Understanding Christians

This is a blog for folks who want to understand Christians. We can be very confusing–we often are to each other. You might have a relative, friend or co-worker that’s a Christian, and you don’t get them. And you want to. I want to help. If you have specific questions you want answered, just write me at markwdupre@gmail.com. If you put “CFNC” in the subject line, too, that would be helpful (CNFC stands for the name of the blog…). I’ll answer them in this blog as quickly as I can. Thanks!

If you want to make fun of Christians, there are plenty of other websites out there for you; this isn’t the one you want. Go on, go on–nothing to see here….

While as a real Christian, I would hope that some readers also become Christian in the process of reading this blog, this is not the goal here either. I just want to make it clear what we believe and why we do what we do. I’m hoping your questions will help me do that.

What do I mean by Christians? I mean those people who are Christ-followers. You may know them as “very religious people” or “born-again Christians” or evangelicals or Pentecostals or whatever. But by Christian I don’t mean a non-Jew or non-Muslim. I don’t mean just a church-goer or member of a Christian denomination, either. I mean someone in the Christian tradition, who may or may not be a part of a denomination, who has a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ, has believed for forgiveness based on what Jesus did on the cross, and believes that the Bible is the Word of God. (Many regular churchgoers are not really Christians in this sense–see below for my story in that regard.) This description is specific, and I believe that is because being a Christian is a specific thing. Christians are wonderful, weird, kind, lovely and as strange as anyone in the human race. But what they know of God and what they believe sets them apart. My goal is to help explain some of that.

Who is this guy?

If a person is crazy enough to attempt a blog attempting to explain Christianity to non-Christians, then the first thing the author has to do is explain himself, who the blog is written for, and what it’s supposed to accomplish

First of all, I am a born-again Christian, a term I consider redundant. But it helps, to some extent, to define me vis-à-vis other folks who call themselves other kinds of Christians. I know that the term comes fraught with all sorts of associative baggage. To some folks who are not born-again Christians, the term connotes nice, slightly clueless people. To others, the term literally equals, with the certifiable equivalence of an = sign, reactionary, racist or anti-sexual homophobes stopping society’s march toward Nirvana, greater socio-economic equality, or at least a world virtually humming with love and tolerance.

Full-disclosure background stuff: I was born in 1953, which makes me a card-carrying Baby Boomer. I was raised in a small rural town in Western (very Upstate) New York, near Rochester. I come from what used to be called a “broken home,” and was essentially raised by a hard-working mother. I have an older sister and a younger brother.

I have been married since the mid-70s to my first wife. I have three children and a growing number of grandchildren that I would be more than happy to talk with ANYONE about in the drop of a hat.

I was raised Catholic, and was considered a “good Catholic” until I became a born-again Christian at the age of 20. I was an altar boy (usually paired with my brother) and became a church organist while in high school. I was not abused by any priest, and while a few of the nuns were rather intense in the one semester I spent in a Catholic school when my parents split, my homeroom teacher there was a layperson and very caring. My family and I attended Mass regularly growing up, and the priests of my recollections were distant but earnest. Midnight Mass was always a happy memory. I have no baggage and don’t hate the Catholic Church, though I don’t agree with many of their doctrines anymore. I certainly am opposed to much of their activity during the Middle Ages, and easily side with Luther and Calvin in Reformation issues. But my identity as a Christian is far stronger than my identity as a former (or “lapsed”) Catholic.

I have a bachelors and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York City. My masters was in Fine Arts, with an emphasis in film. Loved the education, loved living there, and love going back.  I’ve worked as an editor in various publications, some related to film, some not. Right now I work fulltime as a pastor in a medium-sized church, and teach film part-time as an adjunct professor at Rochester Institute of Technology (an amazing and under-recognized institution). I preach regularly, marry and bury (happily, a lot more of the former), and am considered the main Bible teacher in church.

I’m also a musician. I play piano and sing. I run the music ministry at my church, and oversee the arts expression as well. My wife and I have been part of a local Christian musical theater troupe that majors in Broadway-style music. She has a great voice; I’m OK. I also support our community by playing piano for the local state college’s chorus.

None of the above makes me any more or less qualified to write this book than anyone else, except that I know more of the Bible than most Christians do. But since most non-Christians don’t believe in it anyway, I won’t use it to persuade as much as to inform and explain my opinions.

Who I’m Writing For

I suppose when you’re writing a blog that you’re writing for anyone who will read it.

But I am aiming this primarily at those who want to seriously and genuinely understand Christianity. I supposed that if you are reading this and already have your mind made up that we are all pea-brained political conservatives that either hate sex or are afraid of it, then there is probably little I can do to dissuade you. But if you are genuinely confused about things you see on the Christian landscape or have a hard time understanding how people can think the way some Christians seem to think, then I hope I can help.

If you like what you see in some Christian believers and hate what you see in others, maybe some of the things here will help you sift through those observations and their attendant feelings. As a teacher, I love to teach, and much to the frustration of my children when they were younger, I take almost every opportunity to teach a life lesson of some sort. That works great in film class, occasionally works well when raising children, and I hope, comes in handy when explaining Christianity to non-Christians. I love to explain things I feel I understand.

Purpose of the Blog

The subject matter here is bound to make no one completely happy. I already hear the chorus of “Who does he think he is to explain 2000 years of Christianity in one little blog?” If someone else were writing this, I’m pretty sure I’d join that chorus. With all the denominations that exist and all the sects that claim to be mainline Christians (and aren’t), explaining Christianity simply and easily is bound to be an approximate adventure. I understand I’m necessarily giving short shrift to doctrines and truths that are deeply meaningful to many (including myself). I mean no disrespect to any of them. And of course, I am writing from the vantage point of a middle-aged white Christian male in America.

While I already hear the shouts of “Patriarchy!” arise on the horizon, I only say that I had no control over being born in 1953, being white, being an American, and having the particular talents I have and lack. Therefore I cannot apologize for them. I am not prescribing nor proscribing; I only attempt to explain as best I can. Of course I am writing from my experience, and in some ways, I cannot escape that. I’ve traveled some, but am happy to self-identify as an American. But I’m not a “normal” American in many ways. My heart, after America, is for France, which gets me in a lot of hot water at times. I love goat cheese and blue cheese. I’m way more “artistic” (whatever that means) than most Americans, and in almost every situation I find myself, am the odd man out. I don’t hunt, but have no problem with those who do. I wish I knew more about fixing cars, but will never be good at that. I sing, play the piano, like classical music, show tunes, and am more aware of sports than even most of my friends know. I exercise and look pretty good “for someone my age.” I eat well, but love chocolate and ice cream. Yes, I’m American, but not typical—either to Americans or overseas friends.

While being “me” is going to inform a lot of what I write here—and that can’t be avoided—I’m hoping that my regular study of the Bible over the past 35 years will pull me out of the limitations of my personal experiences and the prejudices and inclinations of my psyche.

Contact me/Ask me questions

I’d be happy to respond to you as time allows. Since this is a dialogue, I want to keep the dialogue going. If I receive the blunt end of a monologue, I probably won’t respond. But if you have a question, I’ll likely roll that into a future blog, or feature it specifically. So thanks in advance for asking, and for being curious. Again, the email address is markwdupre@gmail.com.