The world witnessed a worse protest in Charlottesville when neo-Nazis marched in the streets with Nazi flags and torches. This not only stunned the world but also made everyone aware that the tendency to do is rampant in our society. A specific photograph of the protest that went viral intrigued me, the photo of a police officer, who seems, protecting the neo-Nazis. I was dazed when I blow the picture to read a few Biblical references in a placard hoisted by a protester. One of the references is from the Gospel of John 8:31-47. This protester obviously seems to have looked up on Google for an apt Biblical reference to match his ideology of anti-Semitism. He has not done an in-depth study of the scripture to deduct as to what Jesus is speaking.
In the above-mentioned Scripture, Jesus and Jews are having a heated discussion about Abraham and his descendants. Jews were aggravated to hear from Jesus that if they make Jesus’ word their home, they will be His disciples who will then learn the truth and the truth will make them free. Then the matter of freedom annoys the Jews even more because they were never slaves as the descendants of Abraham. What Jesus tries to explain is, if anyone commits sin is the slave of sin. Sin will bind us but Son will free us from sin.
Let me now come to the real topic of my discussion. “Cafeteria Catholicism” is the term used by Michael Jone’s, Fidelity Magazine in 1986. Richard Holloway did another use in an interview in Third Way in 2001, “You get cafeteria Christianity, a kind of shopping for ideas you approve of. They turned out to be right for the wrong reasons, because I think that once you admit that there are in Scripture large sections that by our standards are not just inappropriate but scarcely moral – such as the justification of slavery.”
The term, “Cafeteria Christianity” has taken root in the society today. I had written an article a while ago, in which, I had mentioned about Convenient Christianity or another term that I think of is, Bookshelf Christianity. In Cafeteria Christianity, one picks and chooses as if sliding our food tray along a cafeteria’s counter, referring to some Christians’ making a personal selection of Christian teaching. One picks and chooses the stuff that one wants and rest he discards it. The term implies that an individual’s professed religious belief is actually a proxy for their personal opinions rather than an acceptance of Christian doctrine. This is what happened when Charlottesville protester chose that the Scripture to match his ideology to distance the Jewish community. In his case, he chose to reject whole scripture and embrace only the parts that he liked. In this way, he would have left out the full Christian precept and tried to validate his advocacy of a different precept entirely.
In our post-modern times, the texts that we read have put ample emphasis on so called ‘cherry-picking theology’ where one chooses to propose an argument to sensationalize without adequate analysis although not all. Generally, cafeteria Catholicism is applied to Catholics who dissent from Roman Catholics moral teaching on issues such as abortion, birth control, premarital sex, masturbation or homosexuality. The term has been in use since the issuance of Humanae Vitae.
Cafeteria Christianity can also be applied to the people who choose religious duties as and when it pleases them, in other words, follow religious duties whenever it is convenient. Hence, making God and His teachings negotiable according to our whims and fancies. This way one limit God to only mere human faculties and do away with God’s incomprehensive power over humanity. It is significant to be aware of ourselves and our relationship with God, so that we may not be “Cafeteria Christians”, rather, we might truly be Christians make Christ as the focus of our lives both in times of challenges and joys.