I was at a faith-based university and had talked for 50 minutes on our global and local connection with people around the world who make many of the things that we take for granted. I talked about global poverty and introduced the audience to Arifa in Bangladesh who earned $24 per month. I showed pictures of a dump in Cambodia where barefoot kids pick through trash for 25-cents per day. I shared the story of my friend Amilcar, who risked his life for his family traveling from Honduras to the United States riding on top of trains and outrunning bandits who wanted to hold him for ransom.
And “Are you a Christian?” is the first question the audience asked. It just kind of hung there. This was fairly early on in my years of speaking about these stories and it was the first time I had been asked the question, but it wouldn’t be the last.
I think I said something about being raised Catholic and then proceeded to give a very humanistic answer. But on the inside I was screaming, “Does it matter?!”
Every story I share I do my best to put my heart into. The stories and the kindness of those who entrusted me with their stories still motivates and moves me even if I’ve shared their stories hundreds of times. So I had just put my heart out there and then the question came as if my answer could devalue everything I had just shared.
Maybe I read too much into the question. Maybe it was a “just curious” question and nothing more. But it felt an awful lot like an “are you on my team?” question. I felt like my answer lost some of the students. Like they were all about my work and stories until I stepped around the question.
The professor responsible for inviting me continued to use WEARING in his class and he would get the question about my faith too. Here’s what he wrote me:
I always get asked by students whether I know anything about your faith. I point them to your blog entry where you discuss that. In my mind, I see you as being more like Jesus than many who call themselves Christians. I try to challenge my students to think about what the gospel message really is. It is all about loving God and loving neighbors — loving God by loving neighbors. And the fact that you are out there loving and serving ‘the least of these’, promoting justice among people everywhere, that’s what I hope for from them. From myself, too.
That’s a pretty humbling comment from a man I greatly respect. It’s also one that I’m a little embarrassed to share. “This guy said I’m like Jesus!” #humblebrag!!” But I feel like it gets to the heart of what I want to get at with a response of “Does it matter?”
We’ve since discussed this question at greater length and settled on that maybe the best response is, “What do you think?”
Am I a Christian?
Recently Annie and the kids and I have been attending Commonway Church where my friend Matt is the pastor. Matt asked me to talk at church about listening. The point being that before loving your neighbor you have to know their name and listen to them. Two weeks ago, I gave my talk. Or should I say it was a sermon?
I didn’t talk about Jesus or the Bible, I just did what I always do and talked about the people I listened to and how they’ve made me want to be a better person. After my talk Matt connected it to the Bible.
I gave a sermon in a church (listen to it ), yet I’m no more or less a Christian than I was when I was first asked the question.
Am I a Christian?
That’s still a question that I find very complicated to answer.
What do you think?