by Bil Aulenbach

Am I a Christian?

My father was an Episcopal clergyman. He thought he was a Christian. My mother was born and baptized a Methodist but became an Episcopalian when she married my father. She, too, thought she was a Christian. I was baptized when I was three weeks old in the Episcopal church, but my parents said later it was a Christian baptism done Episcopal style. I often wondered, am I really a Christian, or only a baptized Episcopalian?

During my lifetime the Roman Catholic church has suggested, rather strongly, that they are “the true church,” which translates into “we are the only Christians.” They have also said that I am not welcome in their churches until I become one of them, but that’s okay with me. RCs are big on rules and regulations. I am not big on rules, except for agape.

Until nine years ago, I was 100 percent Episcopalian. Then an Episcopal bishop told me I no longer was welcome in his church in the Los Angeles area. He never would tell me why. At that stage, I thought if he’s a Christian, I don’t think I want to be. I finally decided he was an Episcopal bishop, not a Christian one.

Then Annie and I started attending a United Congregational Church in Irvine that is progressive. We really like it. They never baptized us; they just accepted us as members. So now what am I? A UCC-er? A UCC-er with an Episcopal baptism? Or a UCC-er baptized Episcopalian? Maybe Christian? I’m not sure anyone really has a final answer to this dilemma.

I know this for sure: Jesus was never a Christian! He was born a Jew and died one.

Every one of our relatives is either unchurched or a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists let me know in a hurry that I am not a Christian because I haven’t been reborn, don’t believe the Bible was written by NoOneUpThere, don’t subscribe to “intelligent design” (which, for me, is neither), and don’t reject the LGBTQ community, whose members all have made “bad choices,” according to fundamentalists.

Fundamentalism can get pretty confusing, though. Did you know that there are over eleven thousand different brands of fundamentalism? That’s a lot. This makes me wonder, how do they figure out who is a Christian and who is not?

Have you ever read the history of Christianity? In seminary, we had to take a minimum of two semesters. Some of it is rather nasty, and as I studied it I had to ask myself, lots of times: Is this what Jesus had in mind as he talked about the Kingdom of God? I hope not!

I suspect I know what some readers might call me, and the word starts with “h,” ends with “ic,” and has four letters in between. All Progressive Christians are called that.

Because I don’t believe in a multi-tiered world with a divine Traffic Cop on top running the show, some suggest that I must be an atheist. I plead guilty to this charge, primarily because I live in the twenty-first century and know that there is nothing up there but more universe.

What do I call myself? It’s not complicated! I am a “Follower,” a Follower of a man named Jesus who preached and taught some two thousand years ago. His message was all about love, the agape kind: unconditional, all-forgiving, imbued with caring about all people and our environment.

Jesus was quite a guy, and I call him “my Christ.”

What would you call me?

 

Photo courtesy of gardener41. CC by-sa 2.0

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