Sunday, July 15, 2007

What is a Christian?

A couple of articles this past week have compelled me to lead off with the above eternal question, which certainly won't be answered in this or any other forum, unless of course God is a blogger somewhere.

Much hue and cry has been coming from many places over the pronouncement by Pope Benedict XVI that the Roman Catholic Church is and remains the "one true church", and that salvation can only be obtained from said one true church.

Some of the myriad interpretations of this Vatican missive speculate that Rome is trying to assert a very narrow interpretation of exactly what constitutes the definition of a 'church' in theological terms, along with the assertion that they are the only ones that meet that definition.

All I can say about this is through my limited experience as a practicing Catholic, which ended around when I turned 12, and what my own sense of faith tells me about these things.

Theology is defined in at least one source as
"The study of the nature of God. The study of religion, and religious beliefs." As such, Theology is an enterprise of man, and thus subject to man's inherent imperfections, penchant for altering the truth for his own purposes, and desire to build elaborate structures and rituals around a truth, where none are really essential to the preservation of that truth, and are perhaps better suited to control of the message surrounding the truth, and through that exercise control over the believers.

For me, this defines much of the Roman Catholic Church throughout its' history, particularly the period that led up to the
Protestant Reformation. I'm no religious scholar by any means, but it would seem to me that if Benedict XVI is looking to call out other Christian denominations as being somewhat less than the Roman church, he need look no further than the nearest mirror for the root of the existence of these denominations. This should be especially clearer to this Pope, from whose earthly German origins sprang that same Reformation.

Bottom Line: A monstrous bureaucracy, with a storied history of corruption and duplicity on many fronts, is hardly the sole road to salvation in my book. For me, we are all loved by God, who gave his only Son to free us from the suffering of sin and death, and we need to lead our lives in accordance with His teachings and those of Jesus Christ.

I know that by focusing on this I will be leading my life in the way it was intended for me to do.
To be sure, I will mess up. I will make bad decisions and questionable choices. Knowing that I am loved helps move one foot in front of the other each day, so long as I am walking that intended path. Even as I struggle with the present and future uncertainties of this life, that's really all I need to know.

There was a
guest column in the Free Press this week that asked some really interesting, fundamental questions that should be of interest to anyone who purports to identify themselves as a Christian. While much of Mr. Rains' column centered on another corrupt, duplicitous bureaucracy that we are all too familiar with, the bulk of his assertions went to the heart of what those who identify themselves as Christians should hold as core beliefs.

It is our nature as flawed, imperfect human beings to take the pristine word of God and mold it for our own purposes. We rationalize, we justify, we ignore, we
bloviate. We become excessively, hypocritically narrow-minded, or too accepting of things that do not hold true to what should be our first priorities as people of faith.

Remove the labels of "organized" Christianity for a moment, and focus on the Word as we know it. The Bible as we know it today may or may not be representative of the "true word" of God, as written thousands of years ago. Some take it literally; some take considerable liberties with its' meaning. I try to use the lessons that I read in the Bible, and those taught to me by my pastors, as guideposts for living. These include the
Golden Rule and Psalm 23.

As I've said before, the closest representation we will ever see on this earth of the true word of God in action is through those who believe and live by that Word, including the admonition that we
live by faith and not by sight. Mr. Rains' father was very wise when he said, "I can't hear what you're saying, your actions are speaking too loudly".

I think I've said enough for now. To try to say anymore flies in the face of humility. This is probably why I don't write consistently; some of what I could say I don't feel comfortable saying.

Enjoy your Sunday.

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