Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Am a Christian

I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. I believe in the virgin conception - though I don't expect anyone else to. I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, because God takes the material world seriously, though I don't expect every Christian to come to the same conclusion.

I believe in the inspiration of the Bible, but let's not argue about it; I believe in the second coming of Jesus - somewhere, somehow, all of this will reach an unexpected good end.

I believe that all are saved, but not everyone knows it, and it's a delight and a joy to help folks see it; I also believe that salvation is experienced in all the religions of the world - wherever women and men pray and seek wisdom, wherever love is given and love received, wherever justice is sought, because there's a wideness in God's mercy.

I believe that human beings, fragmented by sin (whatever that may be) can be ugly and horrible, but also grand and noble. I believe that God is involved in all of it for good, though God cannot be the "all powerful" being envisioned by the Middle Ages and speculative philosophy. God is limited by the nature of love, much like a parent with regard to a child.

I believe that Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead added something of infinite worth to the universe. To stand by that cross, if that should be how the pathway of life takes us, is to stand before Truth. I also believe that not everything posing as religion, and offering this and that hope, can really work. There is, sadly, false paths and delusional programs. But ultimately, they're a small part of the whole picture, and grace, even then, remains operative and powerful.

Which is to say, I'm a Christian. Jesus is my Lord and Savior.

So that I can express dismay with my fellow Christians who purport to know all the truth, to have the inside edge on all matters from abortion to homosexuality, and who would see me as a defective Christian, or maybe not even a Christian.

My college, Calvin, recently made it impossible for a professor to continue because she wanted to worship at a predominantly black congregation. The college requires its professors to be members of the Christian Reformed Church, and though willing to work out some sort of oversight program, Denise Isom rightly saw this as decidedly unworkable and unreasonable.

At Wheaton College, an English professor who taught there for 20 years has resigned upon filing for a divorce after 30 years of marriage. The college's policy requires a divorcing faculty member to submit the case to the school for review. Kent Gramm said, however, "I would rather not deal with a policy such as Wheaton's."

I'm am profoundly tired of triumphalist Christianity, a creation of the medieval church, a mantle now worn by much of the so-called "evangelical" wing of the church. I'm tired of folks parading around their title, "evangelical," and attaching to it a political agenda - anti-gay and anti-choice, to mention only a few of the anti- positions associated with their interests - and telling the world "this is what a Christian believes," because they allege themselves to have a better knowledge of the Bible and what it means, a better relationship with Jesus, and are just all around better in their own eyes.

That's like saying, "I am right in what I think and believe, and those who agree with me are also right." Nice, if you can get away with it, but in the end, destructive of life's fabric, because they have to keep proving others wrong in order for them to be right.

I have been a Christian all of my life - and I just turned 64, but I am weary, weary, weary of the posturing and parading of the right wing. I guess that makes me left wing. Though the left wing of the church can't claim the high moral ground either, it's the lack of claim that makes for a healthier Christianity - a Christianity, not of power, but of kindness and humility, fairness and tolerance, while speaking out on the real moral issues of the day: poverty, hunger, global climate, health care, sex trafficking, war-mongering and militarism, capitalism without restraint, totalitarianism, corporate greed and the winner-take-all mentality.

I stand with Jesus, and that, with 4 bucks gets me a caramel latte at Starbucks. My faith in Jesus doesn't give a higher moral ground, doesn't give my some special insight into truth, love or whatever.

But I wouldn't stand anywhere else. And standing with Him, I see some light in His light - something of a great love and compassion, taking a chance to confront the bigwigs and face down the religious know-it-alls.

Like John the Baptist said, "A whole lot more of Him and whole lot less of me."