To be or not to be “Christian”

I consider myself a Christian mystic. I believe that Jesus was a mystic who was teaching a mystic path…like the Buddha or like Rumi.

I realize that my interpretation of Jesus’ words is not the most commonly held interpretation.

In fact, many in our surrounding local culture have chosen to reject Christianity altogether due to its indelible association with domination and colonization.

I often wonder if it is in our best interest, as an aging community in this subculture, to maintain our “Christian” label. I wonder if that label is actually a detriment to growth.

Is there any possibility that the Christian label will ever be attractive to people of our subculture again? Is it not already past the point of no return?

Does anyone really care how I personally have come to terms with being a member of an institution which has dominated and subjugated millions of people? Would my explanation convince anyone to become a Christian mystic like me? I doubt it.

Do you consider yourself a Christian? What is your personal interpretation of that label? Do we want to be associated with Christianity?


  1. Jennifer Gahnstrom

    “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” -Albert Einstein

    From the time we evolved the awareness to ponder all people have asked, “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”
    I don’t know, I’ve been shipwrecked.

    I consider myself an agnostic. I think all religious, spiritual, moral or ethical teachings that help us (all 7 billion of us) be kind to one another are good, and all that help us be cruel to one another are bad. The proof is in the pudding. As the atheist, Wendy Kaminer wrote, “If we do not judge, everything is permissible.”

    No one can prove good teachings don’t come from a higher power, and it is comforting to think they do, but maybe that is just wishful thinking. As the evolutionary biologist Alison Joly wrote, “We balk at imagining nature’s indifference precisely because humans did in fact evolve intelligence, altruism and a sense of individual purpose.”

    I also consider myself a Christian. Perhaps simple teachings I learned as a child are the lifeboat to which I cling after being shipwrecked.

    As the old saying goes, “I try to be a Christian.” I try to treat others as I would like to be treated and am aware that I often fail.

    A couple months ago in my attempt to do better I put the R.E.S.P.E.C.T Guidelines I got at a Martin Luther King Day event last year on my mirror.
    I read them every morning and tell myself to use them.

    R= take RESPONSIBILITY for what you say & feel without blaming others
    E= use EMPATHETIC listening
    S= be SENSITIVE to differences in communication styles
    P= PONDER what you hear and feel before you speak
    E= EXAMINE your own assumptions and perceptions
    T= TRUST ambiguity, we are not here to debate who is right or wrong

    During the day I often fail to use the guidelines.
    But I am pondering more often.

  2. Dianne O'Donnell

    I’m so impressed, not only by your writing, Mary, but also the above comments and such phrases as “I’m Christian in the way many people are Jewish. I’m not observant or orthodox…” (David); “The Walker Way” (Peter); and “A community based in Christianity which welcomes non-Christians.” (Howard). Very pithy! And I don’t say that sarcastically.

    I look at my roots, much the same way one looks at genealogy. I’m Irish. My parents were Irish. My family of origin was Christian, therefore I must too have roots in Christianity. However, if I look a bit deeper, I find there’s a bit of English in my geneaology tree. How could there not be? But both sides of my family claimed to be Irish. At least the ones I knew. And I know my maternal grandmother was a witch and I know my paternal auntie had leanings toward paganism. But they both claimed to be Christians.

    It seemed to me that there were choices made, culturally and spiritually. As for me I claim my Irish heritage; 100%, knowing that it is rooted primarily in the Irish Culture with smatterings of other cultures thrown in for good measure. And I claim my mostly hidden Pagan heritage, knowing that primarily my family were chosen Christians. I’m a chosen Christo/Pagan, not willing to throw Jesus out with the bath water, but feeling a strong connectedness to Other, to Mysticism, to Magic and Energy which includes Jesus.

    I don’t have a pithy phrase to toss into this conversation, but I sure hope others will weigh in, bringing their creativity to the fore with their ideas.

    Happy New Year! Sounds like it could be an exciting 2015!

  3. Peter Doughty

    I never really adopted the Christian label, though I too recognize Jesus as a great mystic. But the Christianity I was exposed to in my youth was dry and dusty: Nothing about it drew me or energized me.
    Perhaps my response would have been different if I’d tuned into the religious part of the civil rights struggle in the US. A big turnoff from personal experience was hostility / intolerance about the youth revolt of the time.
    As for now, I’ve seen the big numbers of young adults with no community-level associations, and I see it as unhealthy, particularly as the times are a-changin’ in the direction of more difficult economically and otherwise. I personally know some who avoid church in any context, be it community dinner, meeting, garden, film-and-discussion, whatever.
    The way I figure it, any growth in numbers of the Walker community is likely to come from one-to-one connections, a trickle-in phenomenon, as people discover pieces of The Walker Way that speak to them.

  4. David West

    Thanks for the post Mary. I always enjoy reading your thoughtful and provocative words.

    I think I’m a Christian whether I like it or not and whether or not I want to associated with Christianity or Christians is really beside the point. I’m Christian in the way many people are Jewish. I’m not observant or orthodox, nor do I even believe that Christ is any more the son of god than I am. I don’t believe he died to save me from my sins. I don’t believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I question more and more if there’s even a God, much less the son of one. Life’s beginning to make more sense to me as a chaotic accident than any kind of master plan. Yet I’m totally Christian. I was raised on the stories, I’m imbued with the culture and most people in the world would look at me as a Christian because of where I live and because I haven’t actively converted to anything else except possibly agnosticism.

    For all our protestations about separation of religion and state I think we have to accept that we are theocratic. God is on our money. Our presidents, indeed almost all of our leaders, take their oaths of office on a Bible. Our enemies identify us as largely Christian. Pretending we’re not Christian isn’t getting us anywhere, just as pretending they are Christian isn’t getting our domestic enemies anywhere.

    The first step toward change is accepting where we are. Because I come from a long line of Christians and because I’m a fairly responsible member of society I also have Christian values. Matching my values to the way I live my life is the hard part but such is the case for all humans. It’s also something we can’t do alone. Ensuring that my representatives in global, cultural, economic and governmental circles live out my values is even harder.

    But yeah. I’m a Christian.

    • Howard Kranz

      I’m more into reclaiming Christianity. I think we owe it to Jesus. I don’t want to abandon Jesus to the fundamentalists. Now for publicity purposes Walker should have a good adjective to distinguish ourselves, call ourselves Inclusive Christians or Open Christians or something.

      I want to respect, include and plagiarize from all the religious traditions, but my base is Christianity, and it feels important for myself and for a community to have a base tradition, rather than Just Everything. Plus as David points out we are from Christianity, for good or ill.

      Now we do have to specifically welcome and celebrate non-Christian members. A community based in Christianity which welcomes non-Christians. I think it works, if we are quite intentional about it.

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