Most people don’t want to be a Christian and shouldn’t unless they are willing to take a radical stand, which requires a strong unshakable faith, generous spirit and a mission-oriented mind driven by agape love. Hopefully, by using the above title I have got both the Christian and non-Christian to read my opening paragraph.
In saying what I have, I am not referring to the type of religion that today perpetuates the brand of religious broadcasting that attempts to get into your pocketbooks and wallets, or the often too boring irrelevant church services that many times promote judgmentalism based on ingrained doctrines and churchisms.
Some of the things which initially kept me from wanting to associate with a church, are those within the church walls that are judgmental, arrogant, narrow-minded, bigoted, hypocritical, and brainwashed. And for quite some time I didn’t want to deal with the political baggage most churches seem to deal with.
Now, I hope I haven’t discouraged anyone who is seriously considering joining a church. It is not my purpose, in saying what I have, to persuade you in any one direction, other than to say I would only like to share with you some insights I have as the result of my journey so far. I have benefited from the mistakes of others and the dead ends they and I have found ourselves in. And if I can, in any way, help you to keep from making similar mistakes that is what I would like to do by way of this short epistle.
Reading the thoughts of others helped me to reduce my ignorance and put aside prejudice. In college I was able to ingest a wide variety of ideas from novels, essays and various forms of literary work. This resulted in me being able to put aside years of ignorance and prejudice instilled in me by church, school, and heavily indoctrinated minds. I was taught to not trust or associate with those from other religious beliefs for fear of losing my grasp on what I was taught to be “the light.”
However, I was learning a new equation that included the elements of caring, giving, serving, and sacrificing. This new equation was not concerned with worship services, or any other forms of religiosity. What I saw was a race that was spiritually sick and in need of healing. A race that was suffering from ignorance. A race divided and violent, needing to learn kinder ways when dealing with community. And a race being oppressed by corrupt powers, systems, and governments.
So now I need to ask the question, “Based on how the majority of Christians today are conducting themselves, and their interpretations of Christianity, would Jesus want to be a Christian?” The more I understand what Jesus was attempting to accomplish here on earth, the more I’m led to believe that what we claim is Christianity today has very little to do with his life and teachings. So would Jesus want to be a Christian if he was physically here today? I don’t think so.
Then, because man has always proven by his actions just how ignorantly wrong and stupid he is, Jesus came with his profound and compact sermon: “Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
Why am I a Christian? Because I believe that Jesus has the only solution for saving the world from itself. History has shown us that mankind has been an unforgiving, ignorant-in-the-ways-of-God people for most of this earth’s history and no one can rescue us from ourselves except Jesus. We are a selfish, greedy, lustful, fearful, prejudiced, apathetic, and ignorant species. And when I refer to Jesus as Savior, I mean that he is the only one that can save us from all of that.
Jesus is working hard to restore us, to lead us out of our ignorance, and to heal our hearts from all the evil the world tries to cram into them. And because the only one I still have any real confidence in is Jesus, I want to be part of what he is doing—not only his sharing of who he is but the commitment to physical labor that goes along with it. Jesus himself told us to not be hearers only but to be doers. That means you must get out of your pews and chairs in order to be his followers.
How do I look at myself in relation to the world-at-large? I want to share the kinds of blessings with the world that God gives me. God gets me beyond myself, not allowing me to develop any prejudices, exclusionary thinking, and keeps me from having even the slightest desire to participate in religious warring. Today’s 100’s of Protestant variations are the result of protesting frenzy, which by the way still goes on.
The protest frenzy created a market for religion. This now competitive religious market has created a mentality where each group advertises its own unique features, seeking customers of their products and services, something akin to a “God Mart.” If you tune in you will hear them proclaiming their version of Christianity to be the purest, or the deepest, the one with the most light or all of the light, the most diverse, or perhaps the simplest to understand or most relaxing.
Unfortunately the side effects of this Protestant marketing of unique features include exaggerations and distortions, not to mention arrogance by putting the others down. Arrogance, if you’ve never noticed, does nothing to enhance one’s spiritual life.
So, is there hope that all of this protesting against each other will someday stop? One of the best examples that it can comes from an ex-Communist who became a Christian pastor in Croatia. His emphasis is on restoration and tries to encourage us to move away from protesting each other and toward pro-testifying in love. Pastor Samir says that some of his friends had developed a “remnant” mentality and began to feel as if they were elite in some respect. He says that the faithful “remnant” are the ones who are “after God’s own heart.” They turn their hearts outward toward their brothers and sisters, and they do it in loyalty and faithfulness to God and their neighbor.
Could Samir’s definition of the “faithful remnant” help us to stop our religious warring and move toward pro-testifying? What might Christianity be like if we did? With God’s help we can answer that question, not by what we say but by how we live—and especially how we love our neighbor as ourself.
I used to be somewhat embarrassed that I write at times on theological topics with very little formal training in theology (1 ½ years in seminary). However, I’m not as embarrassed anymore by my lack of “theological credentials,” because I know that God has given me his credentials to guide me in my writing. My training has been mostly in literature and language arts, which has made me more sensitive to the drama and conflicts going on in the world. So even though my formal training was mainly in syntax and semantics, it gave me the training necessary to carefully choose the text and context within which to write what God has given me to share.
Allen Stark is a retired high school and middle school English and performing arts teacher. He now runs a writing business called The Paper Bridge. Allen makes his writing and editing skills available via his website http://www.thepaperbridge.net”>www.thepaperbridge.net. He has also written for three newspapers, and was the weekly writer of the Digging Deeper Devotions for Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, California. In addition, Allen writes a weekly column called Echoes for The Herald-News in Tennessee and contributes to the Southwest Iowa Writers Guild column called The Write Stuff. When Allen is not writing, he is busy with “backyard missions” work in his community, especially a group his wife is coordinator of called Circles4Success. He lives with his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Sierra, in Atlantic, Iowa (USA). His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com.