Thursday, August 20, 2009


Q: Are you a Christian?
A: That depends on what you mean by “Christian.”

If you mean someone who
- believes in God as a supernatural being who intervenes in history, bestows blessings on some people more than others, is influenced by prayer and requires people to hold a specific set of beliefs expressed through traditional Christian creeds and formulas;

or if you mean someone who
- believes the Bible literally either as objective history or even as objective revelation;
- calls it the inspired "word of God;"
- believes it to be inerrant and of divine origin;
- understands salvation to be based on a cosmic transaction whereby Jesus suffers and dies as a sacrifice to God in order to satisfy the punishment people otherwise deserve for their sins;
- understands the Nicene creed literally;
- believes that eternal life is continuing life after death in a heavenly “place” as a reward for believing the right things;

or if you mean someone who
- divides the world into believers and unbelievers;
- often sees human culture as primarily secular and as a threat to faith;
- includes patriotism as a godly virtue;
- sees Christianity as the exclusive path toward God and salvation;
- accepts uncritically wealth, comfort, and the highest standard of living in the world as something to preserve;
- believes that war is acceptable under some or many circumstances;
- believes that America has a divine mission to spread its form of democracy, its way of life, or a specific set of values;

then, I would emphatically say I am not a Christian.

If you mean someone who
- trusts that there is a divine center to life sometimes called “God”;
- believes that knowing this center intimately is of ultimate concern;
- understands it to be a source of personal transformation;

or if you mean someone who
- believes that spiritual and personal transformation occurs through contact with some of the Old Testament, New Testament, collected wisdom of Christian thinkers and mystics, and especially with as much of the authentic teachings of Jesus Christ as can be discerned from early Christian literature;
- believes that a transformed spiritual life can be cultivated within many of the traditional Christian worship activities;

or if you mean someone who
- welcomes the spiritual pursuit of all religions including activities not necessarily identified as religious;
- seeks understanding and cooperation among all such adherents;
- opposes religious fanaticism and exclusionism;
- sees religious language as the symbolic means of understanding a more universal and generous truth;

then, I would emphatically say I am possibly a Christian.

If you mean someone who
- sees compassion, healing, and peacemaking as primary moral imperatives;
- rejects violence in all of its forms;
- questions even religious practice or belief that contradicts reason or morality;
- critically examines one's own self in pursuit of right living; and
- hears in the words of Jesus the call to lifestyle alternatives that exhibit simple joy along with justice, social change, and environmental responsibility;
or if you mean someone who
- rejects patriotism and cultural/social prejudice as an expression of arrogance;
- accepts the challenge that consumption and wealth are expressions of greed incompatible with proper living;
- believes that forgiving and loving one's enemy are among the highest of callings;
- desires to be willing, like Jesus, to lose one's own claim on life in service to world;
or if you mean someone who
- may reject the existence of a personal God or being (“a-theist”),
- sees the Bible as a human artifact of religion, like other ancient wisdom literature, with occasional glimpses and insight into the world and the human condition;
- finds most modern religious expression - Christian or otherwise – arrogant, annoying, dangerous, even quaint but largely irrelevant; yet
- holds steadfastly to the belief that the wisdom and lifestyle introduced by Jesus represents the antidote to violence, greed, and injustice in the world;
- identifies the source of joy in the simple goodness and love of the here and now; and intentionally orders life by forgiveness, nonviolence, and love;

then, I would emphatically say I am a Christian.

No comments:

Post a Comment