I identify as Christian. Alternatively, I identify as a Christian. At the simplest level “Christian” to me means no more and no less than “a follower of Jesus Christ.” But life isn’t simple. Because there are billions of people who have called themselves Christian and—as a testament to God’s unlimited creativity—each one of those billions understands or understood how they are Christian in their own, idiosyncratic way.
So, it’s not enough for me to say that I am a Christian. I’ve got to talk about what kind of Christian I am.
This gives me pause. It’s a daunting task made even more difficult by the fact that Christianity is often seen as a belief system, or as a cultural heritage, or as a set of practices, or as a philosophy, or as an attitude, or as all of the above or none of the above.
But I am talking specifically about identity—my Christian identity—and so it might be worth exploring the various traditions and forces that have shaped that identity.
The shorthand I have used for myself for the longest time (at least since spring of 1990) has been “Episcopalian.” I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church as an adult and have more or less remained in the bosom of American Anglicanism ever since. But I wasn’t raised Episcopalian. My earliest influences were from the African Methodist Episcopal Church of my father and the Black Baptist Church of my mother. In high school I fell under the influence of Evangelical Christian radio and Chick’s Tracts. In college I was mentored by Evangelical Fundamentalists. After college was when I started my transition to Anglicanism. Even after becoming formally Episcopalian, I have explored other ways of being Christian both within and on the edges of Anglican tradition and even Christianity itself. I have explored Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Sometimes I think I am not so much Christian as Franciscan. I have even made efforts to study other faith traditions besides Christianity.
Although I have had crises of faith, I have never been able to say that I had a phase in which I considered myself to be atheist. Agnostic, yes. But atheist, no. I can say that I flirted with paganism even though I couldn’t shake the sense that my center was somewhere within the body of Christ.
All these traditions—and their associated practices—have left their mark on my soul and on my consciousness. I have learned from each of them—and been wounded by each, in turn. Nevertheless, I cling to the label Christian, for better or for worse.
In subsequent reflections I will examine the various spiritual influences on my life to get a clearer picture of where I am now and where I might be going.
I’d love to have you along on the journey and hear about the places your own faith journey has taken you. Please comment or, even better, write your own reflections on your spiritual journey and post a link in the comments so I can read about it.
I thank you for your attention so far and—to the extent that they are welcome in your life—I wish God’s richest blessings for you.