By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
Every year about this time, I try to answer a basic question: Why am I a Christian?
It’s not because I grew up in a time and place in which reputable people were expected to go to church. Many people I’ve known went to church regularly without giving any evidence of being Christian. Besides, there’s a lot of disrepute in my past, and it wouldn’t take much digging to find a generous measure of it yet.
It isn’t because I felt comfortable following my parents’ faith: The churches of my childhood left enough unanswered questions that I spent nearly 25 years in a radically different denomination whose last and unintentional lesson was that “I don’t know” can be a perfectly legitimate answer.
My being a Christian certainly isn’t because I made my living for a time writing about religion: The other religion writers I’ve met run the gamut from Christian to Baha’i to atheist.
Most of the religions I’ve encountered – and I don’t claim to be a religious scholar at all – teach something to the effect that man is inherently good and simply needs refining or that he earns God’s favor by doing more good than evil. Christianity, however, teaches that even our very nature is hostile to God.
If headlines and a handful of truly evil people I’ve known over the years didn’t provide enough evidence that this is true, I need only look inside myself. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
The conviction that Christianity imparts is like that of a kid caught peeing in the pool: He can neither deny nor change the facts of his guilt. He can only confess, ask for mercy and forgiveness and hope someone else can clean up what he messed up.
The God of Christianity, in my limited understanding, is neither a monster nor an indulgent grandfather. His justice demands that someone pay for all the ways we counter his purposes; in his mercy, he took that penalty upon himself in the person of his son.
John 3:16 has been quoted so often that it may seem trite, but overuse does not make it any less true: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
As for the pool that needs a good cleaning after we’ve all symbolically peed in it, Jesus gives this ultimate promise of a perfect universe in Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.