Christianity was in the news this month when it was reported that Youth for Christ, an evangelical social-service organization, plans to build a $11-million youth centre at the northwest corner of Main Street and Higgins Avenue.
Winnipeg Centre MP Pat Martin railed against a plan proposing that the City contribute funds to the project, calling it “taxpayer-funded proselytization.”
“These people are evangelical fundamentalists,” Martin said. “Offering much-needed sports opportunities is just their way of luring in young prospects.”
For the past two weeks, Rev. Jack Duckworth has been exploring the topic of Christianity. He began with a look at the question, “What is a Christian?” Last week, he responded to the question, “What is a non-Christian?”
The series concludes below with a look at the question, “What does it mean to no longer be a Christian?”
Each week a different Uniter writer will respond to Duckworth’s article, demonstrating the wide-ranging and passionate opinions that arise when questions of faith are
brought to the table.
What does it mean to no longer be a Christian?
by Jack Duckworth, University of Winnipeg Volunteer Chaplain
It is intriguing to say “I am no longer a Christian.”
If someone has only vague ideas about Christianity, the reason for such a choice is easy to understand.
However, as my first and second articles noted, a Christian is someone who follows Jesus, while a non-Christian is someone who doesn’t follow Jesus. Confusion arises when one is influenced by the actions of a few who contradict what Christianity is really about.
Perhaps a better starting point is to ask whether the person rejecting Christianity was a Christian to begin with or if they had misguided assumptions about Christianity?
A cultural assumption about Christianity does not, on its own, make one a Christian, nor does short-lived compliance to a vague Christian ethos.
If one claims to no longer be a Christian based on suppositions, it is advisable to clarify their starting point. In this sense, a person who chooses to leave Christianity may, in fact, never have lived the faith.
Assumptions are not always wise and can lead to problems when addressing why one chooses to no longer be a Christian. One such assumption is that personal choice, common in the secular culture, has the same influence in the Christian faith. On the other hand, it is often assumed that coercion is also a common feature of the Christian faith.
But rejecting Christianity without a clear and honest focus on the person of Christ is incorrect. A close look at Jesus’ teachings and life would demonstrate that he offered freedom of choice without coercion and demonstrated a life of exemplary standards and grace to all who lived in his proximity.
What he offered in his life and teaching can be found in the Bible. What one finds, among many things, is an invitation to follow him. The response, then as now, was never 100 per cent obedience. However, the choice to follow him was never contrived, manipulative or enforced. Rather, it was freely offered.
To say one is no longer a Christian because Christianity appears bogus requires justification.
If one feels the biblical information is not credible, all you have to do is prove everything in the Old and New Testament is fully unreliable. That accomplished, the next step is to prove Jesus’ first followers never existed. Completing that, then prove that Jesus never lived. Then prove that the scholarship surrounding Christianity for the almost 2,000 years since Jesus lived is unreliable and there might be a chance to justify that Christianity is, in fact, bogus.
There is a vast amount of biblical truth and credible scholarship that cannot be brushed off because one personally does not like Christianity.
Everyone deserves to have earnest questions answered. Assuming someone ought to believe Christ simply because they belong to a Christian community is a weak premise. The person asking the question deserves an honest answer regardless of the challenge and nature of the doubt.
But if one considers Christianity to be bogus, clear proof is needed. Instead, if questions are left unanswered, finding the truthful answer is critically important.
Everyone is offered the opportunity to hold an opinion and make life choices. Invariably, there are inconsistencies in how we process decisions. However, claiming to no longer be a Christian begs clarity. What do you think?
Rev. Jack Duckworth is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church Winnipeg and is available as volunteer chaplain at the U of W Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. He invites all interested to the last of three dialogue sessions in room 3M50 related to this article series: A discussion surrounding the question“What does it mean to no longer be a Christian?” happens Wednesday, March 17 at 12:30 p.m.
Losing my religion wasn’t all that hard
by Alex Garcia, Volunteer Staff
Rejecting Christianity after experiencing some sort of interaction with the faith is an experience unique to each individual. For some, it means a complete change in lifestyle; for others, a quiet and subtle alteration in nothing more than their personal identity.
In truth, the only blanket statement that can accurately be made is that each individual who identifies themselves as no longer Christian has made a conscious decision to move away from a faith they found incompatible with their own understanding of life.
It is difficult to clarify how one is no longer a Christian past the general point of being able to say, “I don’t follow the teachings of Jesus or the Bible,” because of some of the very same points Rev. Duckworth makes.
As the religion has evolved in its 2,000 year history, the definition of a “Christian” has as well. Duckworth entertains the notion that Christianity is based on the idea of freedom of choice, which is indeed a correct statement.
What remains to be questioned are the choices themselves and the effect they may have with the individual’s personal identification either towards the religion or away from it.
Salvation from damnation was Christ’s message. Through him, there was the chance of eternal life in paradise and the experience of the highest glory.
The other road was one which people believing the message would be less inclined to take. Christ did not have to preach a message of “join me or else.” All that was required was the faith that people hearing the message would understand both sides of it and allow their personal fears to influence, or manipulate, their decision.
To say that the only reason people reject Christianity is because they question the validity of a religion based on texts written thousands of years ago and modified repeatedly is false.
As previously mentioned, the rejection of a faith is as personal and unique a process as the acceptance of one. To say that justification is required by non-believers for claims that Christianity is “bogus” is accurate. Scientific justification is more readily available for a number of refutable claims made by the Bible now than ever.
It should also be noted that the burden of irrefutable proof is on those that makes the original claim, rather than those who question it.
Furthermore, to say that we must look through and identify every claim made by the faith, disprove it and move onto the scholarly work surrounding it and disprove that in order to be able to claim that Christianity is indeed “bogus” is inaccurate.
Christianity is based on the idea of an omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient god. An omniscient god would not then purposefully give his believers false information or lead them astray. It would seem near impossible for such a being to do so and still claim to love and cherish each individual creation.
Regardless of the amount of information surrounding the faith, if it is based on divine knowledge that can be refuted with human knowledge, a refutation of a single piece of an absolute statement is a refutation of the entire statement itself.
Faith in itself is religion’s greatest accomplishment. It can also be its greatest downfall.
It is of my own belief that faith was all that was left behind after my rejection of Catholicism. The loss of faith was worth more in my decision than any sort of proof that was later discovered or the arguments both for and against Christianity that were later made known to me. While it held the most weight in my decision-making process, it also was the smallest burden to rid myself of. It seemed to be a foreign concept to me and once “let go” it seemed insignificant to my person.
I cannot answer what it means to no longer be a Christian past my own experience. I cannot assume to know what it means for everyone else. The only answer I can give is that once the decision has been made, it really doesn’t mean much at all.
Alex Garcia is a human rights and global studies student at the University of Winnipeg.
Published in Volume 64, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 11, 2010)