Recently, a friend and colleague posed this question on social media.
It’s a great question and one that isn’t asked enough. Particularly with all the misuses and abuses of Jesus and Christianity for causes which are harmful, hateful, and opposed to the very message of the Gospel. These are not new misuses and abuses, they have happened over the centuries, but it is particularly troublesome now as we see a new brand zealous nationalism, white nationalism, and growing economic injustice dressed in religious clothing.
And it is a good question because it caused me to think. I’m not often asked this question. I wish I was, to be honest. Not because I can convince people to believe like me, but because it opens a rare but very meaningful conversation. One that I don’t often have because I am, most certainly, the world’s worst apologist. (Well, at least in the modern evangelical/fundamentalist militant apologetic style).
My faith includes reason and critical thinking. For me, faith includes seeking understanding with the mind as well as the heart. I also agree that we must “Always be ready to make your defense [reply/answer] to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you.” (1 Pet 3:15). At times, many of have overcorrected from this aggressive evangelistic style and have declined to talk about Jesus at all. Neither of these poles are helpful, we must find a middle space. A space which can hold difference, and a space where the Christ can still make an appearance.
But the first cause, the root, the answer of why I am still a follower of Jesus has little to do with logic or reasoning. I wasn’t argued into the faith, backed into a corner so I had to accept it because I couldn’t come up with a better counter-argument. It is true that I was born into and raised in the Christian faith, but I’m also not a follower of Jesus simply because it is how I was raised. Indeed, many of my understandings of Christian faith are different (or at least nuanced differently) from the church of my formation.
Everyone who asks me this question and is expecting an argument, or logic, or an irrefutable set of propositions will likely be disappointed.
I am a follower of Jesus because I don’t know where else to go.
That’s pretty much it. I don’t know where else to go. I don’t know what else gives life, I do not know what else can help make sense of things, I do not know what else can comfort and challenge in the same way.
I am reminded of the story in the Gospel According to John.
…many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.(Jn 6:66-68)
I am a follower of Jesus, because I don’t know where to find life. I don’t mean simply life after death, I mean life here. I don’t know what else can bring life to the world.
Has the message of Jesus been twisted for money and power and oppression? Yes. I will be the first to admit that all too often, people who claim the Christ fail to reflect his teachings. But when you look through that–life, liberation, peace, and wholeness is the resounding song. And this is a song that I need, that the world needs. And I don’t know where else to find the music to sing it.