Gail and I have registered in both the Republican and Democratic parties for years. That way we hear from both groups. Interestingly enough, we vote essentially the same. Those who believe membership in these political groups dictate how one votes, enjoy labeling themselves and those in the other parties, mostly to win support from those who may think in a similar manner, at least regarding the labeling.
I guess I found myself offended when those in one party called themselves Christians and implied that those in the other party were not Christians. Okay, that activity simply rendered the label Christian useless. It also degraded those sincere non-Christian theists as unworthy of American privileges and responsibilities. By birth Jesus, at minimum an awesome model of being a loving caring person, was a Jew, and worshipped God as his family and community did as a Jew. In practice, he did more and lived differently. His focus was on loving God and neighbors. He probably wouldn't be considered a model Jew. Those who saw the wisdom in his teachings and practices, were later identified as followers of Jesus Christ and were labeled Christians.
What is a Christian? There was a time when extremists would hang out in airports, handing out literature about their beliefs and ask, "Are you a Christian?" meaning something to the effect, "Have you had an emotional experience and then declared that you were a Christian?" When visiting her daughter in Saudi Arabia, my mother was asked, "Are you a Christian?" She first thought of the question as asked in the airport and then realized that the question was more like, "From among the religions of the world, are you a Christian as opposed to a Muslin, Hindu, Jew or other?"
If one declares himself as a Christian, at least within a community of Christians, the question then arises, even if not asked, "What variety? conservative, progressive, liberal, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc." Each variety considers itself the best; that's why they chose that variety. Can we just follow and practice the teachings and modeling of Jesus and maybe be called Followers of Christ or Followers of the Teachings of Jesus? Or more broadly, can we just be "Theists," believers that God exists. In my mind that means that God is good and that I too should be good by relating to God and being good to all people.
The interesting thing is that none of this requires that I give up or denounce what I learned as a child and lived as an adult. It still comes down to "loving God and neighbors," and "doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God."
In the extreme I might even consider the option that there is no god. But then I look out the windows this beautiful peaceful morning with eyes that defy understanding, listen to the sounds of the morning birds through the open window, feel the cool breeze before the warming sun and I have to say "Thank you for this day and for my life." It feels so natural to be thankful. But thankful to whom? Alas, there is a God.
The leaves on another branch fluttered in the sunlit tree as a bird landed and sang its morning song.