I've just finished reading the best-selling book, and now movie, "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. It's the story of Christopher Johnson McCandless, a 24-year-old young man from a well-to-do family who hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley.
He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless was loved by so many and yet in the end died completely alone gives a rare insight into the mind of a person desperately searching for answers.
McCandless often stated, "rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness ... give me truth." The great irony is that mixed in among his books of Tolstoy and Thoreau was the very thing that could give him truth, his Bible. By all accounts he abandoned his faith years earlier. Growing up in a dysfunctional home (don't we all?) it appears that he defined much of Christianity through his parents. He also saw the history of the church supporting injustice, drawing the conclusion like many, that Christianity must not be real.
As much as I identify with him, admire his spirit for adventure, and his quest to escape all that is wrong in the world, he was severely mistaken.
We both agree that many people who've said they believed or acted in the name of Jesus Christ have been lousy witnesses for Christianity. There is also no doubt that history shows us there have been many times that the church was on the wrong side of justice. But does that mean that Jesus Christ is still not the Son of God?
However, many Christians who have acted poorly in the past, or certainly will in future, the answer is not to abandon Christianity. Rather, we should move to a fuller and deeper grasp of what Christianity is. When people act wrongly in the name of God, they are not being true to the one who came and died as a victim for them. Jesus was the ultimate victim of injustice and yet he died for those who were killing him saying, "Forgive them Father because they do not know what they are doing."
Jesus Christ teaches us how to deal with abuses in the past, present, and future, and has given us a way forward.
What I would've liked to have told Chris McCandless for all his questions about meaning, purpose and life, and for the countless wrongs we see in the world around us, is that there is an answer. The answer is not less Christianity but a deeper and truer Christianity.
Jesus said, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world!"