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January 26, 2004

Comments

John

Lord! If you hadn't included a link, I should have thought you were joking. How terribly sad.

The Angry Clam

The worst part about it is that there were only three options:

1) "Oh good, so am I!" or some variation.
2) "So, you're one of those theocratic whackjobs, are you?" at which point would be the perfect opportunity to explain mainline Christianity someone who's obviously been exposed only to a very limited understanding of it. In other words, the best possible thing.
3) "That's nice." (goes back to reading book), since a lot of people are vaguely curious about their seatmates, but not looking for major conversation.

Christy

There's someone who has been trying to convince me to go to All Saints - mostly because of my left-wing tendencies, I suppose. I'm all about incorporating my faith with social justics, but something about the couple of people I've met from there hasn't set quite right with me. Thanks for confirming my decision to be elsewhere on Sundays

Hugo

Christy:

Come to Pasadena Mennonite; we might be what you are looking for.

Clam: You are right that answering the question exposes one to potential discomfort... and yet one can only be as friendly and truthful as possible... I've been called a whackjob once or twice myself! ;-)

John:

Lord, how I wish I were joking... I shouldn't be handing conservatives more ammo, but I have half a mind to forward it on to Kendall Harmon...

Stephen

Well put Hugo. Particularly this, "Furthermore, she does not want to be part of a Christianity that is inclusive of conservatives." I was reading "The life you save may be your own" last night. Walker Percy was asked what he would do with the segregationists. His response, "I wouldn't 'do' anything with them. Like Paul I would confront them as brothers all the while praying in fear and trembling for my own soul." A great reponse as we confont other who are so very unlike us, with whom we disagree and whose actions we may find morally reprehensible. We confront with the knowledge that in the act of confrontation we are assuming a power over others that is not granted to us. All our judgements are temporal, yet we must make them. But we do so remembering that, paradoxically, those who believed they "got it" in the gospels were always furthest from the Truth. The liberal church gets a lot right, except the very important fact that all live under God's mercy -- even conservatives.

Hugo

Steve -- I am with you, brother -- your last line is dead on.

Xrlq

Hugo: I wouldn't worry too much about giving "conservatives" too much ammo. The words "liberal" and "conservative" mean one thing in the political arena and another in the religious one. Or at least, they should.

felix

I can understand you frustration, but I can also understand where she was coming from. Round here, "Christian" is virtually synonymous with religious bigot who does their good works [on a Sunday] to be seen by others

When asked if I'm a Christian, I always have to consider the audience. I don't think I would ever just say "no" and leave it at that, but I am increasingly uncomfortable with leaving it at "yes" as well.

Hugo

Felix --

I am with you. I would not leave it at "yes". But she said "NO". Whether liberal or conservative, appreciative of nuance or not, it does not matter -- we who are in Christ cannot renounce Him without consequence. And if folks have a bad image of Christians, all the MORE reason to offer a different model of what it means to practice "nachfolge Christi."

felix

I agree, Hugo. But is naming Christ the same as calling ourselves a Christian?

I don't know that it's up to us - or anyone - to give people a better image of Christians. As far as I can see, we deserve our bad image.

There's just no way that I can communicate to someone in 5 minutes why my understanding of what it means to follow Christ is a million miles away from Christendom

Hugo

I agree it is difficult. And I think that evangelism has often been an uncomfortable issue for Mennonites/Anabaptists, as far as I can tell, for the reasons that you suggest. But we should take this as a challenge, not avoid the awesome responsibility we have been given as believers.

Xrlq

As an ex-Christian (Brethren, which is essentially a clone of the Mennonites) and also an ex-pacifist/socialist/leftist/etc., I can say that when I subscribed to both faiths, I had absolutely NO qualms with identifying myself as a Christian. While I did share the unfortunate holier-than-thou attitude of the Episcopalian you mention, that didn't cause ME to shy away from the "Christian" label. Quite the contrary, it caused me to question everyone else's Christianity. Not that that was any better, of course.

daniel stoddart

Excellent observations, Hugo.

I am an Anglican, and the criticism you put forth is painfully obvious to me. The rot has worked its way out not only in the ECUSA, but many of the "mainline" churches (which begs the question of whether such denominations even deserve the moniker of "mainline" in a Christian context).

However, the one thing that I keep in mind is that the ECUSA is thankfully no longer representative of the Anglican faith and life worldwide. The average Anglican is a 40 year old black woman living in Africa who, I can assure you, has a very different understanding of Christian orthodoxy and credal authority than the ECUSA does.

Hugo

amen, Daniel

Lorie

I should start this, maybe, by saying that I'm not a Christian. But I hear what you're saying, loud and clear, and I agree with you. I think it's very unfortunate that people of all beliefs feel uncomfortable identifying themselves as members of ANY sort of group because the most common word for it has, for some, taken on negative connotations. For heaven's sakes, I'm guilty of it myself - I work in Lynchburg, VA, and when people start talking about religion around here I want to run screaming for the door. I've been aggressively and often rudely proselytized by Falwell's followers so many times I've lost count. Around here there's NO safe answer to the "are you a Christian?" question. If you're one who feels that your belief system is personal and private, there's no good way to answer that question, especially if you want to discourage conversion attempts for whatever reason. I don't want to be told I'm going to hell. I just want to get a freakin' milkshake, and you're blocking my path to the cashier.

Sars at Tomato Nation wrote a wonderful essay on feminism along these very same lines. http://www.tomatonation.com/youare.shtml Everyone should read it. By the dictionary's definition of "Christian," I think you could very easily substitute "Christian" for "feminist" in this essay and make an excellent point.

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=christian
"If you profess belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ, you are a Christian." Yes, you are.

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