I remember my first computer with the Internet. It was horrendously slow by today’s standards – the dial-up number was almost always busy and it took about 20 minutes to get online. Waiting to access the Internet was like watching a glacier move. But once we heard that fateful telephone dial-up screech and the World Wide Web opened-up, the planet felt as though it was at my fingertips. And here’s the thing: when I really learned how to surf the Web – in the summer of 1996 – I didn’t go straight for the time-wasting games or the soul-rotting pornography or the questionably-illegal MP3 downloads. Instead, I sought intellectual connections with other humans; I sought genuine discourse, discussion, and debate. And I found it on a new and trendy little website called the “WebChat Broadcasting System.” So after learning how Internet chat rooms worked, I gravitated toward discussions requiring knowledge and wit – and my favorite one was the chat room for theological debate. I seemed to really enjoy defending my Christian faith; granted, it was more of a hobby or pastime than a faith-based endeavor, but I enjoyed it all-the-same. In my high school youth group at the time, we’d studied the concept of “Apologetics,” the act of defending the Christian theology against objections and arguments. So these chat room debates were a fun way for me to not only defend my Christian faith, but learn more about it as naysayers attempted to talk me into a corner. I found it very beneficial and quite entertaining.
That was twenty years ago. Today, my perspective on the validity or proof of my faith has changed dramatically. Is God real? Well, I don’t care. On a very sincere level, I honestly do not care if God is actually honestly certainly really take-it-to-the-bank real or not. The concept of Christianity could very-well-be a made-up set of rules and laws centered around an ancient mythology that has evolved into an organized religion, yet is no more valid than the myths of Zeus and Mount Olympus. But whether there is a “God” or not, I honestly do not care. I don’t. I really don’t.
But I still believe.
See, here’s the thing: I believe wholeheartedly in the Christian faith. I’m not particularly a fan of the Christian “religion” and the people who follow it, but I do believe in the Christian faith, 100%. My personal relationship with Jesus Christ is firm and unshakable. And it is the knowledge and faith in this Relationship which gives me comfort and strength in my day-to-day life as I struggle with my own many flaws and imperfections. Simply put, believing in Jesus makes my life tolerable. But that’s just it; my belief in Him is where I draw strength, not whether or not I can prove He’s real or someone else can prove He’s not. Twenty years ago, when I was sixteen or seventeen and life was much simpler, things were different. Today, I’ve been through a lot (and put myself through a lot) and I’ve gained some very important knowledge about life: We must do for ourselves what makes life livable. And what makes life livable is as individualized as the individual life being individually lived. See, I don’t think we have to do what we must to make our lives “great” or “good” or even “okay,” we must simply do what it takes to remain content – satisfied. Low standards? Perhaps. I strive for greatness in life, but I expect mediocrity. And in doing so, I find humility and contentment in believing the Christian faith.
So when I left prison (two years ago, today), and I had to redefine who I was as an individual, I had to base my concept of self-worth on something other than the opinions which others had of me (because my life began to feel like the “Mean Tweets” segment on the Jimmy Kimmel Show). And honestly, I really was able to laugh at the things people were saying about me on numerous Internet mediums because I honestly agreed with much of what was said – because we both despised the man who existed in 2012, but their assumptions were that I simply had not changed.
Ignorance is misleading.
But regardless, I made the conscious decision to center my Christian beliefs on my faith in Christ and the way it made me feel about everyday-life. I didn’t decide to be some sort of hands-in-the-air, dance-in-the-aisle, fall-to-my-knees, shout-to-the-Lord Evangelical Christian. I simply decided to believe in Christianity, whether it was real or not. And if it’s not real, I lose nothing; instead, I gain an easier, more tolerable existence. It was just that easy; I simply made that decision.
