Growing up Christian: “How long have you been a Christian?”

A coworker asked me that question. I said, “I think I was born this way.” That wasn’t intentionally flippant, nor was it a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Lady Gaga song. I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t consider myself Christian.

My paternal grandfather, Athel Daugherty, was a lay leader in what Daddy described as “a little country church.” There was a time in my life when my Uncle A.B., who died before I was born, considered converting to Roman Catholicism. Daddy’s best friend from before I was born was a Baptist preacher. My mother’s family were Baptist, although she considered herself Presbyterian. Even though I don’t remember either of my parents or my siblings being big churchgoers when I was a child, at least after we moved from Tennessee, I guess Christianity is in my DNA.

I refuse to whine about the things that were less than perfect about my childhood… and there was enough of that. (I understand – I DO understand – that some people can’t accept the idea of God as father because of the flaws in their own fathers, but for me I understood that the God we called “Father” was very different from my beloved but difficult human father.) For the most part, I had a good childhood. I was my mother’s baby, her only child, and she doted on me. My older siblings did their share to spoil me. I enjoyed school and when I learned to read it opened infinite new worlds for me. I was a child in a time when parents were less obsessed with the bogey men and bad guys so I had the freedom to roam, on foot and on two wheels, and explore my world.

white-bibleIf you’ve read my previous posts here you’ll know that I don’t have a mind for dates and details, but these are some of my early memories: walking to church after a rain and being horrified when I dropped my white King James Bible, a gift from my uncle and aunt for my third birthday – zippered closed, fortunately! – into the gutter; fantasizing about teaching all the dogs to speak English so I could tell them about Jesus, and then take them on a spaceship to a distant Jethro-2014-0224-4planet where they could live happily as good, Christian dogs. (This latter story, I realized a few years ago, represents my first “call to ministry!”) I remember putting my pennies in the offering plate in Sunday School, and memorizing scriptures for the Sunday School pageant and Christmas program.

UMC-cross-and-flameI think I had been in California for about two years when I realized it was almost Easter and I needed to find a church. Ironically, the classmate I counted on to point me in the right direction – naively assuming that everyone went to church – named a church that she herself rarely attended. I was a Methodist, and then a United Methodist, from around age nine to age fourteen, when I wandered into DOC-red-chalicethe Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) I still had only a vague concept of the differences between denominations; I just considered myself Christian. I have to believe the Holy Spirit guided my steps into a denomination that is determinedly non-creedal.

interfaith-emblemI have been interested in learning about non-Christian religions at least since my sophomore year of high school. I’m fascinated to learn about the beliefs and practices of people who don’t believe or practice their faith the way I do. I’ve worshipped with Christians and Non-Christians: Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists and Bahais. I’ve had friends of those faiths and others; I’ve never been tempted to convert.

I’m closer to sixty than fifty, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for almost eight years, and I have learned… I believe … I am confident that the Sacred seeks a way to reach each of us in the complexity of our many contexts. I honor and celebrate the ways my friends respond to that call, or push, from the Holy One. How long have I been a Christian? Always.

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About Pastor Mary Jo

I have a passion for social justice and the outcast, marginalized members of society. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology from Cal State Long Beach (2003) and a Masters of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology (2007.) I was ordained as a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – "a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world" – on August 26, 2011, the eighty-seventh anniversary of passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. I enjoy reading, especially mystery or science fiction/fantasy novels; going to movies with my spouse, Charlie; and spending time with my family – including my children, grandchildren, and dog – and my friends. My goal in life is to leave the world a better place than I found it. I cling to the fundamentals of what it means to be a Christian: Love God, and love your neighbor … or, as it was put by the Prophet Micah, “God has showed you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
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