Grace, Why are You a Christian?

You know how there are some moments when you undergo an internal dialogue that roughly goes "if I acted this one, then I would be a better ____"? I have many of those moments. I embody self-improvement. At the end of my first semester freshmen year, I convened my three roommates for a personal critique session where we identified positive and negative traits about each other for the betterment of our living situation and personal growth. In hindsight, that session could have ended terribly, but I valued self-criticism too much to rationalize not having a critique session. This dialogue reminds me to always be better than I am right now.

 

Recently, I've been playing this mental dialogue in reference to my Christianity. Particularly, if I were as openly enthusiastic about God and sharing His truth with other people the same way I am as openly enthusiastic about voting and civil engagement, I would be a better Christian. If I had a child-like and all-consuming love for God the same way I have a child-like and all-consuming love for my beloved Annie, my beautiful English bulldog, then I would be a better Christian. If I consumed His word the same way I consumed political news, I would be a better Christian. I could go on and on, but the point stands: I could be a much better Christian than I am now.

 

I think discipleship is especially difficult for me, particularly when people are inquiring about the “easy” questions. These questions are questions that I should know the answer to. However, if there is anything that I have learned as a philosophy major, it is that “easy” questions are the most difficult to answer, because they showcase our most fundamental gaps of knowledge regarding the topic being questioned about.

 

Here’s an easy question I was asked a couple of weeks ago: “Grace, why are you a Christian?”

 

I’ve been asked this many times. Typically I’m asked this question by fellow Christians and close friends. They care about my answer but ask more out of politeness. However, this time was different. This person was asking because he wanted to know my answer, my testament, my commitment. The question felt personal. As I struggled to answer his question, I learned that I couldn’t give him an all-convincing answer for why someone else should also be a Christian. I could only tell him why I am a Christian.

 

“Why are you a Christian?” is nuanced. I came to the realization that this question can be answered with either a personal response or what I like to call the recruiting response. The recruiting answer is a almost generic answer that someone provides with the intent to convince another person of the validity and justification of their true belief. I cannot recall a particular time when someone gave me a personal response, and this could be for many reasons. I think one reason might be because the Christian community in its aim for discipleship has convinced itself that the recruiting answer should be sufficient for the personal answer. This conflation is misguided, though. My faith is not a group experience. Faith succeeds because it is so personal, and because it can defy and underline reason when need be. Supplementing the personal answer with the reasonable recruitment answer has the potentiality of extracting the personal experience of religion out of religion. Loving and knowing Christ cannot be achieved strictly as an impersonal intellectual task—someone must be personally invested.

 

I decided I couldn’t give him a recruiting answer. How could I give him a personal answer, though? How do you articulate an experience that is so unique to the individual that any other human being, Christian or not, could understand exactly what the mental and emotional processes are like when deciding that Christianity, or any religion really, was right for him or her? It seemed like it was a phenomenological impossibility.

 

Ultimately, I tried to articulate my personal answer to this person who wanted to know why I am a Christian. I told him that engaging with God causes me to have some of the most enlightening experiences I have ever had. Through prayer and reading the Bible, I come to understand truths about the world and me in it. These truths that reveal the condition of man and God’s Good are peculiar, because they underline how mundane everything that does not partake in His good is. Worldly truths become empty and all things that people characterize as bad and evil seem empty. The material world and worldly experiences are dull in comparison to the truths God reveals to me. Particularly, these truths are so magnificent when first encountering them. They are awe-inspiring and perspective changing, yet immediately after knowing these truths, they become some of the most self-evident truths I know. I wonder afterwards how it is possible for me to have gone through life without knowing this new information when it was so obvious to begin with. Yet, these truths are never dulled. They remain brilliant and they are continuously supplied to me. I characterize my life as a never-ending quest for truth and God and Jesus’ teachings fulfill that for me. I am a Christian because Christianity is truth.

 

I doubt I was able to articulate my personal reason well. I doubt that it is even well articulated now. However, my personal reason for being a Christian is my own personal reason. As long as it makes sense to me and I believe it wholeheartedly, my articulation does not need to be convincing, let alone perfect. My relationship with Christ need only make sense to me, and I think that’s the beauty in religion.    

 

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