Have you ever tried to have a really awkward conversation in a public place?
I do this on a semi-regular basis.
My friend Donna was raised on an Indian reservation in the mountains of New York. And, mind you, she is older. So all in all she comes from a rather different world. Sometimes things that are understood to be impolitic for general conversation don't strike her the same way.
And it's hard, on occasion, to convince her that maybe we should talk about these things at a later time. When we're not in a crowded theater waiting for a movie to start, for example.
Which is how I wind up trying to explain things quietly.
Today it was about Christianity.
Mind you, Donna was raised Episcopalian. She considers herself to be a Christian, though her education in such was basically - 'this is what we are, we do ABC'. *shrug*
The conversation started with her asking me what a Christian was. And I'm pretty sure that we've had a conversation about this before...actually I know that we have. There was a very long, late night discussion over why a person who believes that Jesus was the literal son of God (in the Greek/Roman gods sort of definition) couldn't be a Christian. The Trinity featured heavily in that one.
She was asking, this time, because of a plaque that she bought for decorating her apartment. When I was over there the other night we were talking about design ideas and she was showing me her fathers' fencing foils. Donna planned to mount them on her wall and I suggested that she get a family crest kind of thing to go beneath them to help complete the look.
Donna took my suggestion and found a coat of arms online that she purchased. It is, from her description, one that has a lion and a lamb on either side of a cross, with the banner reading 'Christian' over top. She bought that one because she is a Christian and while some of her family does originally come from England, they certainly don't have an actual familial coat of arms or crest. She was happy with her purchase until she saw an news story about the son of a gay couple who was denied access to a private school because his fathers are gay.
She was very upset that the school denied this boy due to the fact that the school was 'Christian' and she wanted to know if it was an actual Christian stance that homosexual couples are forbidden. Because if it was, she was going to have to un-declare herself a Christian.
Happily I could tell her that while it is the stance of a certain section of the Christian population there are plenty Christians who do not hold to this belief and so she can continue to be Christian without compromising her belief in marriage equality.
However, I'd have been even happier if we could have had this conversation almost literally anywhere else.
That, of course, is not the actual point. Just a side-note of 'my God, she's lucky I love her' kind of friendship angst. :)
Donna wanted to know what the definition of a Christian was, as I said before. And while I think we cleared up the actual heart of the issue, she still wanted to know what the definition actually was.
I told her the most basic definition is that of a 'follower of Christ', but that for the most part people accept as the base level of faith that a Christian is a person who believes that Christ was God (in some way) and that he was incarnated and sacrificed to expiate the sins of all of humanity.
Which, to me, is the most basic definition. I mean, okay, I know that there are a lot of different forms of Christianity and I'm sure somewhere out there there is a branch that doesn't believe some aspect of what I just said. But, honestly, to me? If you don't believe in the divinity of Jesus then...then you're not a Christian. You're not a bad person, by any means, and hey, call yourself what you like, but you don't meet the definition of Christian that I understand.
Mind you, I don't meet that definition of Christian, so throwing no stones here.
The conversation did make me wonder though, what is the most basic belief that a person would have to espouse in order to meet your definition of Christian?