“You gave your life to Jesus Christ… and you were not the same after that.” – “Not the Same” by Ben Folds
It’s interesting to see what people list as their “religious views” on their facebook profiles if they are Christians. Some just simply list “Baptist” or “Protestant”. And many, in an effort to creatively avoid a label, list something like “saved by grace” or “in Christ alone”. And that’s cool.
I’m sure for others, summing it all down to one phrase can be difficult, especially for those who believe in God but not necessarily that Jesus is the only way to Heaven as the Bible teaches and as Jesus himself proclaimed. They are not Christians. But they are not atheists either.
For me, simply listing myself as a Christian is a struggle. Because “Christian” has become somewhat of a watered-down generic term, thanks to the way many non-Christians and non-Americans perceive Christians.
I’m quite familiar with the fact that often non-Christians see Christians as selfish hypocrites, as non-Christians often use some of our worst specimens (or those who claim Christianity) as the model for all of us.
And from a non-American perspective (especially non-Catholic and non-Protestant countries), everyone in America is a Christian. They see influential American pop stars and their famous lifestyles and assume that is Christianity. Britney Spears is suddenly the epitome of what all Christians stand for.
I am a Christian. And I don’t believe that I am better than any person in this world nor do I believe that Christians are better people than any other religious group of people. If anything, I feel quite inferior to most people on this earth. I strive for a more giving spirit, like the kind I see in those who have much less than I do. I’ve got a long ways to go.
I belong to a Baptist church. That means my ultimate goal in life is to introduce others to Jesus as the only way true to eternal life, by showing them love and truth. And I believe that being baptized is an important outward symbol of the surrendering of my life to God, as Jesus did.
The Baptist denomination best resembles overall what I believe.
But there are some things about the Baptist culture I stray from. For example, I don’t oppose the reasonable consumption of alcohol or feel it’s taboo for a Christian to drink. Yet I share the all the same major spiritual doctrines as Baptists. Therefore I’m a little bit Presbyterian. (My wife and I were married in a Presbyterian church.)
And though as a Baptist I’m very aware that I can’t earn my salvation by anything I do on my own, I’m a little bit Catholic because I believe salvation in Christ is more than just saying a prayer for Jesus to save me and then saying “I got saved” and then going to church.
My faith does require “works” in order to prove my faith to be genuine and alive; by serving others- caring for the poor, helpless, lonely, and misunderstood. Because that’s what Jesus was all about.
And that’s something that perhaps has best been taught to me through some of the examples of some of the Catholic saints and missionaries I’ve heard and read about, the most obvious being Mother Teresa.
It troubles me that many Baptist churches are so good about making sure no one in the congregation leaves the service without being given the opportunity to “become a Christian” by saying “the sinner’s prayer”. But afterwards, these confused spiritual infants are often left without being nurtured through discipleship.
Not understanding that so much of their sought-after Heaven is just as much in this life as it is the next. And that it takes serving others to help bring Heaven to Earth. I really like the way that over the centuries that Catholics have chosen some of the most humble servants as their legendary heroes. Of course I don’t pray to saints, but I’ve learned to admire and attempt to mimic their lifestyles.
I’m a little bit Jewish because I share the Old Testament with the Jews. The Old Testament actually makes up around 2/3’s of the Bible’s content. And of course I don’t eat pork or shellfish (or many other kinds of carnivores, predators, and “bottom feeder” animals) as God instructed the Jews in Leviticus 11.
I’m a little bit Seventh Day Adventist. They are the health nut freaks of Christianity. Most of them are vegetarians and avoid processed foods and the consumption of sugar (except in the form of whole fruits). Seventh Day Adventists also have a better understanding of resting “on the Sabbath”. And statistics show they live around 7 years longer than the rest of us believers.
So that is my religious status.
When all that is thrown into a blender, arguably it could be said I am closest to being a Baptist who unofficially converted to Messianic Judaism.
Messianic Jews are of Hebrew heritage but unlike other Jews, they accept Jesus as the Messiah. And though I have still yet to prove that somewhere back in my Italian lineage there was a Jew in there (my Mexican grandmother is convinced that’s the case), a person without Hebrew heritage can still convert to become a Messianic Jew.
Maybe I should just list my religious views as “It’s Complicated”.