“Christianity defined itself less as a way of life than as a faith which, right from the beginning, involved assent to various propositions.” — Walter Kaufmann, The Faith of a Heretic
This has always struck me as the heart of the problem of Christianity. It’s not so much about how you live, it’s mainly about what you believe. People often ask me to spell out my beliefs, to “prove” my Christian cred. Certainly, once I spell them out, many will say I’m “no longer Christian.” But, I still consider myself a follower of Jesus the Christ who, if we live our lives as he teaches, we, too, can realize our own Christ consciousness.
For far too many people, however, Christianity has become what Kaufmann says, a way of life that assents to propositions or beliefs, even if a person’s actions don’t tend to match those professions of faith. Instead of following Jesus, many Christians spend much of their time making sure they’re getting the doctrines right, making sure there’s no question their beliefs are completely Christian. Still, they treat friends and strangers alike poorly. They have no interest in justice, peace or love. They spout venom about their fellow human beings, and persecute others with impunity. They may even kick their dogs. If you met them, you would never know they were Christian, though it won’t take long for them to tell you that they are.
For me, I believe being a Christian — a follower of the Christ — means modeling the behavior of Jesus. It is a way of life, not a life of correct beliefs. Jesus had no dogma, and no creeds he required the disciples to ascribe to. Instead he simply said, “follow me.” It’s a deceptively simple request, since following his example is very difficult because it requires us to step outside of our comfort zone — our own self-absorption — and truly take care of the needs of “the least of these,” which, by the way, means everyone you come into contact with be they friend, stranger or foe.
As I make that attempt to honestly follow Jesus, I have jettisoned some beliefs that, for me, put a stumbling block in my path. I’ve been called a heretic for many of my beliefs. For example, I don’t believe in the virgin birth or literal, bodily resurrection or that Jesus died for my — or anyone else’s — sins. For many, that kicks me right out of the Christian club.
But, I don’t think Jesus cares if we adhere to the doctrines adopted centuries after his crucifixion. I don’t think there will be a quiz on them at the gates of heaven. I think the measure of our faith will be how well we followed the guidance given in Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”