Thursday, September 9, 2010

I am a Christian

I've actually been contemplating making this declaration for months. But I've been on unofficial and unplanned hiatus from this blog for most of the summer -- a product of distraction, an erratic schedule, vacation, more kid-time, and a thousand other things.

I am a Christian.

I am also, still, a Unitarian Universalist, and I do not consider these two declarations of faith to be mutually exclusive.

I know there are millions of Christians who will tell me that, no, I am not a Christian. But I take comfort in the millions who will accept my declaration of faith on its face.

I do not believe that Jesus died so that I might be saved, by a vengeful, sadistic and petty tyrant of a god, from an eternal torment as a result of an act committed by a mythical ancestor 6,000 years ago.

But I still declare myself a Christian.

I do believe that the planet and the Universe are indeed as many millions of years old as the best scientific evidence appears to show them to be. I believe my ancestors emerged over eons, increasingly complex from once-simple organisms. I believe that their actual coming into being, the entire universe's coming into being, was an act of creation by a supreme and not entirely knowable, distant and overarching yet intimate, creative force and personality for which God is the most familiar name, however imperfect and insufficient.

I believe that many people have walked this planet and been acutely in touch with that force, that personality. I believe that one of them lived about 2,000 years ago, a working class man born into a humble family in the Middle East, in a country under the grip of a foreign oppressor, who grew up to preach a radical message of love, equality, humility, and sharing, a message that called on all to transcend boundaries established by social norms and structures of hierarchy. His message was not, in itself, unique, but it was rendered in a powerful and distinctive voice

That message speaks deeply to me. And so I call myself a Christian.

I do not know in what way Jesus transcended his death on the cross 2,000 years ago. I don't dismiss out of hand the possibility that some sort of real resurrection occurred, although if it did I wonder why it was not more widely recorded even in that time. But, more likely, I believe that what transcended death was the force of his example and the force of his radical egalitarian vision.

These ideas that I embrace are not the product of any original thought. For the last two years I've been on an autodidactic journey through a handful of works of contemporary Christian scholarship. And so I've read, mostly, John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, both Jesus Seminar scholars; and Michael Dowd; and Rebecca Ann Parker and Rita Nakishima Brock. The most recent installment of my curriculum was Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus: a distillation, in a voice and tone that rings with the familiar cadences of the Evangelical pulpit, of the radical teachings I described above. All of the works I've described spoke to me, but Message spoke with the most fervor and enabled me to say:

I am a Christian.

And what now? What next?

While I'm sure I will read more in that vein in the coming months and years, that journey has reached a pause, as I synthesize what I've encountered and make sense of it in my own life.

I will have more to write about some of this, I'm sure, in coming days, weeks and months. For now, it just felt it was time to say what I have said.

And so I have.


  1. Beautiful!

    Check out:

    They're some great people. Good resources and materials, too.

  2. I like your statement, and I approve (enthusiastically) your retroactive comment moderation. I will be following!

  3. Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of UU Christianity! Thank you for expressing so well what many of us feel deep down.

  4. Welcome to the FORTY TWO Club! 42 Generations from Adam to Christ (Matthew's Gospel geneology) We know what Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says about 42.

    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. (Philippians,Isaiah)

    The abdication of belief makes the behavior small/better an ignis fatuus than no illume at all. (Emily Dickinson)

  5. I don't think you could get into the Christian churches that I know. TO enter the tent you have to pay the dues, sing the tune, and buy into the myths.

  6. Anonymous @ 9/15/10, 1:59 PM:

    With all due respect, it would appear that the Christian churches you know represent only a limited spectrum of Christianity. I have been quite welcome in DairyStateMom's Christian church; indeed, it was there that I learned about some of the ideas that I discuss in my post. And that place is not alone by any means.

  7. I think you would also get a lot out of reading Harry Emerson Fosdick's work. Most of his books are out of print but still widely available in libraries or online. Try "The Modern Use of the Bible" (1924) or "Guide for Understanding the Bible" (1938). Of course Fosdick didn't invent "higher criticism" or non-propositional hermeneutics (those concepts predate him by at least a century) but he was arguably the first to synthesize them into an accessible, coherent and intellectually defendable theology for the modern scientific age. At the very least, he will give you an historical perspective on the more recent works you mention in your post.

  8. Anonymous 9/28/10, 5:21 PM:

    Thank you for the suggestions. I've read about Fosdick in various places, and I'm putting those two titles, at your suggestion, on my list for future reading.


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