Am I a Christian?
I’ll answer that, but first I need to know what you mean by “Christian”?
For the last several decades I’ve been on a predictable expedition. I traversed well-worn paths blazed by so many before me, living the life of a suburban, politically conservative, middle-class husband, father, and God-fearing citizen of the best nation in the world. I was blissful in my ignorance until the day the trail before me collapsed under the weight of events that fundamentally shifted everything I knew and believed about the world around me.
As the dismantling of my life unfolded before me, I knew I would never be the same. Everything was gone and I was left wondering if all was lost. It quickly became apparent that the “reset” button had been activated and it was time to start over.
As I slowly, piece by piece, reconstruct life in my new reality, everything is up for grabs. No part of who I am was left unaffected, including my spiritual life.
So today if someone asks me if I’m a Christian, I want to answer with a question…several questions, actually.
By “Christian”, do you mean a person whose belief in Jesus Christ presupposes conservative political views? Are you referring to someone who sees social issues in black and white terms? Someone for whom biblical inerrancy, evolution, and whether or not the historical veracity of a literal, six-day creation and the account of a global flood are hills on which to die? Someone for whom the ability to “prove” the existence of God and make a “case for Christ” is critical? Someone who insists the God who created the universe is best understood via the constraints of a man-made theological framework? Someone who has been able, through mental gymnastics, to reconcile the teachings of Jesus with voting for Donald Trump? If by “Christian” you mean those things, then no. I am not a Christian.
If by “Christian” you mean someone who longs deeply to know what exactly it was the early followers of Jesus Christ experienced, what it was to hear him speak, perform miracles, huddle together after his death, and wonder what his coming back to life really means for humanity, what a faith in Jesus apart from and without regard to creating a spiritual subculture which insulates itself from the society around it means, then that’s me.
If by “Christian” you mean someone who wants to dig deep into what Jesus meant when, in response to the religious gatekeepers of his day, he equated a love for God with a love for the people around you and posited a commitment to the pursuit of such love would fulfill the requirements of a spiritual life, then yes. I am a Christian.
I’ve been around the Evangelical ghetto enough to know what will be thought of this. Words like backslide, apostate, and maybe even heretic come to mind. I’m secure enough in my faith to not care too much about any of that.
These days, a quote from Donald Miller resonates with where I find myself. I’ve referred to it several times in social media and conversation. He said:
“My most recent faith struggle is not one of intellect. I don’t really do that anymore. Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and there are some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.”
There are people I know, some whom I love dearly, who were ahead of me on the trail when life collapsed around me. They continue to forge ahead and I wish them well.
There are others I’ve found along this new leg of my journey who are also on a path of discovery and reconstruction. Some are people I’m surprised to already know. Others are new fellow sojourners. We’ve determined to huddle close as we work through the hurts, doubts, questions, and unexpected twists of life that have thrown us together.
As for me, I don’t know where I’m going, but I know where I’ve been. I know I can’t go back to where I was.
I also know I don’t want to.