It’s Easter weekend, and there is a religious holiday hidden somewhere under the orgy of chocolate bunnies and crème-filled eggs. I know because I see my neighbors putting up little foam-core crosses on their lawns. I also know because I am a Christian.
Just not THAT kind of Christian.
These days, I often feel I need to apologize for my faith, especially when people like Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, start speaking. “I think that’s the next thing that they’re going to push, to try to legalize pedophiles,” Rafael Cruz said during a speech at the World Congress of Families.
That man is a preacher, and he claims to be Christian. So once again I have to explain, “I’m not THAT kind of Christian.”
There is actually a discipline, called Apologetics, which is the practice of defending one’s faith through well-reasoned arguments. I doubt if any of the great theologians — from Saul of Tarsus to C.S. Lewis — would find my that “apologies” hold much in the way of orthodoxy. But I’m not THAT kind of Christian.
So as Easter approaches I ask myself: What kind of Christian am I? The answer would most likely surprise most of the apologists of history but here goes.
First, I am an ethnic Jewish guy from Texas. When asked, “What kind of Christian are you?” I often answer with a slight smirk: “Traditional. I’m Jewish.”
Second, I am queer. I used to say gay, but considering the wide range of kinks I call my sexuality, “queer” fits just fine.
Third, I am a follower of Jesus. Now, lest you think that means standing on street corners thumping a King James Bible and urging people to be “saved,” I would again say emphatically, “not THAT kind of Christian!”
I follow the Jesus, whose stories in the Scripture give a picture of a kind, generous, accepting, provocative and sometimes somewhat cantankerous personality. He was a man who healed the sick, fed the poor and visited the prisoners. A man whose words and life left a strong enough impression that the story has survived for more than 2,000 years.
I follow the Jesus that hung out with a chosen family composed of the poor, the rich, the despised and the outcasts — a family he chose deliberately, according to the stories, and that suits me just fine.
Fourth, I am a bit of a mystic. That word has all the baggage of “Christian” but in a different way. So let me once again say, “not that KIND of mystic.”
My mysticism stems from my understanding of the Divine, and how it is experienced in our world and lives. It is an understanding of God that is informed by my Jewish heritage and derived from my reading and understanding of Scripture and biblical scholarship.
And no, I am not a Biblical scholar, just someone with an insatiable curiosity and a good library.
So what the heck makes me a Christian? I can’t in good faith recite the “apostles’ creed” and leave it at that.
I believe I am in the continual process of being “born again” but not in the evangelical sense. I don’t believe in the kind faith that teaches if you say the secret words you get a “get into heaven free” card.
I don’t believe in the idea that your success in life is proportional to God’s favor on you, and that if you suffer, it must be because of something you did.
I don’t believe in a psychopathic deity who smites you if you step out of line.
I believe that all those old ideas of what God is are examples of people struggling to put into words something that cannot be spoken. Perhaps that is why the name of God in Hebrew is simply a collection of diacritical marks that cannot really be pronounced.
Of course some Christians try and call that God “Yaweh,” but I don’t. That struggle continued through the New Testament and still rages today, usually from a mistakenly literal reading of the Bible.
What I did get from all this reading and study was an image of how to bring the “kingdom of heaven to earth.” It is the key message of the words of Jesus to me — not some kind of substitution of atonement, not judgemental pronouncements, but a way of life that can affect the world and bring about change.
I am tired of apologizing, that’s why I am putting this on paper.
So this Easter as I celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it is not a literal resurrection, but one far more profound. It is the words of Jesus living in me every day — the words of Jesus alive again in all of us who chose to embrace them.
I am reminded that at Passover, observant Jews end the Seder by opening the door for Elijah who was to bring about the messianic age. It seems no coincidence that the end of the Easter story is at the open door of a tomb — an open door through which Jesus arrives to coax us to bring about that same messianic age, an age of peace and justice and love forever.
That’s the kind of Christian I am.
Peace be with you.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board member for the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2016.