Some people associate an ‘all-or-nothing ultimatum’ with identifying as a Christian: ‘You believe the entirety of the Bible and take it as fact, or none of it. There isn’t room to pick and choose.’
This is a big challenge for people who—by contrast—identify as Christian, but take more of a middle-ground approach on many of the issues the Bible raises.
On one hand, I get it. Religion isn’t Chipotle—you don’t get to customize your order and get something completely different than the patron behind you…or do you?
Like most children who grew up attending church, I took all of what I was taught as fact. The stories of apples, snakes, arks, and crowns of thorns swam around in my thoughts. As I closed my eyes each night, I drew comfort from these stories.
As I got older, I was faced with contradictions between what I had come to believe and what I was experiencing. I began to doubt. In all transparency, this doubt brought along with it an enormous amount of guilt.
The first time my faith came into question was during a 6th grade mythology lesson. As a society, the ancient Greeks had created gods to help the unknown make sense. These gods were blamed for misfortune or worshiped for blessings. The idea of creating tales to help cope with unexplained events brought comfort into a situation that was previously frightening.
The concept of stories explaining the unknown was a part of my own faith, too.
The second time I examined my identity as a Christian was near the end of college. I attended a church that was a different denomination than the one I grew up attending. They still used a Bible though—so how different could it be? I left in shock about not only how differently the sermon was approached, but how the meaning in the words had changed for me.
It became apparent that the Bible was being interpreted in a number of ways to fit a purpose, or even a specific agenda.
As a consequence of this experience, I found it difficult to see the Bible as factual. A fact is not interpretable. You shouldn’t be able to read the same passage and draw individualized conclusions from it.
Overwhelmingly, I had the urge to find fault in all of it.
As the years have passed, I still find comfort in the faith I had as a child. I have allowed myself to accept the Bible for what it is: a wonderful guide for life, yet still subjective to the reader.
After openly talking with others, I have found I’m not alone. People might not use the phrasing “pick and choose,” but they have found other ways to meet in the middle.
I have found my own way to believe. I personally don’t need the approval of other religions or institutions; I need only the approval of God. I will find what I think is good, and in the good, there will be God or whatever he/she may be called.
Middle ground can exist—it just takes people realizing their own way can’t always be 100% right. Finding faults in other people and their interpretations is easy, but taking the time to understand each other’s thoughts and ideas, and recognize that just because they are different doesn’t necessarily mean one of us is wrong, would leave us all much better off in the end.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on identity from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.