Christian Culture’s Obsession with Negation

When I first began watching Naruto, the anime disappointed me a bit. Character progression or development seemed non-existent in that the characters simply never changed. The main character in particular didn’t seem to mature, grow, or learn. You knew exactly what he would do in every situation because he always did the same thing. You could rely on him to say the same things in the same way.

Over time this characteristic began to appeal to me, though. He was by no means perfect–in fact, it is an important trait of his character that he’s a bit of a screw-up–but he held powerfully to some core ideals. Where other characters submitted to moments of weakness and failure, he never did. When he made a decision, he followed through without balking. You can’t get him down, and he doesn’t give up.

As a Christian, I feel that there is a great deal of pressure to eliminate the aforementioned flaws and weaknesses, the parts of us that make us a screw-up, and it is a terrible temptation. Not because the elimination of flaw and the pursuit of virtue is a negative, but because we often become so obsessed with the flaws that we fail to find virtue. We focus so much on cutting parts out of ourselves that we wholly fail to add anything. In the end, we are left with something less than human.

When God built his temple on earth through Solomon, he filled it with consecrated items of silver and gold, but it was men that carried them in and maintained them.

What I suppose I am wrestling with is this: I think it is more important to hold to our positive and virtuous ideals than to excise our negative flaws and weaknesses. Too often I am caught up in self-surgery rather than self-healing. I expend too much energy trying to cut things out and have nothing left for the carrying of holiness.

In Naruto, I see a character who simply doesn’t worry about his flaws. He recognizes them, though he doesn’t pay them much mind, and spends his energy in devotion to his friends and training. Rather than trying to cut out his weakness, he works to become stronger.

I think that this is a wise and holy path, but I feel so wrong pursuing it. I do not, however, feel that this sense of wrongness is from God. Rather, it is instilled in me by a culture of Christianity that is likewise focused on cutting rather than healing. The years of attending churches that pray for exorcism or elimination rather than for the growth of strength has affected me mentally until I have trouble perceiving that extreme focus on cutting-out as harmful.

And I do think it is harmful, this obsession with negation. Over time it led me to believe that I was wholly weak, worthless, and incapable of positive change. Even with this recognition it is difficult to feel different. I can think and logically realize that working only at cutting things out of my life is bad, but it’s hard to translate that thought to my heart. When I try to focus on positive change rather than cutting flaws, I feel like I am failing. Like I am copping out of my responsibility as a Christian: to feel like crap about myself and beat myself up for every mistake.

It is important to remember the tenets of original sin and that we must continually combat our negative inclinations, but I wonder how things would be if we focused more on the positive than the negative. It seems like everything we do as Christians that deals with our flaws has a negative spin on it. We don’t pray for strength to do good things, but rather strength to fight against the bad things in our lives. We constantly focus on our sin, on our stumbling blocks, and when we pray for ourselves or others, it is usually for aid in dealing with those flaws. We don’t find positives to strive for, but rather obsess ourselves with negatives.

Does this make any sense? Am I completely wrong? I want to focus on positives and worry less about negatives, just to see how that goes. I want to live my life with God, rather than thinking all the time about my sinful nature. What do you all think?

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