Saturday, February 18, 2006

What Does it Mean to be Christian?

I'm a Christian.

The above sentence is not only a declaration of what I believe, it also should raise a red flag. If someone starts off a sentence with "I'm a Christian," especially when in a confrontational situation, it could be that they are trying to not only convince you of their moral superiority, but that they are attempting to assuage their own doubts about their position.

More typically, a person who calls himself or herself a Christian does so with the intent of evoking superior moral character, so that whatever comes after must be weighed against not only their personal opinion, but the collective opinions of God and the Christian community. So why bother to debate at all, since in their minds, they have already won.

I'm a Christian, but not in the same sense that most Christians, especially fundamentalists, might imagine when they hear the word. In other words, I am not a bible-thumping, proselytizing, Jesus freak.

I'm only a Christian for lack of a better word. I believe that Jesus was a great man and I believe it would generally be a good idea to base one's life around his teachings, as long as those teachings are applied to the maturation level of present-day society, and not necessarily to the agrarian, and sometimes barbaric, society that existed in Jesus' day.

Is Jesus the son of God? In one sense, perhaps we all are children of God, so that makes Jesus one, too. But he had, arguably, a much better understanding of God than most of us do even today. He was one of those very few special people who got it. And he was trying to teach it to the masses who didn't.

Jesus is a path to Heaven, if such a place exists. And I believe it does, but not as depicted in the pages of the bible. I also believe that Jesus is but one path to enlightenment. There may be many others.

The bottom line is, with my brand of Christianity, which I assert is no less bona fide than what might be considered mainstream Christianity, nobody knows the mind of God. Maybe Jesus came close. But possessing that knowledge is a rare gift that Christians, Jews, Muslims, or other persons of religion have not acquired.

The difference between most other Christians and me is that I will readily admit to not knowing anything about what God wants of us, if anything. I do not know the nature of God, and therefore, cannot base my life around what I think he might be like.

I believe that Jesus is a conduit to eventual enlightenment. And in that sense, he is a conduit to salvation. I believe to be "born again" is to become enlightened. And in that sense, most of those who profess to being born again are just the opposite of my definition of the phrase.

Most born-again Christians have given their lives and souls over to their image of Christ, and in doing so have given their minds as well. When you give up your mind to a cause or conviction, you've given up the search for enlightenment, because in your own mind, you've already achieved it.

So, yes, I'm a Christian. But I'm an agnostic Christian, using the term's root meaning of "without knowledge." And being without knowledge one cannot, and should not, judge others.

But Christians, by their very nature, are judgmental. Maybe they don't mean to be, or maybe they don't even realize it, but they are. Otherwise they would never see a need to profess "I am a Christian."

Since most churches have a doctrine based on their interpretations of the bible, they are by nature exclusive. By embracing a doctrine, they have taken up a position that this is what they believe and others may, and probably will, go to hell (although none are likely to say that with the possible exception of the extremely fundamentalist Pentecostals or Jehovah's Witnesses).

And that's why I do not attend any church. I am not a religious person, but a spiritual one. And spirituality is a very personal and private thing to me. I don't believe in the merits of public prayer, nor do I want anyone to volunteer to pray for my soul, as if they held some power over it. That offends me.

It has been said that the greatest threat to Christianity is a Christian thumping the bible. I believe that to be true with all my heart. Christianity may one day self-implode. That wouldn't be such a bad thing. If it would mean an end to the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of the world, it can't be all bad.

1 comment:

Victor Dane said...

Hi Jerry,
I have just found your web-site today and have read a lot of what you have written. I have found your opinions interesting and wide-ranging. I know that you support the teaching of evolution in school and yet in this particular blog you claim to a Christian (not religious, but spiritual) and I wondered at what point in the evolutionary process did human beings become spiritual?
Your view of Jesus was also interesting, in that you said he was not a fundamentalist, but ran across the fundamentalists of his day; that is a very simplistic and generalised statement and doesnt stand up to scrutiny. In fact Jesus ran across the religious leaders of his day precisely because they had strayed from the fundamentals of the faith, over the years religious leaders had added over 600 rules and regulations to the original guidance God had given the people, as Jesus said they had bound the people with too heavy a burden, he had come to set them free and lead them back to the truth of God's way. So in fact he was a fundamentalist and did judge those who taught wrongly in the name of God, telling them quite clearly what their end would be.
Unfortunately we in the west have a disadvantage when it comes to reading the Bible, it loses so much of the original meaning when it is translated into english. I think we should look to the Messianic Jews for the truth, at least they have the best advantage of all with their understanding of the ancient hebrew texts and their links to what is now know as the "New Testament" scriptures.
Sorry I have gon on at length and hope I havent strayed from the point too far, actually it is hard to remember all of what you said and I cannot actually refer back to the web-page while this post-comment window is open!
Anyway, keep an open mind and who knows what might happen.
Yours sincerely Victor