Something's Missing From Christianity

There’s something missing from Christianity — something we desperately want — something promised by other faiths.  

Protection.  

Yesterday, I heard a lecture about ancient mythology that included a description of Cybele, an Anatolian mother goddess who was responsible for fertility and protection. Such a mothering deity may be the most enduring trope among all of Earth’s religions. One of the earliest known idols is a figurine called the Venus of Willendorf, a 30,000-year-old female doll carved of limestone. Among ancient pagans, few needs were more important and more insecure than protection and progeny. So those were the things for which people implored their gods.  

Not much has changed. Almost daily news of terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and abortion atrocities leave us begging our deities for deliverance from evil intent.  

Last week, my wife went to lunch with a friend who practices Christian Science. Among other things, Christian Scientists believe that sickness is an illusion and can be corrected by prayer alone. These are the people who make news by refusing vaccines for their infants or ambulance rides after car wrecks. God will protect us, they insist, ignoring God's 100 percent failure rate in keeping their brethren forever healthy. 

But a clear-eyed reading of the Bible reveals that Jesus is significantly different than the Venus of Willendorf and Mary Baker Eddy. Yahweh doesn’t promise good health and long life to his followers. In fact, he promises the opposite.  

Jesus said,  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Jesus said that to a small group of men who would all, save one, die for their faith. Christianity makes its claim to veracity not because of its adherents’ good fortune, and not in spite of its adherents’ bad fortune, but because of its adherents’ suffering.  

As Christians, we don’t have a mother goddess to protect us. We don’t have a god who will keep us from dying. We have something better: a Father who gives us reason to live.