A crisis of identity, but not of faith: a postmodern Lament

Posted by Bushel Basket in , ,

Do I still want to be a Christian? Do I have a choice?

Lately, I've been thinking more about how I outwardly identify my faith and who that groups me with and who it separates me from. I'm not doubting my faith; I am solid in my beliefs and they haven't significantly changed in some time. But really, what does it mean to assume the label of a Christian?

I'm down with Jesus. Now, even that statement is quite loaded. What I believe about who Jesus was, is, represents and how his life, death, and resurrection influences the way I live my live would be at odds with the belief of many Christians. Really, that's the point. I'm not much for confessions of faith, I prefer to give my personal testimony. But, I believe that Jesus crystallized a renewal of faith that subjugated a blind dogma that separated us from our fellow humans. Our fellow beings are also created in the image of the divine and our alienation from them also separated us from our Creator and from all of creation. Yet, too often it feels that more and more Christians are falling prey to the easy allure of a similar dogma that is more concerned with defining who is in and who is out than if we are loving others as ourselves.

By calling myself a Christian, I associate myself with those who I feel are missing the message of Jesus. Also, and what pains me more, is that those who reject Christians and Christianity because of the bigotry and non-Christ-like actions of many individuals and denominations see no difference between me and those who oppress in the name of Jesus, creating more distance between us. I have tried to associate with those followers of Jesus who are shouting back that Christianity is not bigotry, but it feels like we few are shouting across a larger and larger abyss and there are fewer and fewer of us left to do the shouting.

So, we have three groups, the un-Christlike Christians, the faithfully departed, and the shrinking shouters. Lord knows, I like to shout. But I find myself wondering, is redeeming the word Christian really a fight worth fighting? I find myself thinking of a quote from Pelagius, asking if it is more important that a person professes to be a Christian, or acts like a Christian. My books are not yet unpacked from my move, so I'll have to find the quote later. Essentially, he questioned which is more important, orthodoxy "right belief" or orthopraxy, "right action." Again, another loaded theological question, sure to set my seminary friends at odds. Myself, I tend to lean toward orthopraxy. So did Pelagius, but then he was branded a heretic. Again, I find myself wondering if that isn't the point.

So, I find myself thinking about who I'd be standing with if I keep calling myself a Christian, and who I'd be standing with if I start calling myself something else. By being a Christian, I get a lot of (and pardon the over generalization) right wing conservative whack jobs who wrap Jesus in a red, white, and reluctanly blue American flag and a few Jesus followers who are defensive about our faith, tired of being persecuted by those that say we aren't really Christian because we support homosexual marriage, national healthcare, and dare to bring up the fact that Jesus is the prince of peace. On the other side, I'd be with the many non-believers, a growing fraction of younger America, according to a recent Pew Study. Many may or may not care about faith or spirituality, but some would be exactly the people that I'd want to be with, the spiritually moved who cannot associate themselves with a faith that has such a checkered track record.

So, do I need to call myself a Christian to follow Christ? Is the word Christian worth fighting for? As followers of Christ, we are called upon to be in communion with one another. But if trying to maintain that communion drives others away, what then?

I have more to say, but it is late, and my thoughts are becoming less and less focused, so I'll stop for now and see if any readers have anything to say in response.

I'll leave you with some Bible verses that have been coming to mind as I write this:

Mark 9:38-40
John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.

Matthew 21:28-32
A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

1 John 4:1-8
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at Wednesday, May 06, 2009 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Mark 9:38-40 This is one of my fave verses. I imagine Jesus saying, "What the hell is wrong with you? Don't you listen to anything I say? Don't be a dumb-ass."

I keep the title Christian, but lately I've been thinking more and more about what I feel as a call to be a Shaman. But isn't that cultural appropriation? It may be, but it's the kind of ritual leader I have always felt called to be. I have RC roots and a Pentecostal background - what is a priest if not a type of Shaman? As a Pentecostal, I think we were all called to be shamanic.

Still, I keep the title Christian. Partly I do it because Jesus kept the title, Jew. He's my model. I am not so invested in the title though.

May 11, 2009 at 9:21 PM

For what it's worth, I think your question is part of a noble tradition. Many people, long before us, have wondered the same thing.

My position is that the church is like air; even if it's polluted, you can't afford to stop breathing.

I also realize that as I age, I become more charitable. There are a lot of sad stories behind those rigid attitudes.

May 14, 2009 at 12:37 PM

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