Theology and Evolutionary Psychology, A Final Thought: "If it sucks. It's Christian."

For your weekend contemplation a final thought from my Theology and Evolutionary Psychology posts...

(Note that I will return to this topic in the future to write more about a fascinating area: The relationship between evolutionary psychology and religious belief. But this topic is so huge that it will require many, many posts of its own.)

If I had an überpoint to my Theology and Evolutionary Psychology series it was this: Human nature makes being moral very, very hard. Another way to say the same thing is that "being good" takes lots of work. Lots of work. I compared it to going on a diet. We all know how hard it is to lose weight and keep it off (or stay on an exercise program) Being Christ-like is precisely like that.

But this insight is not new. We all know that being a good person takes effort. But my posts were not just trying to be descriptive. They were trying to be explanatory as well. Specifically, I suggested that being good is hard because it is unnatural. Goodness swims upstream against the current of our Darwinian nature.

I was reminded of this last week. I was warming up with a friend to play basketball at ACU (there is a noon pick-up game for faculty/staff/alumni). As we were shooting around my friend told me about something he had to do that evening of the "good work" variety (I can't remember what it was). But my friend didn't want to do it. Well, he did want to (because it was a good thing to do) but he also didn't want to as well (because it would be awkward or boring or take effort).

So, we were joking about how all the Christian things we do or will do in a day tend to evoke this "I want to do it but I don't want to do it" reaction. So I quip: "Well, if it sucks. It's Christian." Meaning that these "good things" we do tend to be accompanied by some bite, some piece that makes it hard.

After my comment, my friend said, "You know, I never thought about it like that. But you're right."

So there you are, dear readers, my big moral discernment criteria: If it sucks. It's Christian.

Think about it:

How easy is it to love your enemies?

Turn the other cheek?


Give more and work more for the Kingdom?

Yeah, if it sucks, it's Christian. Reflect on it: Whenever faced with a hard moral choice, the choice that is going to demand the MOST out of you, 9 times out of 10 that is the Christian choice. The easy choices are rarely the Godly choices. Morality tends to NOT take the path of least resistance.

For readers who don't get the humor here, this is just a tongue in cheek musing on Luke 14: 25-34 in the same spirit as Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship. Admittedly, my formulation here is not as eloquent as Jesus' or Bonhoeffer's. I was, after all, just chatting on a basketball court.]

[Addendum to the Addendum:
I also apologize for any offense for the word "sucks." For a defense of using the intransitive verb as descriptor see this thoughtful piece.]

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4 thoughts on “Theology and Evolutionary Psychology, A Final Thought: "If it sucks. It's Christian."”

  1. Well, it's mostly to be funny. (With a little point being made: as in, if you sign up for this Jesus-thing be prepared to work at it. I would add that the longer you are on the journey the more the "work" becomes natural and even a joy.)
    Have an uplifting weekend!

  2. But things do change and what is hard today may not be as difficult tomorrow. We may wonder why folks back in the early 19th century had such a difficult time becoming convinced that slavery was wrong. But doing the right thing in this regard was quite difficult. I recall a story from David Lipcomb's life as recounted in Robert Hooper's biography of him. In the early 1830's, David's dad and two brothers of the dad came to believe that slavery was wrong. So they gave them their freedom right? Well, laws in Tennessee at the time would have required them to post bond for the freed slaves. They subsequently migrated their families and some to be freedmen to Illinois. Something that I'm sure required weeks or maybe months to do. Arriving in an area and buying land, they learned that Illinois also had a similar law. Spring came and they planted a crop. The details are not exactly clear but somehow they were able to emancipate their former slaves in neighboring Indiana. That is not the end of the story. It rained a lot that year and the resulting flooding and standing water ended up nurturing disease and epidemic. This directly caused the death of David Lipscomb's mom and three siblings. An aunt and a cousin also died. The distraught families returned to Tennessee when they were able. Yes doing the right thing was extremely difficult for them and costly.

    Today we do not have a problem with this particular moral dilemma. Others have solved it for us. So, things can change and what was once difficult can eventually become easier.

  3. What about considering our evolutionary heritage as the substratum for the capacity for morality in the first place? Then, morality is emphatically not unnatural--it is entirely natural. Though not, for that reason, any easier.

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