February 3, 2007

Are You Really Christian?

I am confused why a person who identifies themselves with a particular religion would question the faith of others who are of the same religion.

This letter to the editor over at Salon.com made me blink. The text in quotes is the original text of the article. The last paragraph is the actual response:

"A lot of atheists seem to believe that "faith" means "voluntarily checking your brain at the door." They get mad, because it's frustrating watching other people do something so stupid. I respect that. In fact, I respect it a whole lot more than I respect "because the Bible says so and my mommy told me the Bible was the world of God." I’m interested in those two paragraphs because they argue quite well the atheist side of the argument – indeed, to my eyes, they are the most sensible portions of your post. Well, Allie, really – whose side are you on?? Are you sure you’re not an atheist? Are you sure you're a Christian?

I don't understand how the original article's description of Christianity puts any doubt in the reader's mind whether she's Christian or not. "Are you sure you're a Christian?" Why would anyone ask this question of another, and feel compelled to write a letter to the editor?

Considering first of all that there's about a billion different flavors of Christianity, then considering that religion is, at its core, personal, what kind of response should this question elicit?

The label of "Christian" or even "religious" is a label we give ourselves, or that others give us, to help us understand who we are, where we belong, and to convey what we believe without going into detailed explanations. But really, does saying, "I'm Christian" give me very much information? The only way I can know what that means is to get to know the person and talk about religion, faith and how that person sees the world.

The only time that the label "matters" to another is when that person is making a decision on how to define that person is for social triage. Or to decide whether that person's opinion is worth listening to.

How limiting it is to put people in categories like this! The original post had something to say, and it doesn't matter if she is Christian, Jewish or Martian. Her opinion has weight on its own, or it doesn't. Why does a person have to be "really" Christian for the letter writer to care?

Well, maybe I've answered my own question. I suppose I have my own bias, and my own inability to see the advantages to limiting my exposure to only those opinions of people who I can securely categorize as "my people." I am obviously limiting myself somehow, since I am having a hard time seeing the letter writer's perspective.

Perhaps I'm too entrenched in my own "open-mindedness" to understand a different perspective.

What do you think? Am I being close-minded by being open-minded?

1 comment:

c said...

This is precisely why we have so many different factions within organized religions. Each denomination has their own take on what being a Christian really is. It's sad.