Christianity and the Praise of Folly

By Ekenedirichukwu Anselm Alita

 

INTRODUCTION

Christianity in the world today has become more of a charade, a label, a clothing, a switch, that is put on and put off. Switched on when we think things may end in our favour and off when we think things won’t go as planned. Where many evils are baptised and capped with the name of Jesus.  Christianity is a belief system, it is only normal that peoples action should flow from their belief system, for that is what they are convinced about. But this has not always being the case.  A close look at the world today one sees a clear distance between that proclaimed and that acted out. Mahatma Gandhi is quoted for having said once, ‘I love your Christ but i hate your Christians for your Christians are unlike your Christ’. This lays credence to the hypocrisy associated with Christianity in the modern world. Thus Albert Nolan couldn’t have been more right when he said “many millions throughout the ages have venerated the name of Jesus, but fewer  have understood him and fewer still have tried to put into practice what he wanted to see done. His words have been twisted and turned to mean everything; anything and nothing… the things he opposed most strongly in the world of his time were resurrected, preached and spread more widely, throughout the world in his name” . it was this same thoughts that coursed through the mind of the 16th century renaissance philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, which goaded him to write his work, “the Praise of folly”.

ERASMUS DESIDERIUS AND THE PRAISE OF FOLLY

Erasmus Desiderius was a16th century renaissance philosopher (1466-1536). He was an important figure both in the period of humanism and reformation. Erasmus made several contributions to the spirit of the renaissance. Erasmus loved words and spent much time on selecting just the right word or the right phrase to express his insights. as painters would display genius in their use of colours, Erasmus, who detested what he regarded as lifeless scholastic discourse, found deep joy and freedom in fashioning a new and pure literary style marked by the elegance of each phrase. Erasmus was no fan of the scholastics, he did not only think the scholastics writings as lacking in elegance but also, so he thought that they obscured the teachings of the gospels. Thus he found the works of classical writers as been in tandem with the teachings of Jesus than that of the scholastic. In particular he saw great similarity between the teachings of Plato and that of Jesus, than the incongruity, so he thought, between the teachings of the scholastics and the gospel. Erasmus was not a skeptic, his main purpose was just to harmonize the church’s teachings with the new humanistic learning.

The above however, is not the issue we are concerned about. Our focus is rather the relation his magnus opus “the joy of folly” has with the obvious hypocrisy that we practice today in the name of Christianity. Why the name of Christ forms the canopy of cloud that stands in our sky, while Christ-like acts seem to have evaporated and gone into extinction.

WHAT IS THIS PRAISE OF FOLLY

Erasmus’s praise of folly was majorly a critique on how we have derailed so much from the teachings of Christ, of how Christianity has lost its essence –which is love. Erasmus work was therefore an ironic and a serious treatment, hammering on the various kinds of folly within institutionalized religion and academia. He was peeved by the so much emphasis placed in explication of the doctrines of the church and the little or no efforts put in implementing them. It has always been all talk and no action. He stressed that so much emphasis has been placed on trivialities to the utter forgetfulness of the true essence of Christianity. His major complaint was that the point of religion has been lost, that too much emphasis was been put on what he called trivial and irrelevant details. He ridiculed the priests calculating the exact duration of the souls in purgatory, and those so much caught up in the argument of transubstantiation, Trinity and incarnation. Imagining how all these people with their arguments will stand before God on the last day with their supposed good deeds, and how God will respond to them saying “ i left you but one rule, of loving one another, which i did not hear any one claim he has faithfully carried out”. Erasmus thought what was necessary was simple faith and not spending so much time in faith arguments. For he felt that, true religion was a matter of the heart and not the head.

Regardless of some of the errors that may be found in the propositions of Erasmus, which seem so much interested in faith without much recourse to reason. The major point that he tried to stress is that true Christianity should not just be arguments and the making of hair splitting arguments, rather,  true Christianity lies more in actions than in the words, that so much emphasis on words and its logic oftentimes deflect the true aim of Christianity, which ought to be a religion Of love. Of what relevance then is Erasmus position to the modern world.

THE FOLLY OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION

If there has been any time in history where there are so much Christians and so little love, then it is in our clime. If there has been any time in history when our streets have been a litter of churches and prayer houses all getting high in the name of Jesus and so much crimes and evil, then it is in our clime. If there has been a time where there are different gods and one devil, then it is in our clime. If there has ever been a time when the word “love” hung on every lips, then so much hatred and evil, then it is in our clime. What then is the problem?  It is simply a yawning chasm between knowledge and praxis, theory and practice. Thus people have God on their lips and the world in their hearts. We have many Christian denominations all claiming to be leading their followers to the one true God. They teach love to their members, but they are in enmity with their brothers. Thus as the psalmist says “with their mouths they utter blessings but in their hearts they curse”.

The actual message or aim of Christianity, which is love, has been doused out. The folly that Erasmus was talking about therefore was that we spend so much time speaking than we spend in acting. We spend so much time on emphasizing the law that we forget to follow the dictates of the law. So the folly of the Christian religion for him is that most of what we emphasize on as Christians, is actually an a far cry from what Christ laid down, thus we have lost the purpose for which we are called Christians, because we are running very well but quite outside the track. That is the folly. The only way forward is going back to the original map and see the actual road we were meant to take, the road of love. For Christianity devoid of love does not belong to Christ.

Follow us