great personal cost.

But it's also true that life doesn't always give you a choice about whether or not you can be selfish or selfless. You might find yourself in a situation that you had no idea would happen to you. Many can make it work, but not everyone can. Some have to do the right thing by doing the hardest thing. No matter what Christianity says, remember that you're selfless when your sole motivation is the welfare of somebody else. If that makes you selfish, then know that you're in good company.

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