Certain events earlier this year caused me to think deeply about my relationship to my religion -- why I choose to practice the Christian faith as opposed to Buddhism, say, or Judaism, or simple old-fashioned atheism. My continued adherence to Christianity has been a question in my life for a while now, actually. . . . My college classes on the role of women in Christianity and on the historical roots of Christianity; the His Dark Materials trilogy; September 11 and the horrifyingly absolute religious certainty with which the terrorists drove the planes into the towers; my conservative Christian friend Hilary and her personal certainty regarding what God intends for her life (a certainty I've never been able to share): All of these things have led me to think much about whether God exists and whether Christianity is the way to approach Him. Then Heaven (ha) knows I don't want to be associated with the Christian right, who I almost invariably find insufferably self-righteous and way, way too prone to cast themselves as long-suffering victims of a secular world (she says with insufferable victimized-liberal self-righteousness). And perhaps most important of all, I do not feel a connection with God as often as I did in my more orthodox-Christian days, which grieves me, but which I do not make the effort to change.

Given all this, I've tended to described myself as a "Christian agnostic" the last few years rather than a plain straightforward Christian: I cannot and will not claim that the Bible is the absolute literal truth and the Christian God is the only God that should be worshiped, that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation and everyone must be saved by him or be damned. I don't know or feel any of that enough to stake my identity on it. But I do believe in God; and as I thought about Christianity as a religion earlier this year, I realized that I believe fiercely in the values Jesus Christ represents as a symbol and a man: love for one's neighbor as for oneself; the humility that allowed him to sacrifice himself for others; forgiveness, which according to doctrine was the reason he died on the cross, so humankind could be cleansed of its sins; a desire for justice that reaches across all differences of race and gender and class; and all the fruits of the Spirit according to Paul: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, trustfulness, and self-control. I do not always manage to live by these things; indeed, sometimes I deliberately contravene them. But that is who I want to be and what I want my life to mean.

And, contrary to all conservatives, Christianity is the faith of radical change. Today is Easter, the day of Christ's resurrection. If you were raised in the church, as I was, this is such a commonplace fact that it's easy not to think about what it means: A man who was dead came back to life. What then shall be impossible? Love thy neighbor as thyself: If we all did this, who would go hungry? Love those that harm you, pray for those who persecute you: The mere act of looking beyond yourself is revolutionary. Easter means that all the old rules are gone: You can change your life; you can change the world. I want to live in that faith.

And that is why I am a Christian.


Usually on Easter Sunday, I attend church in the morning, then take the N/R to 59th Street to walk up through Central Park -- saying hello to nature again after the winter's cold. This year, however, I went to a most excellent late lunch at Jeremiah and 2.0's (which nicely complemented my equally excellent dinner last night with Melissa and Mike). We ate lamb, potatoes, and asparagus, and talked long over wine and coffee; and as I walked back to my apartment, I saw the trees getting nobbly with buds and the first daffodils dumbly lifting their heads in Prospect Park. Spring is coming at last, even to the city. Happy Easter, everyone!