I came across a video clip from a Christian talk show produced in April where the host took questions from his viewers. One man asked why miracles such as raising the dead and healing the blind happened in places like Africa, but not in the United States. He wondered what could be done to encourage miracles in the West. The program's host unwisely replied that it was because “those people overseas didn't go to Ivy League schools.” He then pointed out how western culture has relied too heavily on education and become too skeptical to experience supernatural events.
As often happens when watching so-called “Christian” television, I wanted to shrink away and deny any relation to these people. But then I felt ashamed. I felt like the Apostle Peter, listening to the rooster crow three times while I distanced myself from Jesus. But I am not ashamed of being a follower of Christ. I am not afraid that people might think I am a Christian. I am, however, afraid of their preconceptions of what constitutes a Christian.
I am a Christian, but I am not an anti-intellectual. I respect people with knowledge and education and rely on them for many facets of my daily life. When Jesus said that we must become like little children, he was talking about humility, not gullibility.
I am a Christian, but I am not politically conservative, nor could I be deemed a “right-winger.” Ideologically, I lean to the left and believe that living out our faith includes paying close attention to issues of social equality and justice.
I am a Christian, but I do not believe that gays, Muslims or women are second-class citizens who should be treated differently than I would want to be treated. Loving my neighbour means loving them as I love myself.
I am a Christian, but I do not believe the world was created 6,000 years ago or that dinosaurs became extinct because of the Great Flood. I also do not believe that the world is about to end in a fiery orb of annihilation. There's more to this story that God is writing.
I could keep going, but I think I've made my point. I spent the first seven years of my officership in corps. Due to the nature of the ministry, my time was mainly occupied with the activities and issues concerning those inside the church. It's easy to develop tunnel vision, where we see only what one particular segment of society sees. It's not true for everybody, but it was for me. A lot of my views have changed over the last 10 years as I've spent more time with those outside the corps. The people I associate with on a daily basis do not feel comfortable inside most Christian churches or circles—nor do I. Is there room for them? Is there room for me?
I'd like to believe there is room for me. When I first became a Christian 27 years ago, the corps officer led the congregation in a chorus with the lyric, “There's room at the cross for you.” I replied in faith to that promise. I believed that at the foot of the cross, there was an available space for me.
Instead of creating stumbling blocks that hinder people from Christ, let's make our faith accessible to all. There is room at the cross for them, too.
Major Juan Burry is the executive director of Victoria's Addictions and Rehabilitation Centre.