Christian? Already?

The poet Maya Angelou spoke of the lifelong journey of faith. She said, “I’m always startled when people walk up to me and tell me they are Christians. My first response is an honest question, ‘Already?’” 

A friend of mine told me the story of how fear of hell drove him to Christianity and the Baptist church as a teenager and how fear of Christians drove him away a number of years later. He discovered much of what they taught and did and said made less and less sense or was outright contradictory and cruel. As he asked more questions and disagreed more with what he heard, the church community began to ignore him rather than dialogue with his doubts. “Eventually,” he said, “I just felt like I didn’t belong. It was pretty clear there was no room for being different or thinking about spirituality differently. It’s like they were scared of me and they just moved into tighter, exclusive circles leaving me out. It felt a lot like middle school!”

It’s easy for some folks to tell others what Christianity is, to convince others how they need to act or what to believe in order to be a Christian. In-groups and groupthink have always been important determining factors in how others come to think about something, if only because we want to belong to the in-group, to experience community and friendship, to feel like we’re doing things right. But Christianity is a journey, not so much a destination. As my Uncle Mac would say to me, “You won’t see something for what it might be as long as you’re looking at it for what you know it is.”

What is Christianity to you? What does it mean to have faith in Christ? To me it is an engaged journey, the practice of compassionate interest in life and others and compassionate justice for those in need, oppressed, or discriminated against. It is a way of being in our everyday lives where we seek to build bridges of hope and peace and seek a deeper relationship with ourselves and one another. It is a moment to moment practice of being present to the very heart of our being and the very heart of our acceptance in the being of God. It is a journey we travel together more than alone, but one with openness rather than close-mindedness.

I’m reminded of the long road trips we took as a child, sans smartphones and kindles, or even videos; and all we had was the radio and our imagination. And every half hour or so, one of us would whine in the back seat, “Are we there, yet?” And Uncle Mac would always say, “We’re here!” And I’d say, “Then why aren’t we stopping?” And he’d laugh, “Cause we’re not where we’re going.”

I think that’s what faith is. We’re here. We’re not where we’re going. But we’re here.

Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven


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