I just finished reading a blog post on http://suburbanturmoil.blogspot.com (brought to my attention by http://teawithdee.blogspot.com) that really highlighted some of the things I've been struggling with since my move here. I'm a Christian but I don't feel I fit into any of the convenient templates that the church creates. I wish I was as eloquent as these bloggers but I just don't have the gift of language, so I'll explain as best I can and hope you forgive me for my rambling.
As you can see from my profile, I call myself a "Zen Quaker Red Letter Christian." Zen because I look for balance, peace, and harmony in my life; Quaker because I see the sacred in every day and everything - I don't find our Christian rituals necessary, although they can be comforting; Red Letter because many bibles highlight the words of Christ in red letters - I think Jesus summed it all up in his words, especially to love God and love one another.
I have a hard time with Christians who try to force their beliefs, interpretations, and rituals on others. Something I learned as a history major and am learning as I follow my husband's studies in seminary - it's all subjective. We view the bible through the lens of our experiences and prejudices. We have a neighbor who is a "called" pastor; he has no education beyond high school. There is no way he can tell me that he takes the bible literally since it was written in languages that he cannot read. English translations are only approximations of the more complex Greek and Hebrew. Plus, one must know the context of the writing in order to fully understand it. When even highly educated scholars differ on certain matters, I realize that no one can tell me their interpretation is right and mine is wrong. Which expert are we to believe?
I've come to see the varieties of Christianity as different parts of the body of Christ. We're not all hands or noses or knees. We are all different with different backgrounds - so we find the denomination that best suits our personality and needs. As long as we keep in mind that we're here to do God's work, that's all that matters. When we get into all the legalistic mumbo jumbo, we're missing the point.
Our pastor recently did a sermon on drinking alcohol. He was raised in a church that believed it was a sin. In the sermon, he pointed out that there is no where in the bible where it is prohibited. As a Catholic friend of mine pointed out, Christ's first miracle was turning water into wine - not grape juice; not nonalcoholic wine; real wine. The problem with alcohol is not its consumption but its abuse. But the same can be said about food, shopping...everything in moderation. We should also keep in mind the feelings of those around us - if someone is offended by drinking or is a recovering alcoholic, then it would make sense to refrain from drinking around them. That's just manners. And love.
I don't try to convert people to my beliefs. I think I should try to "walk the walk" and set an example. Drawing a line in the sand and saying "This is the only way to believe" is silly. I like to point people to Galileo's experience. The Church was adamant about it's beliefs and made Galileo recant what we now know is true. How did that advance God's work? I also believe that God is a loving God. Seeing people pigeon-holed into "saved" and "damned" just doesn't sit well with me. I think God is so far beyond our comprehension that he has a plan to save every soul; we just don't have the ability to understand it. Could you imagine us trying to explain economics to an ant? Then picture God trying to explain his plan to we humans. There is an excellent DVD called "Everything Is Spiritual" put out by Rob Bell and NOOMA that features beings in a three-dimensional world trying to communicate with those in a two-dimensional world. This DVD will change the way you see.
I could go on and on....In fact, I guess I already have. So, rather than telling people they must support certain positions in order to be Christian, I think we ought to focus on loving one another, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those in jail....In other words, just do it.