I'm a recovering "professional Christian." I'm seeking a community of faith (and questioning faith) that is more inclusive, radically ecumenical, less bureaucratic, less doctrinal and tribal, more loving, less institutional and denominational, worship that is more experiential and eclectic, and that seeks wisdom from a variety of wise people and world religious traditions.
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One of many invitations I have been given to trust in Christ, to devote my life to him and his Way, stands out in my memory as definitive and prophetic. At the foot of a rough wooden cross on the top of what used to be the tallest sand dune on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, in an earnest crowd of young seekers after truth and life, we were asked, “Are you ready and willing to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know and trust of God?”
That sounded right, and reasonable, full of passion and promise. It sounded like a continuing story, not a once-and-done transaction saving me from eternal hell; not fire insurance, but life assurance. It sounded like an invitation to a relationship that would develop over time, secure in divine love without fear of getting it wrong. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back I realize that the phrasing and the experience of that commitment opened up a future lived in an upward spiral of cycles, or seasons, of spiritual experience in the world, of seeking and finding, of experiencing and processing, of deepening God-consciousness that no single system of belief or practice could contain. It continues to be a compelling invitation to continue moving “into the mystery.”
My chosen Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, and his Way nurtured in me by my birth parents, my surrounding culture, and my church family, prepared me for a life of moving toward a wider experience and understanding of Jesus of Nazareth as one highly realized fully human incarnation of the universal, pre-existing, and eternal Christ. Jesus of Nazareth remains my central life-defining incarnate relationship to God while inviting me to a wider and deeper experience of God’s incarnation: in the Creation and how it works, in other people, and in their experiences and descriptions of God’s self-revelation in their cultural and historic contexts.
Am I a Christian? Yes, but not in the way the word is used in most churches and misused in culture. The church defines and confines being a Christian to “believers” in Jesus of Nazareth, transactional gospel (his blood for my sin), the systematic theologies, and the institutional churches that have grown up around him. The surrounding culture, with good reason, has come to see being a Christian as a bad thing – hypocritical, judgmental, and exclusive. They know the Church’s historical and contemporaneous inhumanity and cruelty. So you believe in Jesus? “You do well, but even the demons believe and tremble.” The question is, what is done, for better or worse, because of that belief.
I relate so much to the experience of writer and teacher Barbara Brown Taylor as she reflects on her faith journey; “…there is always some scrutiny on the part of one’s Christian friends about whether or not one is still Christian, especially if you’re surrendering truths and certainties. For a long time I listened to other people to decide whether I was still Christian or not, and I would sort of vet myself by the traditional formulae. And about two years ago, the great relief was I decided I got to say whether I was Christian or not, and so I’ve relaxed enormously since then.”
Like Barbara Brown Taylor, it is my place to say what kind of Christian I am, not someone else’s who may want to either dismiss me or embrace me because they think they know what I mean when I claim the name. And, not the denomination that granted me a license (and a livelihood) to believe and honor its version of being and doing “church.” It's really Jesus of Nazareth who defines what kind of Christian I am.
I serve and live in relationship with the eternal, pre- and post-existent, universal Christ - the Christ incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and given the essential nature of God, the Christ incarnate in all of God’s self-revelations or incarnations. For me, salvation (defined as wholeness or “completeness,” a rebirth or “coming to myself” – my true self, exactly and fully human created in the image of God) is living in Christ, not merely believing in Jesus of Nazareth. Being born again by "the renewal of your mind" means using my brain, reorienting my heart, and trusting the Spirit.
I am a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth and I seek a more complete embodiment of his Christ nature or Christ-likeness in me. So, in the more expansive understanding of the eternal universal Christ, I am a Christian seeking to be more completely Christ-like and more fully human. I love this prayer from a communion liturgy made up of sections of services from the Evangelical United Brethren and United Methodist Churches:
“Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord,
so to partake of this Sacrament of thy Son Jesus Christ,
that we may walk in newness of life,
may grow into his likeness,
and may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.”
As declared in 2 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these he has given us his precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature..."
Other translations use phrases like “share the divine nature” and “participate in the divine nature.” Traditional Christian theologies don’t go so far as to affirm that we, by virtue of being created in the image of God and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, actually are incarnations of divinity. These theological systems settle for sharing the possibility of doing “good” and overcoming the temptations of sin and evil. No, as incarnations of God/Being we (and all that is) are by definition divine. What we do with that gift is a choice.
For me, Jesus of Nazareth is the most complete and compelling human self-portrait of God and the most fully realized divinely human person that I know about, to date. I seek to recognize and realize his divine nature, his Christ nature, in others and in me. I am also humbled to affirm those who are disciples and followers of the divinely human messiahs and teachers in their religious traditions and the related cultures that nurtured them in faith and practice – like Mohammed, the Buddha, the Dali Lama – and those who faithfully wait upon the messiah of their faith who has not yet come or been revealed to them, like the Jews. To all I say, “Namaste.”
 David Wilcox, “Out of the Question” released 2003 on the album Out of the Question
 James 2:19
 Barbara Brown Taylor, excerpted from a radio interview, https:// www.pbs.org/wnet/ religionandethics/2006/07/07/july-7-2006-barbara-brown-taylor-extended-interview/ 2552/, accessed 3/31/20
 Romans 12:2
 United Methodist Hymnal, Service of Word and Table IV, p.26-31
 “I bow to you.” The spiritual meaning of Namaste conveys, “the divine in me respectfully recognizes the divine in you.” Namaste invokes the feeling of spiritual oneness of heart and mind with the person one is greeting.