I have some very well-meaning friends who keep telling me that I need to understand my "identity in Christ."
"What we have here is a failure to communicate."
'Identity' for me is a problem word. Like grace. And honor as a verb. It's really important, and pretty vague. I think the main reason I struggle with this 'identity in Christ' concept is because I don't really think in terms of, "Who am I?" to begin with.
(I'm not really a big fan of my name, either. Mostly because it gets used like "shipmate!" People who have something kind or positive to say are usually emotionally close enough that no form of address is necessary.)
Something didn't so much "click" as "clunk" a few days ago. See, a few days ago was T's birthday. (Don't look at me like that; some numbers you just memorize for a few years and they don't go away. I can also give you my best friend's phone number from when I was 16.) And while I'm not friends with T on facebook, I was thinking that in with the 50 other people who said happy birthday I could do the same. It wouldn't hurt anything.
And it clunked. Not clicked, this one was more like one of those thoughts that falls like a 5-pound-weight onto sheet metal. That's not something a wife would do. I mean, a wife who knows God, and loves her husband as a function of her relationship with God. She wouldn't go wish her ex-boyfriend a happy birthday. It's not a question of right or wrong, it's a question of identity.
Paul, a bunch of times in the New Testament, addresses one church or another with this idea, "You are saints! Act like saints!"
I've been trying to get my brain around this identity idea like it's some deep understanding into who I am, something that will finally click and make sense of the many twisty recesses of my interior heart. Doesn't work, or at least, hasn't so far. So far, it's like trying to memorize a mountain by reading about it.
But when it comes to action, that's a lot easier.
I've admittedly had some issues with the 'wife' identity, fussing about how I haven't had good examples and don't know what it looks like. Okay, that can be argued, if the goal is 'to be a good wife.' I don't know what that looks like. That's still really vague. What I DO understand is, "I know God. God gave me His son Rick to love, care for, respect. If a person has kids, you don't expect to be rude to their kids and have a good relationship with them. If you're kind to their kids, your friendship with that person takes off. I have some okay ideas of how to be kind to Rick, and I love God. That, at least, I can make sense of."
I'm becoming less cerebral, I'm noting. Old me would have been horrified. Living inside this, I think old me can stuff it.
I waited a couple of days to post my entry about this book because the very day after I mentioned that I was going to write about it, Dylan Klebold's mother was on tv talking about the years since the Columbine tragedy. It has to have been some difficult years for all of the families and former students involved. So I had to reconsider the post a bit.
This book is very important to some changes I began making in my life about 2 years ago. I just happened across it at a used book store and I had never heard the story of Rachel Joy Scott.
Basically, Rachel Scott was an extremely faithful student who attended Columbine High School and she was killed there. In her backpack among her school books and cosmetics were her diaries. She wrote constantly about her faith and the challenges of her belief and her love for God. She wrote that she knew she was going to die for her beliefs -- all teenagers are given to flights of melodrama - but the book made me really consider what I may not actually know, or even be able to comprehend about faith and God.
Before reading this book, I allowed myself to be very close-minded about anything spiritual. I lived in a gray enclosed world of 'live now and it will be all over soon'. I don't necessarily agree with the entire belief system as Rachel did or wrote about, but it did wake me up and make me think. It was a little nick in the cynical armor I had covered myself in. It is a very interesting, intense and sad story but a good way into understanding the lives of faithful Christians.
(For many years in the Medieval period, the impersonation of
religious figures was banned.)
Since Minsday is on fire with the topic, here are my reactions to "WDJD?" taken from a Salon article on Liberty University students proselytizing in Daytona Beach during spring break.
The four questions can be remembered with the mnemonic "WDJD." ("What Did Jesus Do?")
W -- "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?"
Answer: This question's sentence structure is noncommittal, so of course if someone asked me, I'd be surprised and say, "I consider myself a good person." Yet I know that the "WDJD" mnemonic is set up like a sales pitch -- to get people saying "Yes" and the schlub is sold. I know this without having to look at the "DJD" part.
