Yesterday I raised the question of whether or not a “salvation moment” is necessary. Today I want to offer my thoughts.
On the one hand, I think the idea of a “salvation moment” is one we can let go of. It’s been used in manipulative ways, used as a “get out of Hell free” card, used to separate people from each other. In those ways I think this idea of salvation as a moment is unhelpful. I also believe, like some of the commenters yesterday, that salvation is a journey: one is both saved and being saved. It’s a process.
On the other hand I think it is helpful to be able to have some markers to look back to: a moment to say, “This is when I decided to follow in the way of Jesus”. I think this is especially important for those who have grown up in the church and absorbed Christianity almost by osmosis. The ability to say, “This faith is something I have chosen for myself” is important. It also says that following in the way of Jesus should make your life look somehow different from the norms of the empire; it should point to your allegiance being in a different place.
I think the larger issue, for me, is how we do faith formation in the liberal/mainline/progressive church. Where are the signposts that our youth and young adults can look to as markers on their spiritual journey. This is, theologically, one of the issues I have with infant baptism: no one remembers their baptism! I also think that we need to be really intentional with the way that we teach confirmation and the rituals surrounding confirmation. Where are the place markers that people can look to? Where are the signposts in a spiritual journey? Do we encourage people to make note of these moments and to share them with others? I think we should. I also think we need to be reminding people that Christianity requires commitment, it is not something that can be absorbed but not lived out. It requires a change of priorities.
I struggle with my own answer to this question. I can see the undue pressure put on the “Born Again” moment in the church of my childhood, and yet I still think there is a value to making a decision to follow Jesus, even if it’s as simple as saying, “This is the faith that I was brought up in, but I now choose it for myself.”
For me I feel as if I have both chosen my faith and been chosen by it at different points in my life. I don’t place a lot of stock in my own “born again” moment at age four because I know I was praying that prayer because I was scared of Hell. That’s nothing to base a life on. I do think, though, that it was a profound moment when I chose to be baptized as a teenager, even though I was terrified to be up in front of all of those people. It felt like the right time, a time to say publicly “This is the faith I have chosen.” And there are other signposts; going to seminary, picking up my Bible again after years away, claiming my faith even as I also claimed my queerness, my ordination to the diaconate…All of these moments are important place markers. They are places to cling to when this life feels hard and isolating. They are also reminders that I have chosen to put my allegiance somewhere other than in the Empire and that I need to be living accordingly.
Following in the way of Jesus is something that I need to continue to choose. I often wander off the path and need to be nudged back toward it: in this way I am saved and ever in need of salvation. This is my complicated and dichotomous answer to this question.