I wasn’t always a Christian. In fact I was raised and spent most of my life in Paganism. My mother is a Druid, and I jumped around until finally landing on Asatru, then Christianity (for the most part).
The label “Christian” gets thrown around a lot today. The person who believes in God and goes to church, the person who believes in God but doesn’t go to church, people who read their bibles, people who don’t, people who were raised Christian, and even people who don’t actually know what they believe so they use the term “Christian” to have an identity. They all fall into that category. Whatever the description, unless someone belongs specifically to another faith or lack thereof, they might choose to call themselves a Christian.
I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I read my bible. I don’t go to a physical church building every Sunday.
We could get into all kinds of debates about whether I should go to church or not, but that’s neither here nor there. We could argue all day about what the bible actually meant by “the church”.
When I go to church I don’t feel like I’m being taught much besides stories from the gospels and life advice, which is useful but not exactly what I want the focus of my religion to be.
Just like Christianity, Paganism is also varied from person to person. However, it differs because there aren’t as many boundaries as there are in Christianity, so the diversity extends a little farther. But, what almost all Pagans have in common is the desire to learn. I haven’t yet met a Pagan who didn’t read books that explored topics from different angles, knew the roots of their religion and where it came from, was knowledgeable about other Pagan traditions, and actively expanded their practice with the new knowledge that came in.
What follows is my opinion. I’m not saying I’m more right than anyone else, but I need to say these things for my sanity.
A huge part of Christianity has been ignored – learning your bible. We can all open a book and read it. We can all go to a building once a week where someone stands up and tells you what it says (because too many Christians don’t want to open the book themselves), but how many of us are willing to actually learn ABOUT the book? The authors? How many people are learning Hebrew? Greek? Reading commentaries and watching documentaries? Learning about the culture of the time period? Looking into the opposing viewpoints of scholars? How many of us even know WHY we read the version that we do? There’s a reason these things are important. It’s because we can’t say we practice a religion if we’re only doing it halfway.
I’m not debating that being “saved” isn’t straightforward. I know that you have to repent and accept Jesus into your heart. But how much effort are we willing to put into it? Before and after we’ve been saved, we can’t lose the momentum. We can’t be complacent in mediocrity.
We hear things from different denominations, like the Baptists, who swear you need to be baptized. The Seventh Day Adventists swear that Saturday is the Sabbath (which it is). The Catholics say all kinds of things that I just can’t back up, but I’m not judging someone who wants to be a Catholic. There’s all of these rules and borders around the denominations, and unfortunately I see too many people who don’t know why they chose the one they did.
Do you know why you believe in the Trinity? Is it just because of the Johannine Comma? Do you know what that is? I believe in the trinity, but I know why I do, and it’s not the Johannine Comma that convinced me. If you know what that is, then I applaud you because sadly too many Christians don’t. How is any part of the Old Testament relevant in today’s world? Do you know? If not, research it.
There are many reasons I think Pagans shouldn’t be ridiculed or shamed, but the best one I can think of is that they aren’t threatened by change. They don’t mind when they learn something new, and there’s always a yearning for explanation and understanding. In fact, it was this very culture that led me to Christianity. It wasn’t because I despised what Pagans were doing and I saw “the light,” it was because I read books upon books. I went to church one day because I was invited by friends, and I felt an energy in the room. I decided to go home and pick apart Christianity into a thousand little pieces. I tried to prove it wrong, but I couldn’t. It made more sense to me than Paganism did.
I probably wouldn’t be here, saved, if I hadn’t been raised in an inquisitive culture. So maybe we can take a leaf from their book?
Maybe we modern Christians wouldn’t be made fun of so often if we could actually answer the hard questions, or if we could do more than spout off bible verses. We should be able to answer difficult questions and be able to explain the concepts presented in the bible in normal every day English without having to reference the book.
So why do I not like to be called a Christian? Maybe it’s snobby, in fact it probably is, but I just don’t want to not be taken seriously. When I hang out with my Pagan friends (yes, I still keep them) we can actually openly talk about religion. At first we didn’t because there were assumptions that came with the territory of the Christian title (“she believes in this, that, and doesn’t do x, y, or z”). Everything was punctuated by “no offense,” or “it’s okay if you don’t agree,” until one day I explained that their assumptions were wrong about me. They had no clue. How could they? I was a “Christian.”
I want to avoid confusion like that in the future (at least until the negative stereotypes fade).
So what do I call myself? If anyone asks, I say “I believe in the bible.”