Tuesday, March 18, 2008

To Be A (Christian) Hedonist

Americans are selfish people. Teenagers are even more selfish and I am just about as selfish as they come. We all want what we want, how we want it, when we want it. We allow nothing to get in the way of our determination to meet the ultimate pleasure. That is hedonism at its finest, seeking happiness at all costs whatsoever. Logically then, its odd that I define myself as a hedonist anyway. Hedonism doesn't exactly match the persona that Christianity displays.

To picture a Christian is to picture a sad human being. A person who has forsaken all that he or she has ever loved and enjoyed. I once watched a movie where a young monk would secretly act out self-mortification. He believed that inflicting pain on himself would somehow please God. A friend of mine once called me an "old woman who never has any fun". I never go to any parties that people, for some strange reason, invite me to. I rarely go to dances and when I do, call me crazy, I actually go sober. But I can't better the image, I'm just a lousy old hag who never does anything unless its nutty stuff like reading the Bible or praying. Christians are depressing excuses for people, puppets on a string who do everything to try and please God.

I like being happy. Far more often than not, I am happy. Getting to church on Sunday morning, I don't see people with wear and tear written on their faces. I don't see bruises and stripes that were self inflicted throughout the week. I see people who are, well happy. So where are we getting this happiness from? Some would say, "Now I know somewhere in that book of yours it says something like, 'deny yourself and take up the cross'." It does. I am called to die to myself everyday. That's a pitiful thing isn't it? Funny thing is that it isn't.

We as a society have concocted a horrible belief that to follow God would mean to deny yourself. Wait, well that is what we are to do. Rather, we have concocted a horrendous idea that to follow God means to forsake our own pleasures and desires. Before, I believed the same. Thankfully though, I was introduced to a wonderful book called Desiring God, a book in which John Piper describes the belief in Christian Hedonism. He's been under quite the criticism, I mean Christian and Hedonism are two conflicting words. Eh, not really. Piper basically believes that true hedonism can only be Christian hedonism.

We all search day in and day out for what pleases us. We look high and low, from the summits of mountains to the cliffs and valleys seeking happiness but none find it there. Every time we turn around we see celebrities of all kinds killing themselves or at least driving themselves to near death. If these people aren't happy, how in the world am I happy? I don't have nearly as much as they have. The problem is that we seek in the wrong places. We are a created people, a created people who were made to enjoy their Creator. Its when we seek for happiness outside of our Creator that we run into havoc and disarray. God desires us to desire Him. Piper words it better when he says, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." To please God and to please ourselves are not two distinct missions but rather reflections of each other. I seek to please God and He, in all His glory, pleases me. True happiness, true hedonism is not found in riches or possessions, nor is it found in self inflicted pain and mutilation. When we find momentary pleasure in things, we settle. To be a true hedonist is to seek the ultimate pleasure, for this is hedonism's very definition.

To find joy in Christ is to find the ultimate pleasure because He is the ultimate treasure. To find it on earth is to find something mediocre, something merely second rate. Don't allow yourself to settle. Find your joy in Christ because He is all we would ever need, but even more, He is all we can ever want.


Daniel said...

Great post sister! Desiring God is a classic book. I think Christian Hedonism nicely counters the falsehood of the prosperity gospel. Christian Hedonism really makes sense when you view God as the end in salation. The gospel is the means that brings us to the end, which is God himself.

Grace and Peace,
Daniel (heart of flesh)

Anna said...

Ashley, I'm so glad I came across your blog (through Daniel). You are a great writer, and a like-minded sister in Christ. I'm going to come back!