Sun Jul 5
So, cards on the table: I am a Christian, currently practicing in the Baptist tradition. I am not a very good Christian, and I am certainly not a good Baptist yet. But I am beyond blessed that the Lord has guided me to the right path, and I greatly look forward to pursuing my development as a servant of Christ, as I join the community of faith here in Kansas City and continue my study of the holy scriptures.
I was not raised in a particularly strong Christian household. My dad is Catholic, and my mom is non-denominational, but they had a very laissez-faire approach to teaching me about faith, scripture, doctrine, etc.; I went to church a little bit with my grandma as a kid, but discovered the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ on my own, much later in life (I guess their approach worked).
I was first turned onto the idea of practicing Christianity from the writings of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. I cannot recommend his work enough, especially to young people. Funny story, I found Kieregaard totally by chance: When I was 17, I vaguely remember being heartbroken about some girl, and I wandered into a Barnes & Noble, grabbing a random anthology of his off the shelf. His earlier writings are very far removed from Christian theology, and are honestly just some of the best dang literature ever written; it was only several years later that I started reading his strictly spiritual works.
America is a land of religious freedom. The core motivation that drove so many early settlers and pioneers into the new world is that they just wanted to worship the divine in their own way. I am firmly committed to this ideal; I don't know what it means to say "America is a Christian country" (although certainly most of our ideas and moral precepts are derived from the Bible), but I strongly believe that the USA should remain a welcome place for people of all faiths. KJV, Matthew 22:
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
I am reluctantly tolerant of those who claim to practice no faith whatsoever. I've met a great many people over my life who are atheists (or who claim to be atheists), and a vast majority of them are excellent, kind, thoughtful, hardworking, beautiful people. I've acquired an incredible amount of knowledge and wisdom from my non-spiritual friends, and those experiences and insights form a large part of who I am today. Reconciling the practical knowledge I've gained from my time in the secular world with my discipleship in the Bible will be one of the great challenges of the rest of my life.
While I'm not very good at direct proselytization, I do think that everyone could benefit from eventually reckoning with their spiritual self. All I will say on that matter is: Since the moment I accepted the Gospel as the truth of our world and our creation, my life has improved substantially, in every conceivable measure. And that there's truly no special trick or technique that unlocks this understanding for you. If you're interested in pursuing Christianity, the only advice I have is to pray, read the bible, go to church, and talk to other Christians about it. Authors like Søren Kierkegaard and C.S. Lewis can also be great starting points, but they are also just people; their words are not the Gospel, and it takes a lifetime to even begin unraveling the deep truths held therein.
On this note, though, I left out one important quality in my discussion of how to be a good citizen. It is perhaps the most crucial one. And that is the quality of spiritual soundness.
I first heard this term from Joe Moglia, the chairman of the TD Ameritrade corporation, when he came to speak at our college. He didn't really elaborate much on what it meant. This quality is definitely something you can experience, and it's actually quite easy to detect in other people, but it's pretty much impossible to describe. The best rendition of it I've heard in English is from the French mathematician Blaise Pascal:
All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.