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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Are You A Christian?

Are You a Christian?

My friend Adam asked me this question the other day. It took me aback for a while and I began to think about it.

I think he meant am I a good Christian, virtuous and ethical. I answered quickly that of course I am a Christian, I was baptized and that is the only way one can become a Christian. He replied, “Isn’t that kind of legalistic?”

Baptism in most churches is the initiation rite by which one becomes a member of the Christian Church. A child or adult has water splashed on them and someone says “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” It is usually an ordained person but it can also be a layperson if necessity dictates, like an emergency or imminent death.

Baptists and some other denominations say that one must have had a personal experience of Jesus before one can be a member of those churches. The experience precedes the baptismal ceremony, which usually includes dunking the person under the water.

The legalistic answer is correct. You can be a very good Jew or Muslim but you are not a Christian. If you got baptized as a child and became an atheist, a Jew or a Muslim, you probably are on the roles of some church even now unless you have specifically asked to be dropped from membership.

The legalistic answer includes the awareness of many Christians who are or have been bad people – Hitler, Stalin, the present incumbent of the White House and his henchpeople. These are all baptized Christians, children of God, and members of the worldwide, multi-faceted, multi-denominational Church.

The legalistic answer includes all baptized Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, National Orthodox groups, Mormons and the myriad other Christian denominations that require baptism to become members. We are all Christians. By the way, not all these denominations recognize the others as Christian.

The question underlying Adam’s query is “Are you a good Christian?” That makes it even more complicated. Some good Christians find abortion, homosexuality, birth control, pre-marital sex, gambling, dancing and masturbation sinful, bad and wrong. Other Christians do not. So who are the good Christians?

Most Christians at least give lip service for caring for the poor, hungry, homeless and sick. But also many Atheists, Jews, Muslims and others also want to help the needy.

Jesus called on people to love one another. But all good people think we should love and care for one another.

My own belief is that Christians and all people are a combination of good and evil. We all want to be good people but we fail at being good perfectly. We do good sometimes, maybe even most of the time, but we often end up hurting ourselves or people we love and care about. On a social level we think it is good to have a car. Yet we know that too many cars are polluting the air we breathe. Yet we will drive anyway. There are some that think that giving cash to poor nations ends up ruining their economy based on agriculture and communal living. Yet we believe we should give money to help the needy anyway.

Moral choice is almost ambiguous. Evil often happens when we try to do good. It was good to oppose Hitler and Communism our government and people thought. Yet millions of people were killed, cities ruined, countries decimated. Maybe the ends justify the means.

Sadly, I think that is just the way it is. We take what comes.

I can only really only speak for myself in answering the question, “Are you a good Christian?”

Risking sounding smug and self-righteous, I can say, yes, I am a good Christian. I am a loving person, care for and want to help others. I spend time, money and energy fighting for justice for blacks, homosexuals, Palestinians, sexual freedom and peace. I do not do this perfectly. Some are offended by stands I have taken. People have been hurt by my behavior.

Being a good Christian means repenting and asking for forgiveness when I have hurt others. Sometimes that works, other time is doesn’t, I don’t always get forgiven and sometimes I fail to forgive. I am a good and imperfect human being and a Christian.

I am also a worshipping Christian. I know that God loves me. My community forgives me and following Jesus, the revolutionary, inspires me.



Blogger Not Your Usual Missionary Position said...

Bravo! Robert!

Thank you for your blog and especially thank you for your comments on "porn" and bodies.

For any who do not know you, let me say that you are a holy person, a marvelous human being, and a fine priest.

The world and the Church are better places because you are here!


11:17 AM  

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