I’m a Christian. One of the most important parts of our faith is the sharing of our convictions with others:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
That’s the “Great Commission” at the end of the Gospel According to Matthew, and it’s basically the blueprint for evangelism.
Well, I’m not an “Evangelical Protestant”; you won’t hear me rail on and on about abortion, the moral degradation of our society, how homosexuality is a sin, etc. My personal views on those things aren’t all that important, and while I’m not going to deny that my faith has an aspect in those things, that’s not what I think is most important.
Christianity is about love.
That’s what I care about. I can’t deny someone the right to marry because of a few Bible quotes when (a) not everyone is a Christian, and (b) it’s a lot more important that I am loving and caring about that person.
I can’t tell someone what to do with their body with oppressive language, shoving grotesque imagery in their face and calling them a sinner.
And who am I to talk about the moral degradation of society? Everyone is a sinner. We’ve always been sinners. It’s only through the power of Christ’s suffering that we’re washed free of our sin.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.“
We’re all wretches. Without God’s forgiveness of our sins, we’re left with no chance but to sin, because our hearts and minds are basically little sin factories. So, I cannot help but approach my faith from the words of Christ:
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40)
I don’t care if you sin. Everyone does. I love you anyway.
The Faith Journey of a Cosmologist
I’m not going to lie, my faith journey is a pretty weird one. I grew up in a household that I would describe as agnostic. I don’t really remember ever personally thinking about God before my dad died when I was 12; my mom and dad were divorced so there was kind of “two households” in my mind before then, but the agnostic household I speak of consisted of my mother and my brother (12 years older than I).
My mother and I never really talked about God, so far as I can remember, and my brother and I would talk about God occasionally only. Mostly in the context of those cheesy Nostradamus and Armageddon documentaries that the history channel inundated us all with in 1999 and thereabouts.
When I went to college, I was agnostic leaning atheist, since I was a scientist and I bought into that myth that one can’t be both a Christian and a scientist at the same time.
Grad school was tough. That’s all I can say. I got depressed. I got (really) fat. My eating disorder went out of control. And all the while I was pretty committed to not accepting that there was a God that cared about me. I wasn’t ready to go so far as to say “I’m an atheist” but I was pretty darn close.
Then, all of a sudden, things basically changed for me overnight. The first year after leaving grad school I spent applying for job after job after job and getting rejection after rejection after rejection. To say that I was struggling emotionally is a vast understatement. I began thinking more at this time about my kids, too, and some of the struggles that I had with fatherhood came to light with the help of my therapist.
As things “got better” for me (no longer overwhelmingly depressed, starting a company to make a job for myself, etc.) I realized that there was something missing in my life. And, oddly enough, the results of that research I spent all those years in grad school studying finally helped me to truly find God.
I studied dark matter and dark energy in graduate school. I’ve talked about what those are before, but in case you didn’t know, here’s an awesome quick little video on what this stuff is:
I came to the realization that the negative result I achieved, showing that the calculation I was working so hard on (tomographic cluster weak lensing shear measurements) really couldn’t tell us ANYTHING about dark energy, was pretty good evidence that there was something deeper at work. Something, unknowable?
And, all at once all of the great mysteries of astrophysics came flooding into my mind, and I saw and felt the divine.
I heard God speak to me then.
All of a sudden I felt overwhelmingly called to Christianity, and it just started making sense to me, and within a few weeks I had surrendered my life to Christ.
I was “born again,” despite the fact that I loathe what that term has come to mean in our society. It’s 100% attached to the Evangelical Protestant “right-wing nut job” that’s I’m pretty much polar opposite of, politically speaking.
I’ve read a lot of the bible, I’ve studied a lot of God’s word, and I’ve got a lot of questions to talk with God about before I understand… assuming I ever will. And I’m okay with that. I couldn’t stand uncertainty as a scientist and I can embrace it and enjoy it now.
And the Christ that I know, he’s kind of a hippie, and I like that.
If you want to know where I stand politically with respect to my faith, take a look at the Red Letter Christian movement.