I am a Christian.
That’s harder to say than it should be. I’m not going to lie—I’m a little nervous about posting this… but it has to be said.
I am a Christian.
And the reason that’s so hard to say, is that for many Americans, the label “Christian” doesn’t represent people who are good, loving, caring, generous, and compassionate. It should, but it doesn’t.
No. Today, “Christian” is an angry face shouting outside a women’s health clinic, the hysterical screams and shouts, accusations and perjuries of pastors, whipping their parishioners into a self-aggrandizing frenzy of hate for people who they don’t know or understand. Today, “Christian” is the absurd notion that someone being allowed to marry the love of their life is an attack or persecution of one’s faith. Today, “Christian” is about getting rich, about worshipping God so that He will bless you with material wealth. Today, “Christian” is a gun in the hand of every man, woman, and child, an indifference to slain children, an argument for doing nothing in the face of violence. Today, “Christian” is gasoline, machines and drills raping the earth, strip malls, subdivisions, and salesmen. Today, “Christian” is preserving and defending inequality; about debt, interest, and usury. Today, “Christian” is about denying food from the poor, dignity to the old, care for the sick. For too many Christians, for too many churches, “Christian” has more to do with politics than it does with spirituality; more to do with hate than faith; more to do with purity than inclusion.
And that’s why saying, “I am a Christian,” is so hard.
But I am a Christian. A flawed human being that needs forgiveness; that needs God’s Grace.
So let me set the record straight: when I say I’m a Christian, it does not mean that I believe in the kind of dogmatic blasphemy I’ve described above. Being a Christian does not mean going to church on Sundays, opposing abortion, hating gay people, and voting for the Republican Party. It does not mean labeling the rich “makers” and the poor “takers”. And it certainly does not include worshipping laissez faire capitalism, corporations, or false idols on Wall Street.
So what does it mean? It’s simple:
- Accept the fact that all human beings are flawed, imperfect—sinners, for lack of a better term—and that to realign ourselves with what is truly good in this world, we must ask for forgiveness. This does not mean one has to go around feeling guilty all the time—far from it, because:
- Jesus Christ died for our sins, offering every human being Redemption. In so doing, He freed us—Christ granted us the freedom to focus not on the fact that we are imperfect, but that we possess the ability to:
- Love each other. That is what the New Testament is about. It is about caring for each other, recognizing when our fellow human beings need a hand, providing solace for those who have lost loved ones. Christianity is about teaching and healing, giving food to those who are hungry, clothes and shelter to those who are cold. Being a Christian is about helping other people. It’s that simple.
The rest is up to you. How each person expresses their faith is just that: personal.
Personally, I interpret the Bible as a highly symbolic text that contains lessons about humanity, lessons about the nature of God and spirituality, and that we can learn about God and spirituality through these lessons. In this sense, I believe that evolution and the creation story are entirely compatible. Many people don’t. And that’s OK. The problem is when the Bible becomes a trap, when people get hung up on certain passages—especially in the Old Testament—that directly contradict what it means to be a Christian.
Remember: We are imperfect, but Christ died for our sins, freeing us so that we may love each other.
In other words, when we focus on the sins of others, we are forgetting Christ’s sacrifice, as well as his command that we should love and take care of each other. For as He says in Luke 6:37-38, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you,” and in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
And that is what I’d ask of those who protest abortion clinics or gay marriage: are they without sin? Are they so saintly as to not require Christ’s forgiveness? Do they presume to know God’s Will?
I do not presume to know God’s Will. I do not presume to understand the nature of the universe, or what exists beyond the atoms that make up the physical world. I can no more understand those things than a dog would understand how to read—there are things beyond the human experience, realities that we may never fully understand.
However, what I do know is that I’ve experienced things in this world that lack explanation without God. I’ve felt the presence of what we Christians call the Holy Spirit, and I’ve asked for things in prayer and received them, as Christ says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Could it be mere coincidence? Sure. Is it possible that God does not exist—that my spiritual experiences have a rational, worldly explanation? Yes. But that is what faith is about: not what can be proven with certainty, but what we choose to believe based on our human experience. And to assert that God does exist is no more rational than to assert that He does—either way, it is an act of faith.
I, for one, believe that there is a God. I believe that He had a Son, Jesus Christ, who died for humanity’s sins. And I believe that in accepting this gift—this freedom—I should love others in His name. Will I do so perfectly? No. But that is not my charge. My charge is to do the best I can, acknowledging God, loving others, and asking forgiveness for my sins. And I believe that if more people lived with a passion to love, to help, to teach, to heal, and to care for each other, as true Christians should, we’d live in a better world today.
I am a Christian: I believe we are imperfect, but Christ died for our sins, freeing us so that we may love each other.