10/04/2010 | Share this article:By Tusk ~
Having been unshackled or unbornagain for about 4 months, and disclosing it to a few of my friends, this question has come up about four or five times. On the face of it, it hurts. It hurts like asking “Did I ever really know you?” It hurts like asking, “Was everything you’ve led me to believe about you up ’til now a lie?” It hurts to think that people worry that I might be the kind of person to pull the wool over their eyes for so long, only to surprise them after many years of friendship with a sudden truth. Of course you know me. Of course our past wasn’t an elaborate ruse.
Part of me wants to shout from the rooftops, “NO! I was never a Christian. I was always what I am now.” Part of me wants to deny that I was ever wrong. But it would be a lie. Part of me wants nothing more than to divorce myself completely from my Catho-Funda-Baptist-Methodist past. Part of me is still ashamed of the things I believed. The things I taught children to believe in Sunday school. I am ashamed for standing silent, while third graders are taught that Hell is a real place, Satan is a real threat, but not to worry, because only “bad people” go there. I am ashamed of the yelling I did in my early days of faith. I am ashamed for believing that a global flood, slavery, talking plants and animals, misogyny, or 2 bears eating 42 children for laughing at baldness could ever be justified. I am ashamed for believing beating the living daylights out of another man (innocent or not) somehow makes my mistakes and wrong doings go away. I am ashamed for believing this could ever be found acceptable to a God of Justice or Mercy. It strikes me today as the same form of appeasement used for the volcano gods…toss in the virgin. I’m ashamed most of all, that during this time of sheepishness, I never thought to say out loud what I sometimes thought in my head…”Says who?”
I am ashamed of all this now, but I must admit it.
Yes, I was a Christian, but what does “REALLY a Christian” mean? The Fundamentalists hold to 5 “Truths.”
- The Bible in inerrant
- A literal nature of biblical accounts, including miracles and the creation account
- The virgin birth of Jesus
- The bodily resurrection of Jesus
- The substitutionary atonement of Jesus on the cross
But maybe that’s not it. Maybe that’s not what a real Christian does. This is kind of the direction my Christianity took when I realized that the first fundamental didn’t hold water…and consequently, the second one as well. Actually, looking back, the single most influential part of my apostasy was finishing the bible the second time around. In retrospect, I think it could have been all down hill from there. But it was a slow slide.
Realizing that I was no longer considered a fundamentalist, but still wanting nothing more than to be one of God’s pleasing children, I thought perhaps, it wasn’t the literal words of the text that mattered, but perhaps the message itself. Maybe I had been paying too much attention to the trees to see the forest. I knew that I couldn’t let my relationship with Jesus falter. I wanted to maintain that above all else. He was my best friend and I never wanted to upset him. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” and “Faith without works is dead,” as they say, so I pumped out the works. Still got the good fruit, and it’s all thanks to my best friend. So if a relationship with Jesus is what makes someone really a Christian, than I think, yes, I was a real Christian, still.
Eventually, school took over a lot of time, so the fruits started to fade. There wasn’t a lot of bad fruit or anything like that, I was just out of season…fruitless. I didn’t have time for all the stuff I did in my earlier years, but I still had faith in my relationship with Jesus, and thanked him daily for the things I didn’t deserve. Helped others whenever I could. I still think I was really a Christian.
Here’s the thing, though. When someone asks if I was ever really a Christian, I don’t know what to say. Who are you asking exactly? Do I believe I was? Yes, of course, as much as it pains me to say now. Does God think I was ever really a Christian? I don’t know, and neither do any of us. The reason this is a problem is because “really a Christian” is so foggily defined. To be honest, I think the fundamentalists are better at sticking to their checklist, because someone else is really good at convincing them to. They even call them “Truths.” Who’s going to argue with that? Who is going to say, “Says who?”
If you change “really a Christian,” to mean some mixture of the fundamentals and love and a relationship with Jesus, then we run into the same problem. Because this “relationship with Jesus” thing is so foggily defined. You can’t take him out for drinks, you can’t play pool with him, he doesn’t show up for dinner, give you a ride, let you borrow a shirt, or go splitzies on a birthday present for a friend. You can really only talk to, sing to, read about, or eat and drink his body and blood respectively. I don’t have any other relationships like that.
And after years in this relationship, how long is it before you ask yourself again, “Is this really what a REAL Christian does?”
I guess if you asked me now, if I was ever really a Christian, I’d say, “I thought so, and I think so. Are you?”
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