Monthly Archives: February 2011
Life After God is a collection of short stories by Douglas Coupland published in 1994. The stories are set around a theme of a generation raised without religion. The jacket for the hardcover book reads “You are the first generation to be raised without religion.” The text is an exploration of faith in this vacuum of religion.
That was written 27 years ago. Today it seems we have another generation or two void of any genuine religious experience.
Many good stories and lines in that classic work of stories, and here’s one that might be being said by young people today who may be turning away from institutionalized religious practice but are seeking to find something or someone in their anxious pursuit of some kind of peace.
“For me there was nothing – not even the seed of a religious experience to grow from – and I found that I had to build (and continue to) try and build some sort of faith for myself using the components taken from disposable West Coast suburban culture. Malls and nature and fast-food places.”—Coupland U.S. Today 1994
And here’s the one that made the book memorable, that I and many others were able to relate to.
“My secret is that I need God–that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”
Perhaps this line penned by St Augustine of Hippo circa 397 AD is the cure to Coupland’s longing,
Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.
In his classic book Mere Christianity poses the question, “Is Christianity hard or Easy?” My answer is that it’s very hard. And it seems to get harder as I get older. The following quote expresses the challenge of following Jesus and primarily it’s because he wants all of me.
Christ says: “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to dull the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours” …
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes and precautions — to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.” We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way — centered on money or pleasure or ambition — and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is precisely what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. …
It’s hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder — in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely just being an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad (Mere Christianity, Book Four, chapter eight).
I have been enjoying my book ‘Day by Day with Augustine’. The following entry from his journals written between 397 and 398 is my experience.