|I'd rather affirm life with you, dear daughter.|
Silence by Shusaku Endo
Without giving too much away, Silence, is the story of a Catholic priest who goes to Japan during the 1600s to minister to the Christians there and find a priest who went missing. He is faced with government persecution for his beliefs and a moral dilemma in which he must defile a religious icon and deny his faith or watch Christian families die a horrible death before becoming a martyr himself. I don't want to give away his decision because hopefully this will wet your appetite to read the book. I will say that the story left me with a lot to think about on matters of faith, devotion, piety, and love for others.
Kristin Lavransdatter Series by Sigrid Undset
I read these books when my daughter was 10 months old. The series takes place in Medieval Scandenavia, and follows the life of Kristin, her quest to be with the man she loves, and the family life she loves. Kristin faces great tragedy in her life, and despite this and her own moral failings, she maintains her Catholic devotion, abandoning her adult children, and living her life as a nun after her husband dies.
After reading Kristin Lavransdatter, I started meditating on my own death, a pious practice encouraged by many Saints and Catholic devotion books. I realized that my biggest worry facing death was that I would no longer have my daughter with me. In fact, she would likely not remember me, and this made me sad too. Eternal life paled in comparison to loosing my daughter, this child who I had only known for a few months. Kristin grew old in a convent, abandoning her adult sons in exchange for a life of prayer and contemplation. Would I be willing to abandon my child, even as an adult, in order to follow Jesus? For some reason, I also came back to the moral delima in Silence. (I had read this book two years before the Kristin Lavransdatter books.) Would I be willing to watch my daughter die for the sake Christianity and my Christian identity?
My clear answer to both questions was HELL NO! But this unsettled my conscience. After all, some martyrs watched their families suffer before their own deaths, and yet they held firmly to their beliefs. To a lesser degree, many saints* abandoned their families to become Christians or religious leaders. The Bible even says that eternal rewards will be given to those who give up their families for the sake of the gospel:
29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30 ESV)
The pomise of recieving a hundredfold new family was cold comfort to my moral delima. They would not be my daughter, with her distinct ears, curly hair, and determination to explore her world.
Through many sleepless nights and after taking these thoughts to confession, I concluded that no belief is worth holding at the expense of human life itself.
Indeed, I was suffering from what Nietzche calls the life negating force of Christianity--Catholic (Christian) guilt at the expense of life, although I didn't realize it at the time. I'll leave with a quote from The Antichrist:
The Christian concept of a god—the god as the patron of the sick, the god as a spinner of cobwebs, the god as a spirit—is one of the most corrupt concepts that has ever been set up in the world: it probably touches low-water mark in the ebbing evolution of the god-type. God degenerated into the contradiction of life. Instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yea! In him war is declared on life, on nature, on the will to live! God becomes the formula for every slander upon the “here and now,” and for every lie about the “beyond”! In him nothingness is deified, and the will to nothingness is made holy!... (18)
Indeed, I want to live a life that celebrates human life, not just in name only, but in consistency of anthropology and ethics.
*Keep reading folks, I have series on creepy and disturbing saints in the works and how they further characterize the life-negating force of Christianity. You don't want to miss that one.