“There are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.
Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.”
–Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life
“Where there is a struggle, it is a struggle for power.”
(Wooded Path in Lithuania, my photo)
The great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche criticized Christianity for confusing weakness with power. He writes, “Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life’s nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in ‘another’ or ‘better’ life” (The Birth of Tragedy, p.23). His analysis is telling because it is true. The highest symbol of the religion is the cross, an instrument of torture. The most important historical practicioners of the faith are martyrs. The figurehead of the belief system teaches that the greatest among us are the servants, not the masters.
Nietzsche puts us face-to-face with life’s fundamental choice: do you opt for the “way of nature” or the “way of grace”?
According to nature, the best among us will survive. We will keep evolving until we’ve achieved approximate perfection, won economically, politically, and biologically. We will have eliminated suffering. We will have destroyed death on our own. We will have made ourselves Nietzsche’s “supermen.” Is this your vision of the future?
According to grace, the least among us in this life will become the greatest in the next life. We humbly accept this truth in faith. We will seek to achieve perfection in this life, but we will fail…many times. We will look to the heavens and shout for mercy; God will hear our poor cry. We will die, but we will die in hope for ourselves, for those before us, and for those after us. No stone will be left unturned. All will be accounted for. Everything done in love will have meaning. Is this your vision of the future?
Both visions require faith. Nature’s vision requires faith in humanity alone. Grace’s vision requires faith in God, who enters into our humanity. Christianity is faith in a fused God-humanity. Let no one tell you that Christianity lacks faith in humanity. All the opposite! Christianity is faith in a humanity backed by the infinite power and possibility of God! Let no one tell you that Christianity prohibits human freedom. All the opposite! Since Christians have the freedom of God, our freedom is infinitely great!
I am a child of grace.
I can say with St. Alberto Hurtado, “The Church of God establishes itself and triumphs through the heroic work of her saints; through the parents who work in their homes with tenderness and with faith; through hours of manufacturing, navigating, and working in the fields; through the employer who fights against temptations to money or to dishonest actions; through the sacrifice of the ailing widow who leaves behind children and who unites her suffering with Christ’s; through the students who fight against injustice and oppression; through the donation that the poor person gives out of her/his indispensable income. In these moments humanity triumphs together with God” (paraphrased from Un fuego que enciende otros fuegos).
On the way of grace, whatever is done in love matters. On the way of nature, whatever is done for survival matters.
All things equal, take your pick.
David J.W. Inczauskis, n.S.J.