I convert to Christianity every day. By this I mean that my faith is an ongoing process requiring movement and maturation in order to remain the integral theme of my life. Each morning brings confrontation with life, truth, pain, and evil. We must decide what type of presence will inhabit our day. Will we seek a presence of richness and life or a presence of apathy and death? As these and many other choices opened before me, I became (and continue to become) a follower of Jesus Christ based on the conviction that he is truth embodied, the truth leading to life. This is why I converted to Christianity.
Sharing similar religious values with the majority of my family and with the powerful segments of our society tends to numb my sensitivity to aspects of Christianity that challenge my cultural assumptions. It requires relational sacrifices to live out my religious convictions even within the Christian community. I believe that major themes of Jesus’ teaching include calls to humility, to choose vulnerability over power, and to love my neighbors (including my enemies) with the exact same intensity that I love myself. These difficult teachings require a high level of self-denial, ethical engagement, and painful introspection. They fly in the face of many American cultural values, particularly during a time of war and rampant xenophobia.
Ironically, discussing the implications of Christ’s teachings with other Christians often produces conflict and animosity when I challenge our deeply held cultural assumptions. For instance, I can hardly discuss Christ’s call to practice peace instead of war or to welcome “aliens and strangers” with hospitality and love without angering fellow Christians who have unwittingly tied their faith to American political values, both liberal and conservative. The attempt to live out my faith presents continual challenges to relationships both inside and outside of Christian circles.
I continually strive to integrate my faith into every aspect of life. Though it requires self-sacrifice in the contexts of relationships, impulses, and daily activities, I understand these sacrifices to be beneficial when they allow me to identify more deeply with Christ, who sacrificed himself. As I identify more closely with Christ, I am enabled to identify more closely with others. This teaches me to love with depth and sincerity and opens my eyes to witness the divine on a daily basis. And that is why I convert to Christ every day.