As I’ve mentioned before, I really like Zhuangzi. I appreciate his desire to question, to discover what people suppose are the same as what is. The story below, drawn by Larry Gonick for his incredible series Cartoon History of the Universe, is my second favorite story about Zhuangzi. (Chuang-Tzu is an alternate spelling of Zhuangzi.)
Many people called themselves Confucians, but once they learnt they would have to prove it or face death, all but one of them rescinded their earlier affiliation. They were using the prestige of Confucius for their own gain. How often do politicians and others in America claim to be Christian without actually following any of its precepts? If they really do follow the Bible, they have quite a few verses to explain, starting with Mark 10:25, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
While obviously I oppose the death penalty for mis-self-identification, I do kind of wish that there was some sort of certification for stuff like that. Should you be allowed to call yourself a Christian if you know literally nothing about the Bible? Can you be a Catholic while thinking the Pope has no idea what he’s talking about? Can you be a Muslim while drinking alcohol and eating bacon every day?
If people want to personally call themselves something, I don’t care. But if you’re going to publicly declare your devotion and piety to a particular creed, I feel like we’d all benefit from being skeptical, especially when the creed they claim is a particularly beneficial one, such as Christianity in the United States. Until we can train people to be sufficiently skeptical, though, why not have an official certification? Of course, you’d end up with competing certifications, but that would only help to display the incompatible nature of various faiths. It would certainly reduce the number of self-aggrandizing proclamations every election season, though, if politicians were unable to provide a certification of Christianity and unwilling to undergo the exam. Who knows? Maybe they’d actually have to practice what they preach.