Why I am not that kind of Christian
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 22:01
Not all Christians are the same. It is pretty clear that Michael Dearman from his article, “Why I am not an Atheist” is of the more conservative-evangelical variety. Dearman believes Jesus’ reason for living was to die on the cross and save humanity (not all of it, just those who believe) from its sinfulness.
Brandon Bub in his article, “Why I am not a Christian,” which accompanied Dearman’s, points out the growing majority of Americans who claim no religious affiliation. He then acknowledges that he is an atheist. He then makes his argument for being an atheist based on the Christian notion of God, particularly the conservative-evangelical notion. In the article he notes that many Christians believe the Bible to be inspired and produced by God and also makes reference to a God that is jealous and controlling.
I identify myself as a Progressive Christian, a viewpoint within Christianity that seems to be missing from both Dearman’s and Bub’s articles. I do agree with the first part of Dearman’s article that to understand God is currently beyond what science can explain. I also admire and would stand with him in sharing how Christ’s story has become his story, but I do not find myself in agreement with his notion of atonement or with his statement that one must say they believe in Jesus to receive salvation. As for Bub’s article, I would submit that his notion of Christianity is limited to the conservative-evangelical viewpoint.
First, to both writers, I would say that as a Progressive Christian, I do not believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. It was most certainly written by humans. All of it was written at certain times and places and reflect the culture of those times and places. For instance, in the New Testament of Paul’s seven epistles genuinely written by him, each was written to a specific people. He had no intention of his letters being one day canonized and preserved. As one of my professors once said historical criticism of the Bible is not a hindrance to faith, but a virtue. Understanding and talking about the Bible in this manner enhances our understanding of it.
Secondly, but most importantly, the conservative-evangelical belief that Jesus’ death on the cross atoned for the sins of the world is absolutely antithetical to the notion of God as the epitome of love, and de-emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ life and ministry as recorded in the Gospels. Progressive Christians wonder, how can something, like humanity, created by a God who is the definition of love, appear so vile that killing someone, particularly God’s Christ, be necessary to redeem it? Jesus did not die for my sin or the sin of humanity. Jesus died because of what was going on in the world around him. There was a certain regime, a certain paradigm present 2000 years ago, and Jesus wanted to change it radically. Translated to our time, the cross instead of bringing a message of atonement, brings a message of transformation, a message that we are to continue the work of the Christ in our time, and be so committed that we are willing to die, even a death on a cross.
Christians are not called to walk around with pamphlets that have John 3:16 on the front. Christians are not called to the work of conversion. Christians are not called to proclaim to the world that it must profess faith in Jesus or risk eternal damnation. Christians are called to love. Christians are called to engage in the same work that Jesus did.Jesus represented what it meant to be fully human. As I follow him, I grow in my humanity as well. It is not simply believing, it’s being: being what God created me to be, and being the love of God for others.
The existence of God is the existence of love portrayed fully through the life of Jesus Christ and shared with the world through us.
Gregory is a junior majoring in communication studies and religious studies.