I’m a Christian in the sense of the word you don’t understand. I’m a Christian like Apple’s lawyers read the iTunes manual for real when they click “I agree.”
Last week my Priest told us in his Sermon that the accounts in the Bible of miracles Jesus performed are in danger of ruining Christianity in our modern day world. I couldn’t agree more. When someone finds out that I am a Christian, the conversation inevitably goes something like this:
Other: YOU’RE a Christian?
Me: I am.
Other: But you’re so intelligent.
Other: How old is the Earth?
Other: I thought you were a feminist.
Other: Aren’t you liberal? I thought you supported equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Me: You are misinformed.
Doesn’t matter. By the time I get to the whole misinformation spiel, I’ve already lost them. You see, it’s not an easy time to be a Christian. And not because we are being persecuted, (although we certainly are globally). But because — these modern days —everyone is a scientist and an atheist and a hipster — and trying to know it all.
I – along with many in my Parish – will admit to you freely that Jesus may not have literally walked on water. Jesus may not have cured incurable diseases. And Jesus may not have fed a seemingly unending number of people from a specified amount of bread and fish. As my Priest shared, the Episcopal Church has a slogan, “He died to take away your sins, not your mind.” We’re a thinking people. And it’s my belief that if the misinformed-know-it-alls took a few minutes to really think on what we’re trying to accomplish as Christians, they might take us seriously.
When someone criticizes my religion, I do what I always do with criticism: I absorb it, dissect it, I argue with it, and ultimately I take what I need and leave the rest. You know what the criticizer does? Nothing.
So how can it be that a thoroughly educated person my age believes in God AND believes that I am on this Earth to do His work? Because for me, it makes complete sense. And enough has happened in my life that even the greatest of narcissists cannot convince me otherwise.
Some of my friends have this notion that Christians want to punish them and make them feel guilty for their choices. Some people have the mentality that because they do not feel they have received any discernible benefit from God, He must not exist. But my feeling is that most people cannot be bothered these days to find out for themselves.
In order to understand Christianity and its potential in your life, you have to exercise with it. You have to ride with it in your car, and take it with you on your walk into work. You have to eat with it and drink with it and use it to help you sleep. You have to turn to it when you don’t know what to do. You have to understand that every persons’ misfortune is an opportunity to give back to a power that has given you everything. And above all, more than anything, you have to want to.
My life has benefited from being a Christian. I’ve been shamed. But, I’m not walking around with religious guilt. Instead of pretending that everyone else’s problem isn’t my problem, I try. I certainly fail lots of times. But at least I try. And giving back? There is NOTHING better than helping someone in need. You won’t get there with drugs, (wo)men, or money. And appreciating what you have – and what you have to GIVE (infinite, by the way) – is everything.
For the non-believers and believers alike, I leave you with a story.
I’m a clinically depressed person. But I always had hope. Then my Dad died in January. And part of me died too. And the love he showed me, and the activities and stories we shared, were suddenly ripped away. [Sort of like when a relationship has ended badly, and a person has been emptied from a space in your life he/she once occupied a significant part of.]
And I had things to occupy me. And they weren’t enough. And being alone has often been my demise. And one Sunday, the worst of all days forever and ever, Amen, several months ago, I was the loneliest I had been. And I went to a lookout, because that’s where my gut took me. And it was quite cool that day, but just starting to get warmer, especially without the wind. And I sat on this cold hard rock. And there were some people around, but everything was quiet. And I’m sure I looked utterly crazy hugging my knees and rocking back and forth as tears streamed down my face.
And I hated so much then. And I hated that my Dad wasn’t there holding my hand. And I hated that I couldn’t remember the last time he hugged me because his ribs (read: lung cancer) prevented it, because he was the best hugger in the whole damn world. And I hated that I could only talk to him, and not get an answer back. And I wanted to be where he was. And I prayed at him. And as I felt my thoughts and words dying, I came up with a final phrase: “radio silence.” And I swear on my life and science and anything else, that seconds later, the flags on the flagpole above me started ringing. And whatever “that” was, it was my miracle.