Understanding this, I want to instead say, "No, I'm not a good person," because I know the following questions will rise in difficulty for me to answer "Yes," because the questions are getting me to do something that I don't want to do -- i.e. profess my submission to God and my total and utter acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And I don't want to do this because by the standards of "good person" and "bad person" (which I do not consider useful), if I'd indeed "profess" and "spread the word" and whatever other poppycock, I'd instantly be a "bad person" by feeling shameful, dirty, and self-righteous -- like a liar -- by falsely affirming my conviction to an ideological system (Christianity) I consider supernatural hokum and a detriment to all people. However, I suggest that spurning Christianity is possible without "turning away from" (in the parlance) Jesus the historical figure (his ideas, his philosophy). I refuse Christianity, but no more turn away from Jesus than I turn away from Plato and Aristotle, and other great contributors to human civilization.
The sentence structure of the original "W" question could just be phrased that way to fit in the "W" mnemonic, but it if wasn't a sales pitch, "Do you consider yourself a good person?" or "Are you a good person?" would work better by being more definite answers.
My overall answer to the question is truly "No," because I feel no need to make qualitative judgments on me or anyone within the arrogant, foolhardy, easy definition of "good" or "bad/evil." I am neither, and consider calling someone "a good person" or "a bad person" intellectually bereft (although in pleasant conversation I may use the phrase). People are not good or bad; we act in ways in tiny moments that help, harm, or are neutral for ourselves, our society, all people, all beings (like animals), and the planet. A murderer can surely reform himself in the same way that a soldier can -- both are killers, and killing benefits no one.
Beyond this world that we exist in, there is no outside entity judging us "good" or "bad." On Mars, it's no different if a beetle is ruthless enough to kill other beetles at an abnormally high rate than if a person kills many people. That said, we should structure human interactions to guarantee "life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" for all, but there is no supernatural power involved in this. A supposed "higher purpose" sentimentalizes our actions and offers the false comfort of "I'm Christian, I'm a good person" when in fact people have free will -- truly free will, not the kind a god granted us in the "Garden of Eden" -- and denying this ignores our bleak but somehow beautiful existence. Praise be to Allah.
D -- "Do you think you've kept the Ten Commandments?"
A quick look at the Wikipedia page of the Ten Commandments indicates that even the supposedly ironclad permanence of the ten "Commandments" are contingent on interpretation. Are coveting my neighbor's wife and/or his possessions two separate sins or one? Major Christian denominations disagree on this question. It looks like Exodus and Deuterotomy have a multitude of commandments that people have retroactively and for their own reasons chosen as "the Ten."
Now, should I grant the person asking me "WDJD?" the coercive power to define the Ten Commandments for me? If so, my answer is prescribed like the first "W" question. For me, the not-universally-accepted Ten Commandments have the same credence as Leviticus 20:10's commandments that "If a man commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." After all, Christians tell me that that the Bible is sacred, totally truth, and the Word of God. In the face of this, I don't think it's a good idea to put adulterers to death -- it would be Christian sharia law.
All this reminds me of the people who want to post the Ten Commandments in public spaces, which is a coercive act based on a dream that people will follow authority and be happy -- which would make me miserable. In fact, the US Constitution is structured for the benefit of unbelievers, critics, and free spirits like me. This is convenient for me, but wholly unbiblical.
Now, let's see if I've kept the Anglican, Reformed, and other Christian-defined Ten Commandments (I choose this sect because I have the most antipathy for their fundamentalism and emotionalism).
"You shall have no other gods before me." I'm following this one pretty well by not believing in any god or gods, but who is "Me"? Whoever supposedly had God speaking through him actually had a higher power's influence. Who would be that self-righteous to presume that God came down from on high and spoke through them? Not someone I'd follow.
"You shall not make for yourself an idol." While Christians would probably accuse me of making myself "an idol," I do no such thing. All people are but a blip in the universe, and again, what we choose to do has no implication with supreme beings and the afterlife. When we die, we just die, and when we act, we try to be ethical and give the meek kindness we can offer other people on this earth. This world is it.
