Friday, September 08, 2006

Personal relationships?

Over the last few weeks, I've done an informal poll. Whenever I run into someone I would define as "a Christian", I ask, "When did you become a Christian?" My original intent was to seek out the moment at which one would consider themselve a follower of Christ. Or, when one would pin-point their theological beginnings. Out of the twenty, or so, people I've asked, I've received the same answer from sixteen of them. (??) SIXTEEN people who've never met each other have said the same thing...and it wasn't the answer I expected.
"I became a Christian when I decided to have a personal relationship with God."
I expected to hear answers like, "...oh, well, I was born Christian." or "I decided to follow Christ at the age of *insert age here*." After each of the sixteen answers that maintained the advent of their Christianity had come through this "relationship with God", I've informed the pollee' (?) that I'd heard that answer before. Each of them claimed that was evidence of God's existance. After all, "How could sixteen people answer the same answer, unless there was divine inspiration." Ummmm...I dunno'...maybe a fancy ad campaign? Not to sound TOO sarcastic, but...if your relationship is so personal, then you would think God would personalize the message. No? Instead the "personal relationship" line makes God look like a sugar daddy.

This leads me to another question: Don't you have to know what God is to "seek out" a relationship? Have we really become so indiscriminate about our relationships that we start having them with unknown people/beings? I would suggest that the internet subculture has led, in part, to this "personal relationship" phenomena. In the last decade, the internet has allowed us to cultivate relationships between people we previously wouldn't have formed associations with. We really don't have to know who Finegirl1965 is to call her "friend". Heck, there are people on my AIM buddy list who I could pass on the street without recognizing. I've never seen them in person. You folk, reading this blog, probably couldn't pick out my voice if I called you on the phone. However, through the wonders of the interweb, we call each other "friend". I submit, to you all, the question: What is a personal relationship with God/Jesus? Is it a relationship in which you share LOLlerskates and emoticons of association? Or, is it the kind of relationship in which you know the depths of each others souls? If so, ... how? How do you know God when you experience God? Discuss.


erin said...

I went back and forth about answering this here, as opposed to privately to you, but I decided that I trusted you and the people who read your blog. So here goes!

To me, becoming a Christian was not about seeking out a personal relationship with God or Jesus, though I did feel like the message was a bit more personalized in my case. I spent years of my life never really believing anything and being fine with that. I never particularly hungered for any sort of religious answer to the meaning of life. The night I was raped, I prayed for the first time. I suppose that I could've prayed to anyone given the desperation of the situation, but I prayed to Jesus. I prayed to be taken out of my body and out of the situation. And (I hate saying this in a public forum because it sounds so fake, but I've never spoken anything truer in my life) I was. Even now, when I think back to that night, I see it from above, from outside my body. Sometimes I wonder if I would've made it through without that little escape. The next Sunday, I went to church with Shane (he went before it happened, I never went along). The sermon was on turning toward God in times of hardship and pain and not turning your back away when you've been through something traumatic. And yes, I know, 20 other people could've thought the sermon was meant for them, but I so deeply felt that I was being spoken to through the minister. In the years that I continued in church after that, she never again gave a heavy handed sermon, her topics were usually much lighter.

I don't know God, though, and I don't imagine that anyone does. But what I found for myself was comfort and something to help me through the pain. Surely there were a million other things that could've done the same, but I guess what I'm trying to say is there are some things you CAN'T explain. To me, a relationship with God is one of those things, and I suppose I wonder how anyone can explain it perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Erin, I am in awe of the courage it took for you to post such a personal story here.

Thanks for your feedback. Your story is so emotionally charged that I think it would be kind of ass-hattish to pick anything out of it to critique (or question further). I'm glad that you found something to help you heal. Truly. *hugs*

erin said...

I honestly don't mind if you question further, because I realize there are things to critique. I guess that's the point I was trying to make...I don't know how anyone can accurately explain a relationship with God or with any religion, really, because to me, it's more something you feel in your heart...and those are the hardest things to logically explain.

AmberKatt said...

The "personal relationship with God" phrase has been around for a long time, long before Teh Internetz (although I've always heard it as "personal relationship with Jesus Christ.") . It's part and parcel of the whole "born again" experience, i.e. Protestant Evangelical Christianity. It's also supposed to be the difference between "true Christianity" and "all those other religions out there"... i.e. "all those other religions are just religions, just 'things you have to do to get God to like you'; but 'Real Christianity'
" is an actual relationship with Jesus Christ!" etc.

Supposedly you do develop a personal interaction with JC Himself, as you would with Joe down the street or your best friend or your spouse or whatever.
but my sticking point was always that it was very hard to really develop a "personal relationship" with someone who I couldn't see, and who didn't converse back with me when I talked to them. Somehow reading about him in the Bible was supposed to take the place of this, but it always seemed very impersonal to me. Even at the high point of my fundagelical experience, all I could describe my "personal relationship" as was something like getting letters from a benevolent relative in Australia.