The Inheritance of Belief

I was recently asked in an email interview why I am a Christian. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that the primary reason why I am a Christian is due to the fact I was raised in a Christian environment. It seems fairly obvious that our religious affiliation is most often determined by the environment we are born into than by particular theological convictions that we independently find agreeable. If were to be born in India to an Indian family, I would most like be Hindu. If I were born in Palestine, I’d most likely be Muslim and so on.

Of course there are exceptions and there are instances when some convert to a different faith than the one they were raised in or they give up on faith all together. But to say that our theology is not first decided by our familial or religious environment seems to dismiss the most crucial reason why we believe what we believe.

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11 thoughts on “The Inheritance of Belief

  1. Hey Zach,

    I think it is true that for those who were raised in Christian homes, that has a major shaping of one’s faith and becoming a follower of Jesus. I didn’t personally have that. It wasn’t until college when I was wondering if Christianity was the “USA” religion and what if I was born in India etc. All my friends and social networks were not Christians either. So for me, I had to do a ton of studying, thinking, began praying to “God” about what is truth or not. So my personal journey was coming from a non-Christian background, very skeptical of “Christianity” and the The Bible. But then began trusting the more I explored the Bible and read about Jesus. I also met with those in other faiths and read global religion books etc. But Jesus kept coming to the forefront for me. My most difficult issue, was my friends thinking I was crazy because of what “Christianity” was known as and why would I ever want to become one of them. I didn’t have a bottom-out experience or anything that caused me to explore. I just was wondering as a 20 year old about global faiths and God not having a church background.

    On our current church staff, we have a 28 year old was rasied outside the church. Her dad is a Buddhist. So she came to faith in Jesus during her college years not being influenced by being raised in a Christian home. Another 27 year old on our staff was raised outside of the church too and did not have Christian parents.

    My wife however, was raised in a strong Christian home. And I know it shaped her and she went through a self-discovery of faith in her late teenage years, but remained as a follower of Jesus but her parents did definetly shape it.

    I love hearing both stories of those who grew up in Christian homes and those who didn’t. I am surrounded by a lot of people were did not have Christian parents growing up, so their stories are thrilling too. I just talked with a former Hindu in our church who became a Christian as a college student and a few weeks ago a former Buddhist who is a PhD student spoke in our church and told her story. So like mine, theirs was a story of not having Christian parents – but it was exploration, study, prayer and eventually there were Christians who were Jesus-like who influenced them as adults.

    Everyone’s story is so wonderful and different. That is what I love about hearing how God works in different lives and different backgrounds.

  2. True Dan, we all have different stories that are set in varying backgrounds, but to a very large degree people of faith prescribe to a particular theology primarily because they were born into that faith or are rewarded by those closest to them to agree with the dominant belief system found in their surroundings. Not all, but most, do you not agree? I’m not trying to point this out in order to suggest it’s a bad thing. I’m just pointing it out because it might do us some good to be honest about this.

    Even those who didn’t have Christian parents still live in a part of the world that is decidedly “Christian” and so the influence may happen in varying degrees but is still there.

  3. maybe the point would be better made if we asked ourselves the question, “If I were to be born and raised in Osaka, or Dubai or Tehran, what would be the likelihood that I would believe in a Christian theology?” I don’t like using hypothetical scenarios but I think asking ourselves that question would allow us to more honestly wrestle with and understand how our environment and our experiences shape what we believe.

  4. I think it is immensely important to realise your above statement. Without such a realisation you remain largely ignorant to other countries’ traditional beliefs. Also this may lead to some solidarity between nations and faiths. Like you say what is the difference between a passionate American Christian and a passionate Palestinian muslim? Not a lot actually, they grew up in different places. This leads to the about the most important social value of empathy.

    And I note you used the Palestinian example. I was delighted to see someone in our Labour party stand up in the house of commons and ask at which point we are going to declare the Israeli leaders as war criminals. I try to remain open minded on this and its a terrible situation that Israeli towns live with regular rocket attacks, but its just the disproportionate response. These Palestinian rockets have killed a handful if any civilians and disrupted Israeli’s lives, we are now over 1000 Palestinian civilian deaths and a war torn country in this attack alone.

    I know the argument is that no rocket attacks = no Israeli invasion, but if we’re going to talk chicken and egg lets realise: no illegal occupation, persecution and illegal colonisation of Palestine (for half a century) probably = no rocket attacks. I sympathise with the incredibly tricky situation Israel are now in and for any Israeli’s killed by bombings etc over the years, but I struggle to sympathise for the endless years of attrocities and illegal occupation they have conducted.

  5. So the primary reason you are a Christian Z., is because of your inviroment?
    I think you are right. Me too.
    Another good follow up anwser to the interviewer might be.
    But here is why I am still a Christian etc..

    I like Acts Chapter 17: 26-27 on the issue of environment.
    This bolsters your point Zach. I think?

    From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

  6. Ryan, I did answer the question in that way. Here is my response to the question:

    “Why are you a follower of Jesus Christ?

    Zach: Honestly, most likely because my parents raised me in a Christian environment. I ultimately rejected the kind of belief system I was introduced to as a child, but somehow, mysteriously, God has kept me around one way or another and I’m extremely grateful he has. Now, when I ask myself that question, it all points towards the life of Christ. Jesus’ life is the divine example of humility, sacrifice, forgiveness, pure Love. It’s all too unbelievable and scandalous to ignore.”

    I think that the reason I’m a Christian today is that it within the Christian “stream” that I am most free to swim. The good and the bad of my Christian experience have both shaped me in profound ways and I don’t feel the need to run away from the bad in order to find the good. I don’t believe it is at all important for my Christianity to make a distinction between the redeemed and the unredeemed. I believe, in a way, we are all both. I am to seek his face, and rest in the knowledge that because I exist, I am a creation and therefore a child of God. I don’t have to think, say or do anything to get the gift. I already have the Gift and it is up to me to enjoy that Gift. I don’t have the Gift anymore than a Buddhist, Hindu or an Atheist has it.

  7. gotcha.

    sorry to be so blunt. i had typed out a much bigger response but I deleted it- i was pretty much just saying a whole lot of things that danced around the question i really wanted to ask you.

  8. oh, I think that got confusing. sorry ryan g., i was responding to atwood who’s first name is ryan…..so i really didn’t answer your particular question. haha. does that make sense?

    anyway, as far as there being a hell, i’m not entirely sure but if I were to guess, i don’t believe there is a literal hell we read about in the scripture. with that said, i think there are certainly cases when souls are not united or in relationship with God. whatever form or forms that kind of disunity takes on, who knows?

  9. I was definitely confused by your response! Thanks for clearing that up. I only brought up my question because your post was related to one of the many reasons why a literal hell creates all sorts of questions for me.

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