It's been a while since anybody stopped me to ask, "Are you a Christian?" It is not at all clear whether this is because my life does not (no longer?) reflect a lifestyle which might generate such a question, or simply because I don't hang out much around folks to whom this is a vital issue.
So, in light of certain public controversy, am I a Christian?
In our home my mother read from the Bible every evening before we began our meal. She once said we'd gone through the entire Scriptures about three times while I was growing up.
The family legend is that at age 6-weeks my father carried me the equivalent of a mile on Sundays so our family could all attend church together. With the exception of my quasi-typical teen years, I have probably been in one church or another ever since.
For the record, I do hold a B.S. degree in Biblical Studies, having originally majored in Christian Education with minor in History. This education may have "made" me a Christian, if I'd let it.
For a mercifully short period we were in what was euphemistically called "full-time ministry" and later in "faith ministry" (which meant we had no money). The paperwork has long since vanished in our many moves, but I was briefly considered "ordained" by a congregation in the Church of God in Christ denomination (look that up on the Internet).
If somehow I could combine the faith my journeys demanded with the experiences since endured, there might even have been some success in "my" youthful ministry. Fortunately I once heard a very wise man say that the greatest thing God could do for America would be to take out of the pulpit all He hadn't put there. I knew that man was talking about me.
Does all this make me a Christian?
Guess I thought so until I heard the single most life-changing thing I ever learned about being a Christian. It came off an audiotape by a famous TV evangelist: "Most people, most of the time, mostly believe most of what they believe mostly because they like the teacher." That statement started me on a search which has taken, to date, 35 years.
The greatest single influence on my life was my father, and for the first half of my life I believed much of what I believed because I liked my teacher. If I am a Christian solely because of what my parents taught, I may be reared a Christian, but that is all I am. Whether it is true of other's faith I do not know, it seems unlikely to me that a Christian is one because of who their parents were or what they believe.
In the end what a man is isn't about anyone else, what they do or what they teach. Being a Christian is a journey, not a destination. In the intervening decades, having given dutiful consideration to the truth claim options and spending some time analyzing whether I am a product of what was deliberately taught, I would rather be on this journey than any other.
Which begs the question: With what level of Christian experience ought I be content? I might be content to claim Christianity because of being nothing else, or from my parent's church membership. But, there has to be more to this journey.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.