Thursday, May 24, 2007

Am I a Christian?

I've been struggling with this question for my whole life really.

I love God, and I like Jesus, most of the time. I'm certain Jesus wasn't the second person of the Trinity, and that he didn't die to take away my sins (as certain as it's possible to be in matters of faith). Let's just put that to one side.

But even if I am talking about the religion of Jesus I have some problems. Not least of which being that that religion was Judaism. Jesus seems quite a distant figure that I only get glances of. Some glances amaze me, some horrify me. I'm happy for Jesus to be a prophet of the past that I can get a lot from, but what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in 2007? I want to be a follower of Jesus, it would make my life clearer in some ways, and I would feel like I belonged in ecumenical settings where I spend a great deal of my time. But I have problems.

So I'm going to devote some time this summer to wrestling with this question. And I'd like help. I'd really like to hear from those people who read this blog and those who write blogs to tell me what it means to them to follow Jesus. I'm open to be converted (as we always should be).

If you are a Christian, why?

If you're not a Christian, why not?

I'll keep returning to this over the summer.


Blogger Andrewjb said...

Do you have to label yourself in that way? Do you have to decide between Christian and not Christian? Jesus isn't reported as using that word. So, do we need to?

I think I am a Christian, but not a very conventional one.

My background is Christian and my spiritual life has developed mostly within a Christian environment, together with many people who would definitely have called themselves Christians.

But a few years back I encountered a couple of people who, though using the Christian label, were prepared to ask all those awkward questions which my evangelical background did not encourage. This was in the context of a discussion group. These questioners gave me a kind of permission to explore for myself.

Later I was part of the organising group of a montly alternative worship event. In that context I was able to explore, not just in an intellectual way, but also using liturgy, the senses, music, creativity, the imagination, community, and so on.

From some of the people in this group (they were mostly Catholics and Anglicans) I learned that it was possible to be a Christian without ignoring my sexuality,and without having to assent to beliefs that made no sense to me. They were unconditional in their acceptance of me. This was completely unlike my evangelical background where you had to be seen to be squeaky clean and really there was no support network when things got messed up.

So, what do I think about Jesus?

Like you, I don't think he was the second. I think Jesus showed that it is possible for all people to approach God for themselves (you don't need priests, religious systems, creeds - but you do need a community). Not sure, though, what I mean by 'God'. The nearest I can get is that 'God' is living in all beings, including Jesus, and including me and you.( Does God only exist through the community?) I think Jesus also showed that we must love and forgive each other. I'm sure this doesn't require Jesus to have been crucified : if God loves us, then he loves us and that's it. Jesus seemed to like being with people whose lives were full of problems. He seemed to give them a new confidence and a sense of belonging.

As for the creeds, I am really only comfortable with 'I believe in the holy spirit' and 'I believe in the forgiveness of sins'.

So that probably makes me not a Christian by many people's reckoning.


12:52 pm  
Blogger Andrewjb said...

Sorry. Mistake. Line 34 should read 'I don't think he was the second person of the Trinity.'

12:56 pm  
Anonymous Dan said...

I'm definitely a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, but I no longer characterize myself as a Christian. Here in the States, calling yourself a Christian invites others to think that you are a born-again-fundamentalist-proselytizing Christian, which I most certainly am not. So I began calling myself a Unitarian Christian, and joined the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship here in the States, and was pretty comfortable there, until their leadership started bashing Transcendentalists. That was problematic for me, since I count Theodore Parker and R. W. Emerson, Transcendentalists both, as two of my heroes. Therefore I stopped calling myself a Christian, since really no Christian group seemed comfortable with me, and began calling myself a follower of Jesus, or even a post-Christian (where post-Christian is defined as someone who follows Jesus but whom other Christians don't recognize as a Christian).

In short, it appears to me that "Christian" is very much a social definition that depends a great deal on cultural context; it is, to use Parker's term, the transient part of religion. Whereas the teachings of Jesus are permanent and always true, still as true today as when they emerged from his mouth, still warm with his breath (as Parker poetically has it) to delight and challenge his listeners and followers.

And here I am. No symbols needed. No outward forms needed (though some are pleasant and worth continuing). Just Jesus's two great commandments, his teachings, and his words, continuing to act upon us, leading us to a better life.

My personal opinion. Your mileage may vary.

4:06 am  

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