"You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God." Sometimes I say, "God," in conversation or as an exclamation, so I'm probably breaking this one, along with millions of other people, most of them probably self-professed Christians.
"Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy." Does this mean no work? Well, occasionally I work on Sunday. I'm probably better off doing so, because I do a better job, which benefits people. So, I'm guilty as charged. However, Christians that go out to coffee on Sunday are probably part and parcel to this.
Does this mean going to church on Sunday? Well, if that's the case, let me refer you to Emily Dickinson's poem, which describes what I think pretty well.
"Honor your father and mother." Check.
"You shall not murder." Check, but prefer the Catholic Church's translation as "You shall not kill."
"You shall not commit adultery." Check.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Check. I don't lie.
"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife." This one's hard. I'd like to see the man or woman who has never ever ever had a desire for anyone other than their spouse.
"You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor." Check, because I don't desire many material goods, and definitely not my neighbor's.
J (Judgment) -- "If God judged you by the Ten Commandments, would you be innocent or guilty?"
"I'm innocent, my Lord! Completely innocent! Don't punish me -- I don't want to go to eternal torment in Hell! I'll confess permanent fealty to Your Power and my weakness." It's an ulterior motive to act such that we earn our way to heaven -- we should just do the right thing. That aside, the primary break between the Catholics and the Protestants was the debate as to whether our actions in this world can earn our ticket to heaven. Ironically, to say yes devalues the authority of God. And also ironically, it's usually Protestants goading people to act "holy" when their religion says only God decides on our passage to heaven. Both are contradictions and inevitably come back to an argument that we act ethically because it's good for us and humanity. And anyhow, what kind of all-powerful God would care what people do in any kind of fashion knowable to a person? God could only judge me cosmically, and I doubt I could understand the verdict as "innocent" or "guilty."
D (Destiny) -- "If you're guilty, where do you think you will spend eternity -- Heaven or Hell?"
Get out of jail free card! I've professed that I'm neither innocent nor guilty, and should God judge me, I wouldn't have the presumption to judge His Judgment. Neither should you.
In conclusion, the sales pitch failed on me.If anything, I'm thankful for the "WDJD" questionnaire and this writing exercise, because I feel a weight taken off from my shoulders. Did Jesus lift it, or Satan, or was it the fact that I feel good when writing? Well, all I know is this: Satanism's never felt so good. Excuse me, I've got to go watch Left Behind: The Movie.
God does not need us to defend Him, he needs us to worship Him, praise His name and spread His word. God does not need us to do the hard sell! And as it says in Matthew 10:11 when Jesus was giving instructions to the twelve disciples, "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet."
Now I'm fixin' ta (that's right I said fixin' ta) go to Austin and have a good time at my cousin's wedding. Ya'll (that's right I said ya'll) behave yourselves while I'm gone!
I was thinking about volunteer work the other day. The fact that I enjoy helping others, and that it is also a requirement for the International Baccalaureate Programme, which I am in.
And the Salvation Army came to mind. Now, I know them to be a Christian based organization, but I thought I'd check out their website anyways, to see what all they do.
So I looked at their page online, and looked at all the wonderful things they do. I was thinking, well I would really like to be part of this. Then I looked further, to their mission statement and values, and it has "god" and "christian" every third word, practically. Now, I wonder why this is. Why is it so important that they be based on Christianity?
I don't have a problem with Christian organizations, only the wonder that they have to be based around only one religion! As if only Christians care about other people. As if you have to be religious to want to help make the world a better place.
Well I'm not, and I do! I am wondering, that if I ask to volunteer, they may not accept me because I am not Christian. Now I wouldn't want to pretend to be something I'm not, but I think this sounds like a really good cause and I would be willing to act Christian, to help out.
Do you think this should be necessary? Would they refuse my help because I am not a Christian? I believe in helping people, and the work they say they do, without religious belief.
I don't think someone has to be religious to care about the world, or to be a good person, or to want to do good things.
What do you think of the Salvation Army and their work?
Do you think it would be better if they weren't focused on one religion? Or even religion in general?