Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

What is a potential Christian?

By on May 7, 2008

The Heart of ChristianityA couple of years ago I wrote a bio that said I was a “practicing Buddhist and a potential Christian.” Partially, I made it up to be funny. With that said, I have a great deal of respect of my Christian roots and honor the Christian faith. Most of my values, thinking patterns, social action, pacifism are rooted in my Mennonite background and there is no way I would be the person I am today without this. As an adult, I have ceased attending all church because I have not really found a church to practice in – part of the reason I may have drifted towards a Buddhist community – though I continue to look and explore Christian community.

As I study and learn more, I have found myself turning to the more radical end of the Christian community. Though evangelical, the Sojourners community has offered much in the area of justice and peace. More recently, I was happy to discover a magazine founded by a Mennonite and an Anabaptist called Geez. Where were these people when I was floundering back in college? I have also found some inspiration from the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries project here in Southern California. A few years back I remember reading The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg. Wonderful book and very inspirational. And more recently, I have delved into some of the sermons by Pat Moore, an Episcopal priest (and close family member). I believe protecting the environment, serving the poor, and living non-violently as core values taught by Jesus.

All this means to me is that I believe that I live a Christian life based on the values and teachings of Jesus Christ. I also believe in Jesus Christ as a great teacher and model for living and I would consider myself a disciple of his. If there were a church to practice in that could live with this ambiguity of belief, I would probably participate. I guess that I fear calling myself a Christian – and some of my Christian friends choose to call themselves Anabaptists – due to all the associated baggage and misunderstanding to what that means. So much damage, hatred, misunderstanding, and fear have been done, and continues to be done, in the name of Christianity that it can be very depressing. Therefore, it has been easier to say “potential Christian” and then engage people (you) in conversation about what that means. The irony of it all is that it is because of my Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, that I have been able to open my heart and mind to my Christianity. Ten years ago this would not have been the case.