March 1, 2015

"Proving" One's Faith - Re: Wonkette and Christianity

Ana Marie Cox, a blogger of some fame under the pseudonym "Wonkette" (and founder of the eponymous blog "Wonkette," which apparently now includes other bloggers) has "come out" of the secular closet, so to speak, and gone public with being a Christian.
Congratulations, Ms. Cox. 

As Rod Dreher has been quick to note, your self-exposition (in the old sense of the term) is heartfelt and contains a great deal of truth, particularly in your discussion of the age-old problem of conflation of politics and Christianity.

With that said, I have both a query and a caution for you, being one who has wandered a similar path, though ended up on the opposite end of the political scale. 

My query, I suppose, revolves around your own commitments. You express, rightly to my mind, a concern with conservative questioning of the President's Christianity, and you wonder if this same questioning might be extended to your own professions of faith. Without doubt, it will be. I do not suppose that the Apostle Peter, in stating that Christians ought "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence," meant solely in response to non-Christians...other Christians may be included in those questioning as well. I suppose this is also a warning to those of us who would prefer that others just accept our Faith at face-value that our Faith may be questioned, and we must be prepared to answer with Charity. 

With that said (and my apologies for the lengthy lead-up), your role as a blogger, from what I have read about you and in your blogs, has nearly always been one who makes distinctions - who questions and probes the superficial. This can be positive - the role of the gadfly should not be underestimated, particularly in a society at least nominally dedicated to discussion and debate. To come to the crux of it, you state in your blog that:
I believe I have a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. I believe in the grace offered by the Resurrection. I believe that whatever spiritual rewards I may reap come directly from trying to live the example set by Christ. Whether or not I succeed in living up to that example is primarily between Him and me.
Well and good in one way - the interior disposition (as noted in-depth by Mr. Dreher) of the Christian and their place in the path of salvation is something that be judged only by God. Yet, you also feel comfortable with questioning the content and direction of others' faith lives - even within the same blog post, you question whether Christian conservatives are hypocrites and shallow ("I know that when conservatives talk about Obama’s faith, they are also talking race, fear, society and status, as well as winning elections"). So then, my query is, do you draw a distinction between content of some Christians' Faith (if inquiring and discussing the faith of other Christians, such as public figures, is important to you, then you are fair game for me; see, e.g., Matthew 18:15) and other Christians' Faith (if one of your primary tenets is that another's faith commitments be not judged, your faith is off limits to my own judgment; see, e.g., Matthew 7:3)?

Or, do you distinguish between Faith commitment (if another calls herself a Christian, then we ought not to deny it) and the content of that Faith? So, for instance, Mr. Dreher notes that you and he diverge on the question of the permissiveness of abortion, especially for Christians (presuming that you still hold your pro-choice commitments). If we were to debate the matter, provided that I did not interject questioning of your Faith commitment, then from your point of view, could we indeed debate whether the content of the Christian Faith permits one to support abortion? Or, do you view it all of a piece, where both commitment and content are essentially private matters, entirely between you and God, and not up for debate in any real sense?

Finally, a caution. You state in your post (if I may combine two separate, but seemingly related, sections):
In my personal life, my faith is not something I struggle with...One of the most painful and reoccurring stumbling blocks in my journey is my inability to accept that I am completely whole and loved by God without doing anything. 
Yet, it seems to me, that this is part of conversion to Christianity. It is not something that stops with acceptance of Christ as one's Savior. It is an ongoing metanoia, an ongoing process of theosis...a process of becoming more like God. Yes, it is only through the Grace of God that we go through this process, but we must cooperate in disposition and action. If one accepts Christ, and one finds that, after such acceptance, one finds Christ to be a goad - not to change, but as a support for all of one's normative commitments, conservative or progressive - one may not have found may have taken a much longer road and found oneself.

And this, truly, is the judgment you must make for yourself. But one must consider whether is a judgment made in community, especially in reading Scripture and other Holy works, a community not entirely of the present, but including the democracy of the dead (to borrow from Chesterton). The idea of individualism is part of Christianity in a way unknown to pagan thought (for God is the one who knows you intimately, as an individual, different than all others and valued, and one's path to salvation is entirely individual) and, simultaneously, in another way, unknown to Christianity, for Faith is not an individual thing, but must be practiced in community, and individual judgment as to matters of Faith content - every person a Pope, to borrow from a Cardinal - is limited by Scripture, History, and Tradition.

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