What is your best reason for being a Christian?
For me, what speaks to me about Christianity is its synthesis. The synthesis of man and God. The synthesis of Western philosophy, Western heroic literature and Eastern wisdom literature and Eastern concepts of the divine. I am inspired by the radical philosophy of Jesus Christ, which rejects pretty much everything we value, and asks of us the impossible: to be strong and reject evil, while at the same time being full of love, compassion, and peace. It’s HARD..
What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to stop believing in God?
Really it would be the lack of evidence that would cause me to not believe in God.
Why do you believe Christianity has a stronger claim to truth than other religions/On what basis do you reject the truth claims of other traditions and denominations but accept your own?
Again, for me, the value of Christianity is in its synthetic elements. I think that it’s a uniquely universal religion, born as it was in conquest and fire at the crossroads of the world. But I also think that we are limited beings who approach the world through our own views, grasping at the transcendent. There’s a lot to value — and a lot of TRUTH in other traditions. I love a lot of the Hindu sutras and Buddhist teachings. I enjoy grappling with the Chang-Tzu and I admire the poetry of the Qu’ran. Religion is the way we grapple with the truths that can’t be reduced to empiricism. I can’t ignore the fact that one of the reasons why I consider myself Christian is because I grew up in America. And I wouldn’t say that there is no truth in other traditions — there is, in fact, a great deal of truth in all of them.
How do you read the Bible? Do you study the history of its translations? How do you decide which translations/versions/books are the true Bible? How does it guide you if you have a moral or theological dilemma?
I read the Bible for its poetry. For its inspiration. For its wonderful and terrible stories. I absolutely study the translations and their histories, as well as contemporary literature to the Bible. I don’t know that there’s one “true” translation, when you’re talking about a book that evolved through oral translation and was copied and miscopied and rewritten a thousand times. I often use tools like Bible Gateway to read different translations of the same verses, and I don’t have one “go to” translation for the New Testament. Though for the Old Testament I can’t rave enough about Robert Alter’s translation, which is simply wonderful.
I find the Bible to be a powerful guide for different issues that I’m grappling with because it offers up so many different ideas, perspectives, and opinions. I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I prefer some books and some perspectives to others. For example, I find a lot more wisdom in Ecclesiastes than I do the Psalms. For me, the Bible is a means of communicating with generations past, and grappling with those opinions — a stone upon which I hone my own ideas about meaning and life.
Voting opens Friday afternoon