Born in Illinois to an immigrant father and first generation mother I can appreciate who I am without wanting to move back to the Netherlands. I understand my roots, celebrate the ancestry, have a wooden shoe or two around the house, and I even have a fascination with windmills. I do not, however, think I need to be ice skating on the canals to get to work, nor do I, at this point anyway, feel I have to love ice skating, (even though there was a time when I took every first date ice skating). I know where I come from, it enhances my life, but I do not have to go back.
I was asked the other day, given our belief in many paths to God, “What made us different from the Baha’i?” I paused, unsure of whether I had time for a discussion that might go on for some time, and then simply said this. “I consider myself Christian because for me, The Christ Spirit, revealed initially through the teachings of Jesus, is the primary revelation of the sacred. That is to say it is Christ who leads me to God.” So, Christian is, for me, an adequate answer. Certainly this definition would not stand to muster for many evangelicals but it was sufficient for the questioner and is my answer.
I love the United Church of Christ, the diversity it stands for and the autonomy that is central to the structure. My faith story is deeply rooted in Christianity, with all its faults and foibles, all its misguided paths and faulty understandings, and all of its abuses and oppressive ways over the years. I understand that Christianity has done great harm to many people over the centuries. I know that its doctrines have caused great misdeeds in the name of advancing civilization in the world through the Doctrine of Discovery. I know that in centuries past there have been diseases and witch hunts, beheadings and grave wrongs all done in the name of Christianity.
But I also know that today millions of people are fed and clothed, given water and shelter, nurtured and cared for because, through the years, many people have come to know justice and fairness through the nonviolent teachings Jesus. I know that, “love your neighbor” has been the cause of deep care and concern, to be passed along to millions of people, and I know that though we have not always gotten it right, there is, in every generation, people whose life work it becomes to pass along the teachings to another generation.
Yes, I believe that Buddhism and Hinduism, and Judaism, Islam and Native indigenous religions and Taoism along with many other pathways to God are there as well to provide the same care we, as Christians, have to offer. But I will not forego my roots or disclaim my family of origin because there are so many arrogant people among them. Today I have come to appreciate that we live in a multi-cultural world. I appreciate that our all-encompassing and the all-gracious Sacred Essence that is all we worship, the one we call “God”, is great enough to have been revealed in many different ways to many different people.
The Dutch are not the only people in the world.