Religious Interview: Examining the Religious Experience
I interviewed pastor Christine Lee from Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church, on Sunday 20th, 2005. The following are the questions and answers given during the interview. †
1) What do you think is the most fundamental aspect(s) of your religion?
The most fundamental aspect of the Christian faith is that God created the world and He made us in His image to be like Him. However, we sinned and so someone had to pay for our sins, because God is just. Therefore, God sent His son Jesus who was perfect and sinless, to die on a cross for us. If we believe that this is true, then we can be saved and be perfect and we can have eternal life. That in itself is the most fundamental aspect and is basically what Christianity is all about.†
2) What do you want others to know about your religion?
I want others to know that God is very living and Heís very real. Christianity is not just like another one of the world religions. We believe that Jesus is the only way and that is what I want people to know. He is very alive, He speaks to me and I honestly feel guided. We believe that thereís a Holy Spirit inside of us when we believe in Christ, which tells us what to do. Itís a living relationship where I can speak to God and pray to Him and I know He loves me and guides me through life. The personal relationship you can have with God is something I want people to know about.††
3) What do you think is the most unique aspect of your religion?
Our religion is the only religion that believes that Jesus died on the cross and resurrected. This belief sets us apart from all the other religions. If this wasnít true it would have died down the very first century, but it didnít, instead it got bigger and bigger and bigger. Jesus was crucified, but He continued to live for forty days after His death, which was witnessed by over five hundred people. We have a living God and I think this aspect is very different from all the other religions.
4) What makes you a strong believer in your faith?
God answers prayers and Heís very real, and thatís what makes me a strong believer. I remember when I first got married I had no money, no nothing, and yet God provided for me. Sometimes when I donít know what to do or when Iím afraid, God fills my mind and heart.
5) What are some of your religious traditions, rituals? Which do you favour most?
Praying is a very significant tradition which we can do anywhere and anytime. God listens to us and speaks to us. Scripture reading is also very important, and we encourage people to read the Bible all the time, which fills us with Godís words. We believe thatís how God speaks to us. Another tradition is coming together at a church to worship. I think I favour praying the most, because I can tell God how I feel and I know God listens to me.†
6) How does observing or performing these rituals affect your daily life?
The thing about Christianity is that we donít have to do anything, but we do it out of love. Jesus said, ďIf you love me you will obey my commands.Ē So we pray because we want to. Every time I do something that God wants me to do, it always makes things better, and I guess thatís how it affects my daily life.
7) What are some of the symbols of your religion and what do they symbolize?
The most important symbol is the cross, because it represents Jesusí death. The Bible says if Christ did not die and rise from the dead, then everything we do is useless, which is why all the other symbols are secondary. The fish is another symbol, which in the Greek word is an acronym for Father, God, Son, Jesus and Savoir. Itís a statement of our faith.
8) Does your religion provide a guide for your future path?
Yes, Christianity definitely provides a guide for my future path. The Bible says that God knows the plan He has for us. God knows everyday of our lives and He is everywhere. He gave us free will and choice, but He knows what we will choose. I know that God has a guide and plan for me and that I will go to heaven when I die.
9) Does your community of faith always stand behind you in a time of need? How?
Technically in the Bible yes, weíre supposed to, but that doesnít always happen. However, in the Bible it does say that when one person suffers, everyone else suffers too. In our church we have a cancer support group, where when there is a person going through chemotherapy, everyone else surrounds him or her and offers support. We also have a charity fund to help those who are going through financial difficulties. However, as a church, we can only help others as much as they let us. Sometimes people are afraid or ashamed to share their problems, and itís difficult to help them. Therefore, as a church, we canít help them unless theyíre willing to be helped.†
10) How does your faith handle societal issues such as premarital sex, intermarriage, teen pregnancy and divorce?
We donít believe in premarital sex, but honestly I think itís for the personís own good. Youíre giving away something so precious, your virginity, so why not just wait until you commit to marriage so that you can have that commitment. If I knew someone in my church was having premarital sex and they were a counselor or leading worship, I would take them out of these leadership roles and I would tell them to try to stop. However, we would still love them and we never turn our backs on them. We are all sinners, so we canít really judge them or hate them. We just try to help each other out to be holy. With divorce, we try to encourage people to reconcile at all times. We are strongly against intermarriage, because we believe that it is very difficult for two people to bond so deeply if one person loves Jesus with all his or her heart and the other person doesnít. For teen pregnancies, we encourage the person to keep the baby, because we believe that abortion is killing. If the person decides to have the baby, we would love and raise the baby just like any other child.
11) What do you believe about deity/ies?
I believe that God created this world and that He loves us all, even those who donít know him. I believe God knows everything and that He wants us to be close to Him. I believe Heís very loving.†††
12) Describe your feelings about your relationship with deity/ies?
Out of everything I do, my times with God are the best. I love to read the Bible and pray. I can tell Him how I feel and Heís always forgiving. Sometimes I think I always mess up. Iíll say Iíll never get angry with my kids, but I always mess up, and yet God is always forgiving. I think itís great to have this relationship with God. I think of Him as my father and Iím His daughter, I think of Him as my king and I obey Him and I think of Him as my teacher and I learn from Him.
13) Do you have any type of scripture or literature that you read and follow? When were they written?
Yes, we read and follow the Bible. It was written from around 2000 B.C. until around 70 A.D., as the events went on.
14) Do you pray? If so, how do you pray?
