Sunday, 22 December 2013

I am a Christian

A lot has happened during the relative silence on my blog. If I had to pick out the most important thing I can share with you, here it is.

One of the youth pastors I used to volunteer under has a young family; they’ve been a favourite of mine ever since his girls first sat on my lap in church. In addition to loving his family, I found that we agreed on many things theologically – more so than I usually agree with other Christians. Generally speaking, he impressed me. However, his family fell on hard times; I don’t know the details, but he and his wife were hurt by the Church. He swung more liberal and stopped putting up with conservatives. It made me sad to see the hurt and anger he was carrying, but everyone has their own journey. As he cut off ties with a lot of people in my church, I was still welcomed into their home.

A little before Remembrance Day this year, he made an announcement. “I’m not a Christian,” he posted to his blog and Facebook. This wasn’t a bait-and-switch thing that people online seem to love, one of those scandalous-title-with-an-inspirational-message articles. He renounced his faith. My brother saw it first and texted me to let me know.

Our friend has since blocked or deleted his blog and disabled his Facebook, so I can’t check the quote for accuracy, but the thrust of his message was that he still believes in God…for now… but as far as Christians are concerned, he said, “If it comes down to being with them or against them – I have to set myself against them.”

I cried inside all that day.

In chapel just that morning at school, our deacon had given a sermon on cynicism towards the church. He pointed out that as we study and develop critical minds, we also often develop critical spirits. We have higher expectations of our Christian compatriots than of random godless schmoes from the street. When we are disappointed by those in the Church, the result in us is cynicism and arrogance. He spoke about how Christian cynics isolate themselves from the community of the Church and end up becoming functional atheists.

He also spoke about how the antidote to cynicism is an active prayer life and more, not less, fellowship and worship with those in the Church. It’s not a matter of blinding yourself to the problems within the church, but a matter of being willing to learn and grow together. It’s a matter of being willing to serve the ones that drive you crazy and seeing that your distaste can turn into love.

I have noticed a tendency in myself to be critical and cynical towards the church. I came back to my dorm thinking, “I needed to hear that.”

And then our friend made his announcement.

It’s not that I don’t understand why he made the choice he did. I do. I understand so well that I guess I had to hear that sermon just before it all hit the fan. He and I tend to think a lot along the same track, though I’m not so far along the trail as he is. Our minds work in similar ways. But here, I guess, we diverge.

He renounces being a Christian. I choose to continue being a Christian - because I still love the Church, I still hope for it, and I still want to rise with it to be what it’s called to be. I can’t do that while I’m busy condemning it. In the past, I’ve tried to steer clear of labeling myself a Christian to the general public, not because I’m not one, but because I am ashamed of the baggage that goes along with the term. Yet, this season I have decided that I am not going to keep that distance anymore. I am a Christian, and both as tarnished and as blessed as the holy Church.

There is so much more I could say, but today I am first and foremost thankful for the people who surround me, challenge me, and encourage me in my walk. This semester has been incredible.

"Christ is the salvation of cynics and fools. Of all people, he had most reason to be cynical. He is the one who suffered in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and he is the one who gave himself over to a community that would only abuse his body. The salvation that Jesus brings to cynics is…that we meet Jesus himself as we persist before God and in the midst of the people who bear his name.” Dustin Resch


Art said...

Yes. It is easy to be cynical of others. It sure is nice to have people that still love you though. I know I love you!

Carolynn said...

I am trying to simply approach things I may be inclined to judge with mercy and compassion. I try not to engage in a potentially hurtful or dividing debate. Love you!