However, the first thing I had to do was separate the concept of Christ from the concept of Christians. Because if there was ever one thing which made me doubt God, it was His followers. That’s not to say that I haven’t known good Christians; I’ve known some great Christians, many of whom continue to help me grow in my faith. But when Christians do things like vote for a rapist or judge others because of their past or hate someone because of their differing religion or race or nationality; well, those people don’t believe in the same Jesus Christ as I do.
As a resident of Kansas, it’s dangerous for me to make the following statement, but I’m going to say it anyway. Ready? Here it is: “I’m a Liberal.” There. I said it. And in addition, I am a very passive Liberal. The “Christian-Right” has tried to demonize the word “Liberal,” but the truth is, Liberal simply means accepting, giving, and charitable (even if Ann Coulter wants the world to believe that “Liberal” means pro-abortion, anti-gun, pro-LGBTQ, etc.); but the truth is, true Liberals aren’t pro-anything in that context. The true Liberal attitude is, “You do your thing, I’ll do mine, and all is well.” The Christian-Right has confused Liberalism with the Leftist Ideology. But since “Liberal” has become such a Fox News buzzword in recent years, then by all means, accuracy-be-damned. And most people who label themselves as Liberals aren’t Liberals at all; they’re Leftists – pro-choice, anti-gun, pro-gay, etc. And being a Leftist is neither right nor wrong – it’s merely a differing perspective from the Christian-Right; but it isn’t Liberalism.
In essence, we Liberals have our own personal beliefs, which vary greatly and cover all aspects of the moral and political spectrum; but we’re fine with everyone else believing whatever they want. There are Liberal Christians, Liberal Muslims, Liberal Atheists, and Liberal Agnostics. There are Liberals who would consider an abortion and there are Liberals who would never consider an abortion. There are Liberals who own guns and Liberals who don’t. There are straight Liberals and gay Liberals. It all depends on the individual. Liberals believe what we believe, and we really don’t care what others believe; we accept it as their own individual perspective, and it’s really no big deal. But the Right and the Left seem to thrive on their opposing rivalries, building a seemingly-endless sense of hate, fighting, and occasional violence. They think one side is correct and valid; and the other side is wrong, ignorant, misled and full of hate. Both sides believe the other side should think exactly as they do, otherwise they are wrong. True Liberals don’t think that way; true Liberals believe in the individualism of the mind, none being more valid or “correct” than anyone else. So, on behalf of all true Liberals, please leave us out of it.
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about: I know I would never want my wife to have an abortion, but I don’t consider myself “pro-life;” I’m not a fan of firearms, but I don’t consider myself “anti-gun;” If a person is gay, it doesn’t bother me, but I don’t consider myself “pro-gay;” I don’t need to put a catchy little title on all my values and beliefs in order to validate them. I simply believe what I believe; if you or someone else disagrees or believes differently, then fine. I don’t care. Am I a “Christian?” Perhaps, but I don’t need the catchy little title to validate my faith either. I believe in (what is described as) the “Christian” theology. But I don’t feel the need to prove to anyone other than myself that God is real. I believe God is real, and that’s enough for me.
That is exactly my perspective on God; whether or not He is actually real or not is irrelevant to my belief that He is real. I know, that’s a little confusing, but here is how my Liberalism factors in: I believe in the Christian God; however, I don’t think someone who believes in the Muslim god or the Hindu god (etc.) is right or wrong. The god in which they choose to believe is based on their opinions, their perspectives, their values, and their beliefs. Liberals don’t see it as “our job” to force or convince others to believe in the same things we do.
So, stop confusing the Christian-Right with the Christian faith; they rarely coincide. Stop confusing the Leftist Ideology with true Liberalism; they rarely coincide. And stop confusing facts and beliefs; they rarely coincide.
Is God actually real?
I’m living my life one day at a time; some days are triumphs and some days are failures. I believe God is real – my faith in Him makes the days of triumph glorious and the days of failure redemptive.
So even though I believe God is real, I couldn’t possibly care less if He is actually and factually real.
Because honestly, it does…not…matter.
I believe in God. And that’s enough for me.