Yes, I pray all the time. When I pray I just talk to God and sometimes I like to write down my prayers. I donít follow a set method, but in the beginning some people do, using the acronym ACTS, which stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, but you can speak freely to God.
15) How does your religion react to provide understanding for violence in society (past and present)?
In the past, the church used to be a social care for the society. Now, we have a lot of organizations, one is Urban Promise and another one is Toronto Mission. We also have missionaries and support them financially, so they can work full time in these places. As well, during summer, we send teams of youths or even adults to help them out.††
16) What is your view on same-sex marriages or homosexuals?
I strongly believe that homosexuality is not what God planned for us, but I donít ever want to think that Christians donít love the homosexual. We have this phrase, which is, ďLove the sinner. Hate the sin.Ē I believe that marriage should be between a man and a women, but I can understand their point of view. Itís like gays are so unbiased that they donít even care if the other person is a male or female. They can look into the other personís soul and love them for their soul. However, I do believe that there are certain characteristics of a woman that only a woman has, and characteristics of a man that only a man has, and I think that God planned it this way. I think that two men or two women canít compliment each other a man and a woman can. There are many scriptures in the Bible that God says plainly that we should not have homosexuals.
17) How do you feel about other religions?
Jesus said, ďI am the way, the truth and the life.Ē Heís the only way to God, and that is what I believe. So I pray for all the other people in other religions, that one day they will know Christ, because the other ways are not fulfilling and not true.
18) Is there a reason or explanation as to why people suffer?
To be honest, I really donít know. However, Jesus also went through suffering. He went through physical suffering when He was crucified, and He went through emotional suffering when He was abandoned by His friends while many were against Him. He knows how it feels to go through sufferings. My trust is in God and I believe that He has a way.
19) What do you think will happen to non-believers of your religion after death?
This is a hard thing to accept, because it sounds very cruel, but I believe that people who donít accept Jesus Christ will go to hell. Because God is so just and so holy, He cannot accept sinners within him who have not paid for their sins. However, because God is also so loving, He allows us to be forgiven and provided a way out. That is, to believe that Jesus took our sins and died for us. So, if you donít believe that Jesus took your sins, youíre saying that youíre holding onto your sins and not giving them up. Therefore, God canít forgive you even though He wants to.
20) How does your religion conflict with science?
I believe that all truth is Godís truth. I believe that God is the creator of science. He created molecules, atoms, everything. I think that even a scientist doesnít have all the explanations and has to take a leap of faith. I think the theory of evolution is a leap of faith as well, because it canít be proven. I believe that God created the world and that Christianity doesnít go against science.†
††††††††††† According to the Christian faith, all humans are sinners, which is the problem that we all have. Christians believe that Godís love for humans made Him give us freewill, but it is this freedom of choice that allowed us to commit sins. Everyone commits sins (with the single exception of Jesus Christ), no matter how righteous we are, because this is human nature. The belief is that no one can meet the perfection that God requires, as it is impossible to be sinless. As a result, all humans deserve to spend eternity in hell. However, since God is forgiving, He sent his son Jesus to pay for our sins, and free us from the penalty of entering hell. Christians believe that the ultimacy is to live eternally with God in heaven, which can only be achieved if we believe that Jesus died to pay for our sins.
††††††††††† As I interviewed pastor Christine, it became clear that she is a very faithful Christian who has an intimate relationship with God. She revealed her love for God and constantly claimed that God is very real and very living. She is a very devoted believer who puts her trust in God, believing that He has a great plan for her and guides her through difficult times. Her religion also leads her to believe that there is a purpose in life, which makes her have a very positive attitude. I think religion has definitely had a great impact on her life and the religious experience that she has is very successful.
††††††††††† This interview was a great opportunity that allowed me to have a better understanding on Christianity. Being non-religious, I found it extremely interesting to learn about the Christian faith, as I have always wanted to explore the true meaning of being Christian. Although I cannot say that I believe in every aspect of this religion, I definitely think this experience has changed my views towards Christianity. Before the interview, I was quite skeptical but curious when it came to religion, as I had a lot of questions that I did not think had answers to them, or at least satisfying answers. However, as I think about the responses I got back, I realize that many of the Christian beliefs have justifiable explanations. I really enjoyed having this opportunity to talk to a pastor and attending the Sunday morning service, as I probably would not be motivated to do so if it were not for this project. Obviously, there is still much to learn from this religion and many more unanswered questions to be asked, but now I feel that I should continue to seek for the truth.
††††††††††† Although I am not Christian, I believe that many of my values are similar to Christians. For example, I believe in justice, kindness, love and equality. However, there are certain Christian aspects that I strongly disagree with, for example, the view of homosexuals and the idea of legalizing same-sex marriages. Christianity does not accept homosexuality, which I believe is discrimination against the homosexual, and is not just. It also makes me doubt the consistency of the religion, since Christians claim that they believe in treating others the way they want to be treated, which I believe contradicts to the belief in prohibiting same-sex marriages. Pastor Christine used the phrase, ďLove the sinner. Hate the sin.Ē to justify her view towards the homosexual. However, I do not believe that Christians can truly love the homosexual if they cannot accept them for who they are. I think this contrast in belief is one of the main reasons why there is a barrier between my beliefs and Christianity. I believe that my morals and conscience are the only things that guide me through life. Therefore, it is very difficult for me to simply follow what the Bible says without questioning its content. However, I do not reject the fact that there may be a God.††††††††††† ††††††