400763847‘Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologizing instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release from him was ecstasy.”

Perhaps Elizabeth Bennet’s sentiments in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” are specifically directed at one graceless clergyman, but they likely mirror thoughts that cross many Christians’ minds today.

A faith that once brought communities together for moments of spiritual and civic unity is quickly becoming impotent and irrelevant. Crippled by internal fights, Christians vacillate between incorrectness and apologies. For Christians trying to apply their beliefs practically in the world, the church brings them embarrassment rather than empowerment.

Christianity has become as charmless and unappealing as Austen’s William Collins, and has done so for many of the same reasons. “Awkward and solemn” would be precisely how someone coming from outside the Christian community would describe traditionalist services. Steeped in inaccessible ritual and convention, these services only alienate people seeking truth from Christian sources.

To be honest, our answers to “how to live a good and upright life” are confusing and contradictory. We provide tired tradition rather than a paradigm of absolute truth. Collins, though a well-remunerated placeholder, lacks intellectual heft or cultural taste. He runs from and condemns the culture of the world while demanding more monetary contributions from his family and parishioners.

How different is today’s church from Collins’? We struggle to cajole the best and brightest into declaring professional religious allegiance and are forced to accept less talented individuals into the clergy. We are simultaneously losing beauty and becoming more materialistic.

So who was surprised when pop sensation Katy Perry admitted that she no longer identifies as a Christian? While Perry was apparently delighted to move on from the supposed awkwardness of Christianity, it seems a worthy topic of discussion as to what drew this daughter of two ministers to leave.

It is clear that Perry was torn between two suitors, but a closer look at what each had to offer reveals that her decision was, in reality, quite clear. On one hand, she was drawn to Christianity out of tradition. But her relationship with her faith was deteriorating; Christianity is sullen and incredibly needy. The option of following her semi-atheist friends in Hollywood offered a spiritually laissez-faire option embodied by fun, gorgeous people. And to make matters worse, her needy first option seemed more interested in criticizing her fun friends than offering anything meaningful to her.

She faced the choice between something that demanded her subservience and — quite literally — a crowd of entertainers. Given this stark contrast, who could blame Perry for choosing the ecstasy of freedom over the drudgery of devotion?
Despite the crumbling of our current expression of Christianity, the world has not outgrown faith. Perry says she is looking for spiritual truth, and if Christians could offer it, perhaps many others might join the fold. Perry says she is still searching and questioning — still looking for a transcendent spiritual absolute.

Christianity should be, in a word, sexy. Christina Rossetti wrote some of the most romantically charged poetry ever written while struggling with love and faith. Much of the best music across history has been written as a celebration of God. A healthy, vibrant faith can bring out the best virtues of the arts and mind.

The best intellect and talent of our day should be embraced and channeled toward the practical application of Christianity. Until we can embrace the fiery, brash, beautiful people of today’s world, the increasingly bland mass of Christianity will bumble just like the hapless Mr. Collins.

Tim Rosenberger is a sophomore in the College. The Church and Statesman appears every other Tuesday.

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