I hold a very un-PC and unpopular belief: I think it's best if at all possible to stay within the religion that one has been raised. After exploring Goddess religions in my late teens and early twenties, I tried for several years to be a Unitarian, but having already had the experience of becoming clean and sober after years of serious drug and alcohol dependancy, I was hopelessly convinced of my need for God's grace. My experience of having gotten sober was that it was not as a result of me having pulled myself up by my bootstraps, but as a result of God's grace. Unitarians (good, smart, fun people in my book) are just not known for talking much about our need for God's grace. They tend to have a really high opinion of human beings, which makes my wonder "what the hell planet are you from?" Having said that let me say that I've had more fun in my life hanging out with Unitarians than I should admit to in a public forum.
I have good reasons (as do loads of other folks) for leaving the church and never coming back. I won't go into the blood and guts narrative of my fundamentalist upbringing, but let's just say that it was theologically disturbing on many levels and being me in that kind of church is a problem.
I'll not go into how I came back to the church here, but I will say that coming to the Lutheran church, with the theology of grace...grace that is freely given and which is never earned...was so much more liberating than leaving the church in the first place. Why? Because I'm Christian. I refuse to stay out of the church. The Biblical narrative formed me. Worship formed me. Prayer, the triune God, hymnody, communion....I can try and pretend that it's not who I am, but I'd be lying.
Perhaps this is why I tend to react so negatively toward the vast array of white buddhists, white rastafarians, white Sikhs etc... here in Boulder county Colorado.
I guess the question for me is this: in what ways does religion form who we are? In what ways does cultural ethos (ultimately informed by the dominant religion) form who we are and can these things be changed? Hinduism is so bound to India, can I as someone who was born a privileged white protestant American ever become a Hindu? This is an admittedly flawed line of reasoning when extended to global Christianity...for it is certainly not culturally American (thanks be to God), and what is meant by "American" changes every day too, as Diana Eck asks "Who is the 'we' of 'we the people'?"
This whole line of thinking is not coming from a place of derision toward other faiths. Actually, my years of studying Islam under Fred Denny at CU Boulder guided me toward a deeper living out of my own faith...after studying about Muslim daily prayer and the Hajj and the Ramadan fast, I couldn't help but be moved to consider : "In what ways am I living out my faith?, why do I not pray several times a day?", but it did not move me to becoming Muslim, because I'm Christian.
Here's something I read this week from Theologian John Hick of Claremont Graduate University in California:
For our religion creates us in its own image, so that it fits us and we fit it as no other can. It is thus for us the best, the truest, most naturally acceptable faith, within which we rightly remain....There are, of course, and will always be individual conversions in all directions, for individual reasons. But broadly speaking we do best to live within the religion that has formed us, though with an awareness that the same holds true for those who have been formed by a different tradition from our own.
I obviously need to think less about what other people should be doing and simply say - hey, I'm Christian because I'm Christian...also because I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ is mind blowing and true....but the whole "truth doesn't necessarily mean fact" post will have to wait until later.
Call me a relativist if you must, just doen't assume I'm not a deeply faithful Christian 'cause them's fightin' words.
Thank you for the Bible and for the church...but mostly for the Gospel of Jesus Christ which tells us who we are. I am marked with the cross of Christ, help me remember what this means and to faithfully, daily live out the Gospel. Thank you for creating a world with its multiplicity of cultures and peoples and ways of accessing the transcendent truth of you. Forgive me when I think that I have this figured out. Help me see you in my fellow human beings who name you differently. And if there's an extra measure of humility available, I could use that too, thanks.
In Jesus' name,