Saturday, February 10, 2007

Christian….what does that mean?

Christian….what does that mean? I guess I may have never thought this was a question that needed to be answered, but here is why I ask. I was talking the other day with a longtime friend of mine. He didn’t grow up with ‘religious’ parents, so all he got was a heavy dose of southern civil religion – which may or may not be that friendly to actual transformative encounters with God. Well my friend and I were talking about what you might call global issues or things that matter, but for both of us they are the reasons we lose sleep at night. After sitting there for a while and mourning the breaking point feeling we shared he asked a question, “I know you are bound to have an explanation, but you seem to be too observant and care too much to be a Christian.” Underneath that question is something I think the church in America needs to think about and hopefully respond to in a positive way.

When the growing segment of the American population with no attachment to the church think a ‘Christian’ they think of a very particular strand of the faith when. ‘Christian’ equals that segment that manages to get huge amount of face time and have even managed to become a cultural stereotype of ignorance, fanatical nationalism, crusader mentality, and compassionless judgment. I’m not sure that the stereotype is accurate to all visible conservative evangelicals, but the crazies do get enough money to stay on TV and radio waves around the nation. In response to my friend I made a case that the gospel not only acknowledged the realities that worried us, but responds to them and calls the followers of Jesus to do the same. He asked why in all the hours of playing drinking games to TV preachers all he knew was the God took his frustration out on Jesus and this gave you ticket to heaven and a means to worldly success if you signed up. “Christianity seems to be a way to avoid the world’s ills and wash your hands of the situation in the name of God,” my friend said “and that is just intolerable.”

After this conversation I decided that there is not one Christian faith, but a multiplicity of Christianities. The one I am committed to and seek after is the one that takes Jesus’ message seriously and proclaims a God who is love for every one.

By the end of the conversation my friend said, “if what you said about Jesus is true then I can understand wanting to follow him and not giving up on God.” So I ask myself again, what does Christian mean? I am not sure, but in the mean time there is fiercely loving Jewish man calling me to follow.


matthew said...

--Word up

This was a dilemma I encountered often living in Carrboro. Engaging in the casual inter-religious dialogue that is apt to transpire whilst watching "hula hippie hour" on any given Sunday afternoon at the Weav' -- i found it difficult to answer the question "are you a christian?" - - knowing however "christian" or "christianity" was defined for that individual was a result of the context in which the term was used in their life experience -- i eventually began to answer - "what does that mean?" -- which of course led to several interesting and informative conversations where my christianity and theology were more in line with my homies and homettes who were athiest or practiced other traditions than the individuals those homies would have labeled "christian" --

the question of how the church responds to this situation has long been of great concern to me. –

-- in a series of meetings revolving around the direction of a church body where i am invested, i recently i brought up my hope for these dialogues taking place within the church.

I was faced with the response - "you can have those dialogues outside of the church"
i was saddened and still wondering ... but can we have them in the church?

The more difficult conversations for me seem to take place in the body - where i am faced with the challenge of affirming the validity of someone's model of God - so intimately tied to their experience and the organizing principles of tradition - as well as the validity and surely - the necessity of multiple "christianities" - in addition to other expressions of spritual metaphyic which have developed through cultural and social evolution --- how do we engage in relationships where our individual and mutual experience can foster self-transcendence - where we are able to glean heuristic characteristics from one another --- and where we challenge movement --- perhaps towards an expression that encompasses more?

anyhow, i wrote to much - so .. like i said... word up - thanks for your post

Garrett said...

Great post, Tripp.

Garrett said...

Great post, Tripp.