Intersections – Jesus H. ChristNicki Salcedo
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I am a Christian. I’m not ashamed, but sometimes I hesitate to admit it. In the distance, I wait for the rooster to crow. I’m a Jesus-y Christian. I like God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Now that you know, you’re going to judge me when I’m grouchy and when I swear and when I read romance novels. You think something is wrong with me because I love the show “The Walking Dead.” What kind of Christian am I? Despite my attempts to become a cyborg, I’m still a human.
“He said I’m not going to heaven, because I don’t believe in Jesus.”
My favorite non-Christian, non-cyborg part of myself is my ability to rage. I wish I had all the words then that I have now. I wish I had the theological understanding, the international perspective, and the curse words. Instead I raged internally.
I said this: “He doesn’t get to decide who goes to heaven.”
I asked my parents about the boy’s words. My dad was a third-verse Christian. Everyone knows the first two verses of “Amazing Grace,” but how many know the third verse? He taught Sunday school, had been a deacon, and sang in the church choir. My mom was a quiet, back-of-the-church Christian. Need to know a scripture? Need someone to sing soprano on the hymn’s third verse? Ask my mom. Need to know about being a Christian? Ask my parents.
“That was a terrible thing to say,” my mom told me. Her voice warned me of something else. I was not to associate with the kid who decided who did and who did not go to heaven.
This past winter, I sat in my friend’s house next to her Christmas tree. Thirty-four years of friendship, and I didn’t ask her if it was a Christian Christmas tree or a pagan Christmas tree or an American traditional Christmas tree. And I didn’t care. I was just so happy to be sitting with her family. What religion is that?
I’m embarrassed when my faith is used as a political tool. I’ve been angered when “being a Christian” is a way to create a social hierarchy. I’ve doubted my own faith when I’m not perfect or scholarly or in regular attendance at church. Who defines my faith? A political party? A person like Jesus? A book? It is a good book, but is that enough?
My faith is not based on people. If a person (my dad or my pastor) is my tie to my religion and that person fails me, what happens to my faith? I don’t depend on people. I wish religion had more cyborgs. Cyborgs would make awesome Christians. Until they take over the world and kill everyone. That’s not very Christianly. Unless you’re a Crusader.
I imagine space and dinosaurs and the beginning of time. Every religion I’ve encountered is based on bettering oneself and bettering your community. Eastern philosophies, Western, atheist. Every atheist who is my friend is a person of kindness and creativity. There is nothing lacking. We choose different paths. I don’t get to decide who goes to heaven.
Sure there are people bent on conflict and destruction, but you can’t convince me that a religion is behind it. Our fatal flaw is being human. Our redeeming moments are when we share space with others who are different from us. We can respect differences while staying true to our belief and not requiring others to change who they are.
I’ve had to come to terms with some difficult Christian truths as an adult. I still get to rage. I get to keep my cyborg tendencies. I can keep reading the romance novels. And I’m not un-Christian because I love zombies. Hello? Jesus H. Christ. Wasn’t he famous for coming back from the dead?
Being a Christian doesn’t mean that I have to like everyone, but I do have to respect everyone. It means teaching my children the importance of other faith traditions and preventing religious persecution.
Being a Christian means I can swear (though sparingly, more for my mom and less because of the religion). The soul of my religion cannot be found in or around a Starbucks coffee cup. Being a Christian means I can be angry and disappointed and hopeful.
We can’t touch hate, we can’t touch faith, we can’t touch love. How can we, by science, quantify these things we cannot see? These things that impact our world so dramatically each day? We use faith to quantify what cannot be measured. I’m okay with that.
I don’t need proof of anything. I’ve never received a message from God, but I know God hears me. Maybe that’s better. I know I will never be finished in my faith. Faith is being the eternal student. That’s fine with me. I’ve got so much to learn. I think about what would Jesus do. WWJD? And I know he’d skip the coffee and offer me wine.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.