I want to be a Christian irregular

Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church in Guilderland has blue hymnals in all the pews. If you open one of these and turn to Number 372 you’ll find one entitled “Lord, I want to be a Christian.”

Look closer, right under the title, and you’ll see “I want to be a Christian” is printed again, with the word “irregular” next to it. My lovely church-organist, choir-director, piano-teacher wife, Charlotte, tells me irregular in this context means the “time signature” is different in different parts of the hymn.

That’s all fine and dandy, especially if you’re a musician and even know what she’s talking about. What I did instead was string all the words together, which makes it “I want to be a Christian irregular.” As it turns out that just about describes me perfectly.

You see, there is something called the “religious right” and “evangelicals” and all that. They believe in Jesus Christ, of course, but some of the other things they espouse are just anathema to me.

For example, take the concept of “biblical inerrancy.” This is where you get “creationists” who believe in “intelligent design,” with the Earth being only about 5,000 years old and our ancestors riding around on dinosaurs like horses.

Then you have so-called evangelists who traipse into some jungle somewhere and find people who have never even seen a white person not to mention electricity, plumbing, etc., and try to “convert” them. Things like that keep me out of the religious right.

I think I need to be in the religious left, if there is such a thing. I guess that’s why “I want to be a Christian irregular” works so well for me. It’s perfect.

For one thing, go out on your front lawn and pick up a stone. That sucker is many thousands if not millions of years old. The age of rocks is determined by science, specifically “carbon dating.” Look it up.

For another thing, instead of trying to “convert” anyone, how about helping them with farming, irrigation, and basic medical needs? Once they see you are out to help them — that your intentions are unselfish and true — you will have led them by example, just as Jesus himself did two thousand years ago.

Then there will be no need to convert anyone; when you tell them it’s the love of Jesus Christ that makes it all possible, they’ll get it. Radical concept for many, I know, but love always works.

I actually had a very conservative relative say to me once, with a straight face: “The problem with this country is the separation of church and state.” Hello?

We have a thing called the First Amendment, which clearly states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The whole point of the American Experiment is people fleeing from persecution and being able to follow any faith they want or no faith at all. That’s what makes us great. Don’t ever forget this!

I consider myself a science-based guy. Maybe there really was a Garden of Eden, or maybe the Adam and Eve story is just one of many “creation myths” that so many religions have. The thing is, the theory of evolution works, and to ignore it or trivialize it is just plain foolish.

I’m not saying we’re necessarily descended from apes, but the evidence for evolution is strong and can be tested even more as time goes on. When that deer runs out of the way of your car, he or she reproduces and creates more deer that run away from cars. That’s evolution. Survival of the fittest. It makes sense.

Here’s another touchy one. Who am I to tell a woman who was raped, or been a victim of incest, or is told she may die if she continues a pregnancy, that she has to deliver to term? Are you kidding me?

Within reason — by reason I mean very early — you have to let her have an abortion if she wants one. Anything else is just adding insult to injury.

Of course, if you give women that power, they must use it responsibly. Abortion is not birth control. No one wants to see actual babies with beating hearts killed. Conversely, no one wants to see women in back alleys getting unsafe abortions, either.

I know this is sensitive and causes endless debate and often violence, which is reprehensible. Still, within reason, women have to have the right to control their own bodies. I know if I were a woman, I’d expect nothing less.

Just be glad I’m not a woman because shaving my face on a regular basis is tedious enough so I’d be walking around with hairy legs all the time and you wouldn’t want to see that I’m sure.

You see why “I want to be a Christian irregular” works for me? With those last few paragraphs, I just got myself kicked out of many if not most churches and places of worship. Good thing I have a thick skin. Many say I have a thick skull as well. They’re probably right.

For me, it’s like this: If you believe Jesus Christ is the son of God who died for our sins, you believe he represents universal love and salvation. He loves everyone created in God’s image, and that indeed means everyone, no matter their race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation.

He’s not going to separate children from their parents at the border, because that’s just cruel. He’s not going to say a woman pastor can’t preach to men because that makes no sense.

When they asked Jesus what’s the one rule above all others, he said, “Love your neighbor.” He didn’t qualify what kind of neighbor, either. I’m totally down with that, unless my neighbor is playing drums at 3 a.m. and I have to work the next day, haha.

One big reason why “I want to be a Christian irregular” works so well for me is that I will never pull one line out of the Bible and use it as an excuse to ostracize or alienate anyone or anything. You see this kind of thing in all religions, unfortunately.

Again, it’s all about Jesus Christ. “What would Jesus do?” is kind of a cliché at this point, but it basically says it all. He would always act with love, care, wisdom, and respect — period. Everything else flows from that basic premise.

One time I went to a church that was having a celebration of their brand-new outdoor pavilion. It was a beautiful structure and you could tell the church was going to make great use of it.

As I ambled around just admiring the whole thing, I came across a sign with a bunch of “no”s listed. Most of them were things you’d expect: no smoking, no drinking, no skateboarding — standard things like that.

But the very last one shocked me, because it said “No dancing.” Why no dancing? Dance is one of the crowning achievements of the human condition.

Go to the New York City Ballet next time they’re in Saratoga and see the true joy in motion that these artists/athletes achieve. And when did slow dancing with your spouse at some kind of celebration, like a wedding, become a bad thing? The only reason I don’t dance more is because I’m really bad at it, but someday, with any luck at all, I do hope to learn.

You see why I need to be in the “religious left?” I have the crazy idea there’s nothing wrong with dancing:

Call me a heathen,

I don’t care,

‘cause someday I’ll dance,

like Fred Astaire.

All kidding aside, “I want to be a Christian irregular” is now my personal slogan. If you’ve read this far, you’re welcome to use it as well. Good old Hymn number 372 – gotta love it.