I was disappointed in your column of Dec. 14 [Searching for a Christian in Oak Park, John Hubbuch, Viewpoints]. At the risk of being un-Christian, I would say your search was neither thoughtful nor extensive. You seemed to ask little questions, not big ones, such as, "What does it all mean?"
A Christian is defined as a follower of Christ, and not all Christians embrace every word of the Apostles' Creed. Even Christians like me who might profess the creed weekly probably have particular aspects of Christianity they find especially meaningful, facets of faith that have probably changed over their life spans. Secondly, although many of our parents and grandparents might have comfortably talked about religion while cringing at the thought of explaining the birds and bees, lots of us born in the second half of the 20th century have found it easier to discuss sex than explain faith. You might have given responders a little more time to think about their Christianity and then tell you about it. Finally, it's not surprising that many Oak Parkers you know have embraced ideas and practices from a variety of beliefs or nonbeliefs. We live in a diverse community in a multicultural country.
You might have asked believers how they define Christianity themselves. Interviewees could have offered a few key beliefs or practices. You might have requested that Christians provide you with a few passages of scripture particularly meaningful to them. You might have invited regular church-goers to tell you what they find meaningful in a communal religious practice. You might have inquired about ways in which people feel that their faith has formed their identities and directed their actions as young adults and as older adults. You might have solicited examples of favorite prayers or meditations. You might have asked people to name Christians who embody their own faith, people living or dead. You might have investigated similarities Christians see between their faith traditions and the traditions of others. You might have queried listeners on short books they might recommend. You might even have asked if there was anything new and exciting in Christianity.
I could answer a few of those questions, and I bet lots of other Christians could, too. For instance, I won't explain all my key beliefs, but I like this creed from the writer John Shea, titled, A Prayer of Belief: A Liturgical Creed.
We believe that where people are gathered together in love, God is present, and good things happen, and life is full.
We believe that we are immersed in mystery,
that our lives are more than they seem,
that we belong to each other
and to a universe of great creative energies
whose source and destiny is God.
We believe that God is after us,
that God is calling to us from the depth of human life.
We believe that God has risked God's self
and become a human being in Jesus.
In and with Jesus, we believe that each of us is situated in the love of God
and the pattern of our life will be the pattern of Jesus —
through death to resurrection.
We believe that the Spirit of Peace is present with us, the Church,
as we gather to celebrate our common existence,
the resurrection of Jesus,
and the fidelity of God.
And most deeply we believe
that in our struggle to love, we incarnate God in the world.
And so, aware of mystery and wonder,
caught in friendship and laughter,
we become speechless before the joy of life in the Eucharist.
In response to your unasked question, do a few readings pop into my head when I think about what it means to be a Christian? Yes. In the interest of brevity, here's one sentence from each source mentioned above: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."(Micah 6:8) "So faith, hope, love remain, these three but the greatest of these is love." (Paul 1 Corinthians 13:13) "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) That line from John pretty much defines what it means to be a Christian for me.
Can I name somebody who embodies Christianity for me? Sure, lots of somebodies, famous and not; tons of people, living and dead. For modern times, I'll mention Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day for starters. As far as the past, I'll just say that both the Bible and Christian history are full of mouthy women who disobeyed male authorities and ignored contemporary social norms. If you look at the Bible, you'll notice that most of Jesus' extended conversations were with women, often with women shunned by others. These obstreperous women of scripture in church history were a great comfort to a girl growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.
What's new in Christianity? As living people, we bring something new to every belief, practice, and endeavor, so there is always something new. One of the most interesting trends that is evident in nearly all faiths today is a renewed dialogue between religion and science, particularly environmental studies and physics. What does this entail? The implications of this renewed discussion are far reaching and copious. Big questions include: "What do we owe to our earth during our time here?" "How shall we live in relationship with the rest of God's creation?"
Call me if you want to have an actual conversation about Christianity during the new year.
Answer Book 2019
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