It may sound too simple or even too silly to be taken seriously- but I would say that looking back over my own life, and being in a perpetual teen world courtesy of my employment as a high school religion teacher- it would be hard to overplay the damage of this “Problem-Free Philosophy”.
Hakuna Matata- no worries- fits nicely with the universally-appealing mantra- “Be tolerant”, or even that oft-abused Scripture adage “Judge Not”. I have to say that in my own life this has been a most appealing life philosophy, and it really stands counter to Christian Orthodoxy. As appealing as “No worries” seems, it is not going to mesh well with “Pick up your cross and follow Me”.
For me, Hakuna Matata goes something like this: Everyone is basically trying to find their way- we are lost- we can see death- we are poor souls, not gods- so why not just take pity on everyone who isn’t into overtly evil trips like killers and violent nihilists? The sacrament of Hakuna Matata is the party- and all that that would imply to our American sensibility. Good times shared with friends and acquaintances, nobody “tripping” on black or white, foreigner or domestic, gay or straight and so forth. I recall times backpacking in Europe, a large group of multinational 20-somethings, just passing around a bottle of wine looking at some beautiful scenery. Everything just seemed alright.
The fact is that I know many decent people who basically follow the religion of “sports is my life”, or “girls just want to have fun”, “shop until you drop”, “Part-eey!”, “Girls, girls, girls!”, “See the world- life is my oyster”. I can solidly relate to these minor religions because I have spent some whole years in discipleship to some of these ‘faiths’. Having passed through and lived out in the flesh these Christ-Way alternative pathways- I am now pretty well-placed to point out their dangers.
It isn’t that we are not to be tolerant, that we are to be sweating blood every moment, that we are to be scornful – never dancing, never having a couple of good glasses of fine wine or brown ale, never spending time in the gym or watching college football. But the trouble starts when we begin our journey with the idea and belief that “I am a decent bloke- I can’t really be called sinful- and sin is such a harsh word that should be reserved for rape or murder- not for ‘partying to excess’ or being a ‘ladie’s man’, or being an educated cynic or malcontent. And therein lies the rub.
Christian Orthodoxy for me begins with the simple notion- I am a sinner, I am incomplete, I can be a better man, I need a Redeemer, I need a Father in Heaven, I need God because I am made by Him and Loved by Him, and I want to love like Him- and I just can’t do it alone. In short- I need Help- Bigtime. This humility leads me to reverence, which leads me to prayer, to study, to dedicating myself to doing good actions, shaking off bad thoughts, and lots of ongoing study in the ways of the Spirit and the religio-spiritual life. For me, the proof is in the pudding- I’ve lived Hakuna Matata, and I have lived Christian Orthodoxy, I have my own comparisons for contemplation just under my surface. Christian Orthodoxy wins hand’s down. For a short-cut I can just compare my state of spirit when I was a childless single to being a married/family man. Huge difference- really, really huge- my oldest friends who had contact with me then and now could offer compelling back-up testimony.
The big difference between Hakuna Matata et al and Christian Orthodoxy is that in both religions a person is often just trying to “get in the pit and love someone”. Love for life, love of self and others, all of that is what most of us are seeking with our time spent on the planet. But the divide occurs when Truth is brought into the mix. Truth either says God or no God, Jesus Christ the Lord and Saviour or No Jesus Christ the Redeemer. We can’t have it both ways in truth- we have to discover which way the actual facts flow if we are going to respect our rationality, and not just give over to the idea that everything and me as well, are just illusions. Once we respect the reality of free will and take responsibility for ourselves, and then branch out and start taking responsibility for others and maybe society, and perhaps the whole world- well then you have to give up Hakuna Matata- and get a bit or more than a bit- well, serious. Worries, desires, dreams, ideals- all of these are part of our human drama- cut them off and you cut out God from your soul and you stand apart from your proper destiny. You don’t usually solve problems by running away from them- if one of my students has homework and they choose to play video games instead- the work doesn’t get done and they don’t get the grade they would hopefully want. The most frustrating student is the one who just doesn’t care- and this is what really grabs me about Hakuna Matata- if you really care- care about your life, care about others, care about anything or anyone really important- you can’t not do anything, you can’t just not worry- not if your soul wants ultimate fulfillment.
I want to be fulfilled as a person, as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a teacher, as a citizen of the U.S. and planet Earth- I want to be of some help, I want to fight for what is right, and true, and lovely. I am firmly on the side of Jesus Christ now, I’m not playing around at the edges of Christianity and Catholicism any longer- I’m all in- head, neck, shoulders, feet and toes into Life, Hope and Love- like the song goes- “I’m into Jesus”, because Jesus is into me, He loves me, and He has called out my sins- and if I am going to love like Jesus, I am going to have to call out my brothers and sisters in their sins- it may hurt at first, it may have the temporary effect of spoiling the party of the moment- but the Plan for our lives is much, much bigger than a few missed parties- the Heavenly Feast is worth the sacrifices, worth the wait- just persevere, seek righteousness, be compassionate, and desire personal holiness which comes from God and God alone. Amen.