If a Christian is someone who has all the answers and knows they’re right and others are wrong, I’m not a Christian.
If a Christian is someone with a one-way ticket to heaven who’s convinced that everyone else is going to the fiery place, I’m not a Christian.
If a Christian is someone who knows they’re better, holier and more moral than everyone else, I’m not a Christian. (I generally think I’m considerably worse than most people, but that’s neurosis for you.)
If a Christian is someone who thinks they have exclusive access to God and knows exactly what God thinks about everything, I’m not a Christian.
If a Christian is someone who accepts everything in the Bible at face value as God’s inerrant Word, I’m not a Christian.
If being a Christian means mentally assenting to a required and unquestionable set of doctrines, creeds and theological statements, I’m not a Christian.
If being a Christian means believing six impossible things before breakfast because ‘the Bible says so’ or ‘the church teaches so’ then I’m not a Christian. Similarly, if a Christian is someone who has to disengage their brain and suspend their critical faculties in order to maintain a set of nonsensical religious beliefs and practices, I’m not a Christian – I hope.
If being a Christian means having a magical or superstitious attitude to life, reading every random event as a ‘sign’, treating the Bible as a horoscope and using prayer just as a means to get what you want, then I’m not a Christian. (Or to be more accurate, I sometimes am but don’t want to be.)
If being a Christian means disliking, disregarding or looking down on atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Sikhs, or people of other church denominations than myself, I hope I’m not a Christian. If it means not listening to people with differing beliefs and moral views, I hope I’m not a Christian.
If being a Christian means not caring about the environment because I’m going to be ‘raptured’, or because I see the world as a God-given resource for me to exploit for my material ends, then I’m not a Christian. (Though I could certainly do more to care for the planet.)
If being a Christian means only listening to approved (or ‘Christian’) kinds of music, reading approved books and watching approved films, I’m not a Christian.
If being a Christian means kicking up a fuss whenever some film, book, play or song allegedly ‘blasphemes’ against my faith or my God, I’m not a Christian.
If being a Christian means living under a permanent cloud of guilt and fear of punishment, I don’t want to be a Christian. Though on the other hand, if being a Christian means I can do whatever the heck I please because Christ’s death means I get off scot-free, well, it’s tempting but again no.
If being a Christian means being politically right-wing or a believer in unfettered free-market capitalism, I’m emphatically not a Christian.
If a Christian is someone who rejects the biological theory of evolution, and insists that the universe was created in six days 6000 years ago, I’m definitely not a Christian.
If a Christian is someone who’s known primarily for what they oppose, eschew and disapprove of rather than what they love, enjoy and engage wholeheartedly with, then I don’t want to be a Christian.
If being a Christian means being suspicious of the arts, imagination and creativity except as vehicles of evangelistic propaganda, then I’m not a Christian.
If being a Christian means any or all of these things, then I wouldn’t call myself a Christian and hope no-one else would call me one either.
And if a Christian is someone who is always good and nice, never swears and never does ‘un-Christian’ things, I haven’t got a hope.
But if being a Christian means following the Christ who accepted and welcomed all who came to him in need, then I’m not probably yet fully a Christian but I’d definitely like to be.
If being a Christian means loving God utterly with all your heart, mind, soul and body and loving your fellow-human as yourself, then I’m not really a Christian but I aspire to be.
If being a Christian means becoming more and more filled with, and more and more like, the God of love and goodness and beauty and reality, then I’d certainly like to start out on that eternity-long journey.
If being a Christian means laying aside our doctrinal disagreements and personal agendas, and working together to build the kingdom, welcoming the stranger and outsider, caring for the poor and rejected, loving the unlovely and healing the sick, then I’m daunted by how far I am from this but I see the rightness of it.
If being a Christian means being fully human, fully alive; a fully-flourishing, fulfilled, whole human being, then I’m nowhere near that but I desperately long for it.
And if being a Christian means believing that God is good, that people matter, that the universe is beautiful and life has meaning, and that in the end all will be well, then yes, I’m thoroughly and wholeheartedly a Christian.
So which is it? Is a Christian a Bible-bashing gay-hating bigot, or a grace-filled Christ-like human being?
If it’s the former, I would have to reject Christianity completely; but then I believe that Christ would also reject it. I don’t think that’s what being a Christian is about at all. I believe that being a Christian, truly being a Christian, is potentially the most wonderful yet also the most impossible thing in the world.
So am I a Christian? I don’t know. But by God’s grace, if he’ll have me, falteringly and stumblingly, then yes, I hope I am.