This I Believe

Nathaniel - Rochester, Minnesota
Entered on May 3, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: question
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Nobody knows anything for certain. That is one thing I know for certain.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been confused about a lot of issues. I was raised in a loving Christian home, with parents who instilled (hopefully) loving, Christian values in me. We drove to church, Meadow Park Church of Christ in Rochester, Minnesota, every Sunday, rain or shine, each week from second grade to the last week of August, 2005, when I left for St. Olaf. I made sure to sing aloud whenever our worship band played a hymn. I paid attention (or as much attention a kid can pay) to my pastor, a lovely, bald man named Aaron whose homespun humor managed to keep the congregation awake. I participated in Sunday school, answering questions when my fellow classmates were too tired. Most people in my situation would likely grow up to be a strong Christian, having an unwavering faith. So why was I so confused?

Instead of saying “a loving Christian home,” I probably should have said, “a liberal Christian home.”

I’m a liberal Christian. It’s not necessarily an oxymoron, but in this post-2004 election era, where phrases like “conservative Christian values” were repeated ad nausea, it’s hard to remember a time when the words “liberal” and “Christian” were placed next to each other. So there I was, a kid being raised in an oxymoronical world, never really sure where I stood on issues like abortion. In retrospect, however, this uncertainty proved to be an invaluable asset.

I was thirteen. A typical Sunday church outing turned into a debacle when my Sunday school teacher decided to show us a video on creationism, a seminar hosted by Dr. Kent Hovind, a Baptist minister known for his outspoken beliefs regarding dinosaurs, the Big Bang, and the earth’s true age. Tweeners are very impressionable, and I immediately took what the doctor preached to heart. As we drove to Friday’s, I eagerly told my father all that I had learned.

“I hope you realize what he said was just garbage.”

My first real debate. There was no way I could win. Dad’s a doctor; he’s read way too many books on Christian theology. We argued. I cried. We went home. Later that evening, he came downstairs to the basement where I had been sulking all day. He apologized and said he’d respect my beliefs, no matter how much he disagreed.

Initially, I won. In retrospect, I learned something invaluable. I wasn’t right. My dad wasn’t wrong. There is no right and wrong in a debate regarding creationism. Just beliefs, not facts. So much time and energy is spent arguing and worrying about things we can’t know for certain. We can hypothesize all we want about anything we want, but in the end, even experts can’t know. That’s why I believe taking an extreme position on anything is not wise. In a world full of so many possibilities, there’s so much room for error.

So where does being a liberal Christian fit into all this? When you have faith that there’s a God, you believe the unseen, but you don’t KNOW it; concrete evidence of God does not exist. Being liberal, at least to me, is about being skeptical, always questioning whether or not an idea is valid. By combining both, I have faith and beliefs, but won’t acknowledge that I’m certain of them because there are always questions to be asked. I won’t be like my father calling what the doctor said “garbage.” After all, Hovind could be right.

You never know.