Why we do what we do

Why do we do what we do? I have heard persons tell me they acted in the world primarily for their family. Others have told me that they were working to make the world a better place. I have heard people tell me they did what they did because they had been taught to “do the right thing.” Others tell me they act in the world to build relationships, to make and maintain their friendships. More spiritual types of people suggest their primary motivation comes from a relationship to the Divine. In Protestant circles these motivations can come in three typical forms; the Word (right and wrong, us and them, the literal law that exposes the righteous and the damned), the Spirit (evangelicals who carry on a personal relationship with their Saviour) and those striving for social justice (like the prophets of old, Amos for instance, who acted because they knew their God was rooted in justice).

I recall reading overviews of theology in seminary and being captivated by a movement that had been popular for a time in 1950’s and 1960’s, Christian Existentialism.

Christian Existentialism entails calling us back to a more genuine form of Christianity. This form is often identified with some notion of Early Christianity, which mostly existed during the first three centuries after Christ's crucifixion. Beginning with the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 313, Christianity changed in character and belief, becoming more a creature of the status quo than the radical community it had been. By the 19th century, the ultimate meaning of New Testament Christianity (love, cf. agape, mercy and loving-kindness) had become perverted, and Christianity had deviated considerably from its original threefold message of grace, humility, and love.

Another major premise of Christian Existentialism involves equating God with Love. Thus, when a person engages in the act of loving, she is in effect achieving an aspect of the divine. Therefore, when an individual does not come to a full realization of his infinite side, he is said to be in despair. For many contemporary Christian theologians, the notion of despair can be viewed as sin. However, to the Christian Existentialist, a person sinned when she was exposed to this idea of despair and chose a path other than one in accordance with God's will.

Christian Existentialism asserted that once an action had been completed, it should be evaluated in the face of God, for holding oneself up to divine scrutiny was the only way to judge one's actions. Because actions constitute the manner in which something is deemed good or bad, one must be constantly conscious of the potential consequences of his actions. Christian Existentialists believed that the choice for goodness ultimately came down to each individual’s call to be loving and self-giving.

In a nutshell I do what I do because I feel called by God to act in love, to care with all of the gifts I have inherited and most of all, to act and make a difference to all, NOT just those I call friends, like-minded ideologues, family, fellow nationals, etc… In short my deep connection that causes me to act is based on a vision of how the world ought to be. I know the likelihood I will see such a world is slim, I am not arrogant enough to think my effort will change the world, nor is my God so small as to confine myself to small acts for the small circle of people I know. Instead I feel compelled to act large and small, for friend and foe, stranger and friend, blood brother and woman from a country I have never heard of, because connecting to that vision is necessary and satisfying. It is not a choice, it is my life.