And for 27 years when I recall that moment I feel like Peter denying Christ, there rubbing my hands together before the warming fire with the lackeys of the court of the High Priest, concerned for my own safety.
Today I attended a reading on campus by a well-known author, dynamic speaker and National Book Award Winner. The Glasscock Center Library has a capacity for 70 people but we probably had 90 people in there. His talk was excellent and very worthwhile. His message was very anti-war (which I generally dig) and he was trying to make the point that taking another person´s life violates the Ten Commandments. And in making his point he glared around the room and said, "Do we have any Christians in here?" and he spat out the word "Christians" with absolute disdain, as if it were a more offensive word than the f-bombs he occasionally sprinkled through his lecture and Q&A session.
It´s a curious word: Christian. Some terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity and to self identify as a Christian now, even in the Bible belt, is to increasingly identify oneself with intolerance, ignorance and closed-mindedness.
But today I raised my hand. I raised it all the way and felt my elbow lock. And I left it up there long enough for him to see. I didn´t see any other hands raised and I don´t care if there were any. Because for all the baggage that comes with the term "Christian" I must claim that I am a needy follower of Christ. And if I get sneered at, and that´s what passes for persecution in the U.S. in 2013 I´ll take it. By saying I´m a Christian I´m admitting that I totally buy into something I can´t prove and I am accepting all the negative baggage and stereotypes that accompany a label with a complicated history. I am not proclaiming that I´m better. I´m admitting that I´m worse. And in my insufficiency I claim Him. Not as "fire insurance," but as a connection to truth.
If my admitting I´m a Christian hooks me up to a bunch of negative baggage in your eyes, then get to know me and give me a chance to show you it´s not about judgment or being better or even about being good. It´s just about recognizing insufficiency and reaching for completeness; acknowledgment of woeful imperfection and reaching for pure truth. I didn´t do anything noteworthy. I just raised my hand.