I just finished my first reading of Jane Eyre (yes I am aware that I am an embarrassment, and that not reading Jane Eyre until the ripe age of 26 is almost sinful).
Let me start with this. I profess to be a Christian, I love Jesus. I go to church (not that going to church makes me a Christian). I try to do what’s right (I am human, and I do make mistakes). When I make mistakes I own them (whether good or bad comes out of it). So when I am critical of St. John I am also critical of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and myself.
So if you have not read / watched Jane Eyre, let me catch you up. St. John is a priest he is practically a cousin to Jane and is a cold hard man, and tries to keep himself at a distance. St John decides to go to India to do missions work, and asks Jane to come with him. Not as his cousin, or friend, but as his wife. He says: “It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not for love.” (Bronte, Eyre Chapter 34) When she refuses to marry him, but concedes that she will go with him as his cousin and friend he responds as such:
“‘You cannot – you ought not. Do you think God will be satisfied with half an oblation? Will He accept a mutilated sacrifice? It is the cause of God I advocate: it is under His standard I enlist you. I cannot accept on His behalf a divided allegiance: it must be entire.'” (Bronte, Eyre Chapter 34)
“‘Do not let us forget that this is a solemn matter,’ he said ere long; ‘one of which we many neither think nor talk lightly without sin.” (Bronte, Eyre Chapter 34)
“… take that space of time to consider my offer: and do not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny, but God. Through my means, He opens to you a noble career; as my wife only can you enter upon it. Refuse to be my wife, and you limit yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity. Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who have denied the faith, and are worse than infidels!”
I think why this bothers me so much is because St John does what I know so many Christians do. They use God as their ammunition, bait, and rebuttal. “Because it’s the Christian thing to do” is not an acceptable reason why you should do anything – at least it isn’t for me. I hate that. I hate that Jane doesn’t specifically call him on it too. I wish she would say something like “Dear cousin John, would God find my work as a missionary less acceptable if I never married?” Although I’m sure St John would have some fancy rebuttal about how her stubbornness is godless.
Christianity needs critical thinking. It needs analysis. You cannot do things “because its the Christian thing to do” and still nurture an independent relationship with Jesus. If someone is doing things “just because” they are loosing out on some of the best learning experiences within the faith. When you take the time to consider WHY you are doing something you will learn so much more. You will learn about yourself, God, and faith.
Also, doubt is okay. So many people would have caved into St John out of fear. Why? because they are afraid that he is right? That by not following his instruction they will end up in hell? NEWS FLASH: my relationship with God is between me and God. And Jane’s is between her and God. If God had wanted Jane to go with St John He could have nurtured the love for John within Jane’s heart. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, “just because” isn’t good enough for me. Take my poll, is it good enough for you?