Eleven different ways of experiencing Christianity—Part 10
There are many ways of seeing yourself as a Christian. You can add another way as your faith grows; you can have more than one at a time and move through them over time.
I am going to look at this through Advent this year. None of them is wrong when taken in context with the others; all of them are wrong on their own. The list is not exhaustive.
A community of people in whose presence you feel safe
The lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden underfoot.Bonoeffer
After the news was announced that the number of people on the 2021 census that put their faith down as Christian was down for the first time to under 50% the Observer focused on the solace that people find in faith. It cited research that has been “decades in the making and now encompasses thousands of studies”, suggesting faith contributes to better well-being as it provides ways to cope with life’s stresses. The article then offers a variety of activities that people can take up to achieve similar benefits without the inconvenience of having to believe in a deity. These include practising mindfulness, keeping gratitude diaries, cultivating of awe through nature, and signing up for voluntary activities in the community that help you feel better about yourself. (Source Christian Today).
The writer of the Observer article, along with some who see themselves as Christians, see Christianity as some kind of club that you belong to, a self-help club that practices things that help its members, but which can be found elsewhere.
The community aspects may be available elsewhere and I believe that those who miss out on the community aspects of Christianity are missing out, although because of my autism I tend to arrive late and leave early when I suspect a service may be busy or have sounds from different directions, I cannot filter unwanted sounds out. But have seen these community aspects of our faith done really well by online services. It is not enough to simply stream services and have everything else building-based when vulnerable people are still housebound due to Covid, which has not gone away and is now endemic. But although being in a mutual interest group, or increasingly a special interest group, Christianity is more than people who join together for mutual support. What joins us together is not our interests, but Jesus himself.
It’s all about Jesus
Christianity is all about Jesus Christ, that’s where the name comes from. Christians take a lot of help and comfort from community aspects of faith, but it lacks something, Jesus. I am not a Christian because I find it a worthwhile pastime. It is worthwhile, but the reason is that I find it to be true, It is about a personal relationship with Jesus, although what relationship means varies amongst Christians. Some have a relationship with Jesus like with an employer, someone who sets tasks and judges you on how well you do.
I have a relationship with Jesus as one with a guide who is also my friend, helping me find my way through a world I find difficult, and lifting me up when I trip in the darkness, I have a lot of darkness, but also have a laugh together. But also I recognise the holiness of Jesus as holy, almighty, the creator of the universe; I get the awe of God through being in nature, and it has a lot to do with the routes I choose when I cycle. Keeping the intimacy of a friend and the majesty of the almighty Jesus in balance is not easy.