Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Wanting to Be Christian

It's interesting to me when people speak to me as if I know nothing about Christianity. They assume that because I profess no belief in it, that I do not understand the stories or that I have not been to church or that I have not heard the "good news" proclaimed that Jesus has born the sins of the world and is my redeemer. They think that I do not know that all I have to do is accept Jesus's atoning sacrifice and that by doing so I will be clinching a place in Heaven by his side when the world comes to an end. They assume that if I only knew these things like they do, then I'd want to be Christian.

But, as that paragraph should attest, this is just not the case. I took religion in general, and Christianity in particular, very seriously for about two years in my mid twenties. Some might say that's not a long time. But let's think about it from an objective point of view for a moment by juxtaposing a couple of hypothetical situations side by side.

Assume that you grew up Christian and then moved to Saudi Arabia in your mid twenties. You were very skeptical of Islam during your youth. But, you began attending Mosque and reading the Quran while in Saudi Arabia. You tried with all your might and will to believe in the teachings of the Quran, many of which you found to be common sense, elegant, beautiful, and deeply moving. But, you had a hard time believing some of the stories, and just could not believe it "literally." That is, you just couldn't believe that an angel Gabriel spoke to Muhammad and revealed God's laws to him literally.

Would you be an infidel for not believing in Islam? To the Muslim you might. But, when you returned to America, you could continue to be a Christian and nobody would think the worse of you!

Now, put on my shoes for a second. You grew up reading about mythology and many religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and others that are more obscure. You also grew up with a deep fascination and appreciation of the scientific method and for historical research and evidence based discovery. You grew up around a family of people who not only were artistic, but also very discerning and skeptical and didn't get played for fools by televangelists or fortune tellers or get-rich-quick scams. In short, they worked their butts off to accomplish what they accomplished, with no help from magical beings.

So, even with that appreciation for science and discovery and mythology you put all of that aside when you were 26 and started attending a Christian house of worship out of the deep-felt desire to connect to the some 80 to 90% of the rest of the nation's purported belief system. Like you did when you went to Saudi Arabia (hypothetically) and attended the Mosque, you began to appreciate the stories and parables and, most of all, the ritual and fellowship. But, something inside you did not let you believe in magical beings or miracles.

Would you be an infidel for not believing in Christianity? To the Christian you might. But, when you returned to a community of those who have studied Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, mythology, science, history, and much else, nobody would think the worse of you!
What's more, when you went to work the next day and you sat at your desk to do some hard work you would not be surprised that the work didn't just accomplish itself out of the sheer will of your mind. No, you would gladly work hard to accomplish the end result. And, those around you would do much the same without any surprise that work did not get accomplished without their effort.

Even more still, you and your coworkers would be shocked, surprised and downright skeptical if someone came in from outside the office and told you that they just saw a man get shot by a firing squad and die, and then he rose from the ground and was lifted away by a cloud and was seen by hundreds of others. You'd probably tell him that you weren't born yesterday or that you have some ocean-front property to sell him in Arizona.

This last paragraph is the condensed and modernized version of Christianity. When you ask me to believe it, I will engage you in open minded conversation, but don't be surprised when I ask you to step into my shoes and open your own mind.

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