How’s that for a provocative title? But it’s also a serious question.
I guess the answer to that depends on who you ask.
I have a friend who prefers to use the term “Disciple of Jesus” because of the way the term “Christian” has been hijacked and misused (from her perspective). While I can understand that–and honor it–I want to reclaim “Christian” for myself.
The simplest response I can make is “Yes, I am a Christian.” But let me tell you what that means for me.
It means that I try to follow the life expressed by the one we call Jesus…the Christ. He showed me a pattern of God’s love and grace for all people…the marginalized…the “pillars of society”…those who did cruel and horrendous things to him and to others. He didn’t just read his scriptures; he put them into practice–and calls me to do the same.
The best way I can describe him is “God with flesh on.” In ways that I can’t fully understand–and really can’t explain–I do believe that he was both completely human and completely divine. That humanity means that he knew the kind of frustrations and temptations that I have to deal with; the divinity means that I don’t walk that path alone.
If you asked me to summarize who he was (is) and what it means to be his follower, I’d have to go back to his answer to that question. He said that I should (1) love God with all my being, and (2) love my neighbor in the same way I love myself. Everything else he did…everything else he asks me to do…is based on those two “requirements.”
Following him in the faith tradition I belong to is “the way” for me, but I have also learned much from others who follow different paths. I have Jewish nieces; I have a Wiccan cousin; I have family members who are good people but not active in faith traditions; I have friends in different faith traditions. What I have discovered is that each of those traditions has something to teach me…something to help me become a better follower in the the way I have chosen.
It doesn’t mean that I’m perfect. Far from it! I am a human being and, as such, come with flaws and warts. I do my best to correct them, but I know that I’m going to make mistakes–and so I ask for grace from you, just as I hope and try to give you the same grace.