I was brought up Christian—baptized Anglican and enrolled in Roman Catholic Sunday School. That was my mother’s bargain: dad could chose the baptism, but mum got to choose the Sunday school. Smart woman.
I can’t say I’m Christian anymore, though I still have a ton of respect for Jesus from those early days. Like most schools for beginners, my Roman Catholic Sunday School concentrated on the basics. The basics I received were:
- God is Love
- Jesus wants you to take care of those less fortunate than you
- Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself.
- Do Unto Others As You Would Others Do Unto You
- Better to be a Good Samaritan than a Pharisee (i.e., better to not believe and do good deeds, than to believe and not do good deeds)
Now, I’m no theologian, and unlike with some other disciplines I know I haven’t read enough to have a really informed position. But I do know a few things, a few simple things. I know that when Jesus talked about judgment, he said this:
35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40"The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Whenever I read these words I think that Jesus is a man I could love and respect. And whenever I read these words I am saddened by how few of his followers today are worthy of the word "Christian."
Marx once said "I am not a Marxist". I wonder if today, Jesus would say "I am not Christian".
Oh, certainly there are many good Christians, like the priest who taught me so many years ago, or the priest who regularly visited me when I was in hospital even though I wasn’t one of his flock. Many, many Christians feed the hungry and visit the prisoners and the sick.
But so many seem to suffer from the sickness descended from Calvin, this diseased thinking that to be Christian all you have to do is believe in Christ, that belief and not works matter more. Once "saved", once "reborn", well, after that you can do whatever you want: be a Pharisee and still call yourself a Christian.
I stand with the Good Samaritan. I’ll take my chance with God, and Jesus, for that matter, with all my doubts, but at least understanding that it’s my deeds in life that mattered and that what I did to help the least of Jesus’s brothers is what I’ll be judged on, not whether or not I "believed" the correct piece of doctrine about who Jesus was, or what the after life is like, or whether being gay is bad.
Because I’m not a Christian. But I hope I’m a good Samaritan.
And if Jesus is God’s son, I hope he’ll recognize me as such when that time comes when I have to account for the life I lived.