Christian, female, British, mid-twenties, languages major, in*p.
How I Became a Christian
I became a Christian aged 14. My family background was not Christian, but I had been baptised Anglican according to the traditional custom at that time, and had heard things about Jesus from my surrounding (British) culture. I spent my childhood either not really knowing, or being dead set against Christianity – with a few vague sentiments of piety interspersed between, which I liked to impose on others in a pretentious fashion. I became a Christian in the proper sense by the example set by a Christian classmate, by a sense of grief at the inadequacy of people and support networks to be all that I had needed them to be as well as an awareness of my own hopelessness, and by the experience of the first time I had voluntarily and independently gone to church and been prayed for by elders. Upon this occasion the head-knowledge that I had accumulated about God was accompanied by a new and sudden awareness that this God was actually a real and living person and force. It was an encounter. In the midst of my troubles and disappointments, I suddenly and inexplicably knew the peace of Christ; it satisfied me in a way that other people had not been able to satisfy, and this had been completely unexpected. Although it was later discovered that I was academically inclined, this knowledge was not an intellectual sort of knowledge. It has not since left me. I am still researching different theological traditions and consequently I do not wish to delineate my beliefs too exclusively here. I can say however that Jesus Christ is my rock, and that when I am brought to account for my life, my excuse will not be that I studied him, defended him in online apologetics debates or sang in the church worship band for years on end, as if those acts could blot out the sins that prevent me from attaining the absolute holiness of God. My excuse will be that Jesus bore my sins and imperfections in his body on the cross and then rose from the dead, and that God likewise chose me to believe in him, and to die to my former life so that I could live to Christ. I know that Jesus Christ will come to earth again one day as the highest of judges, and that if I persevere in believing in him and living to him then I will be spared a verdict of ‘guilty’ and a sentence of hell after death, because God made a promise that those who believe in Christ should not perish but have eternal life, and he sealed that promise with his own atoning blood.
Education and Theoretical Background
I finished my Modern Languages degree at Oxford University in June 2012, having independently designed and researched assessed essays on sacred objects in the 19th century French literature of Honoré de Balzac, and spirituality in 20th century Italian women’s writing. I studied Dante’s Divine Comedy in depth along with some of his minor works, and took medieval Italian modules on the didactic (Christian) poetry of Guittone d’Arezzo and St Francis and Franciscanism. During this time I was involved with the UCCF Christian Unions. Other influences on my philosophy and writing have been Theatre of the Absurd, for its ‘Ecclesiastes-esque’ perspective, which showed me what I understood to be the only honest existential standpoint (not discounting its derivatives) left open to those do not have a faith or adhere to secular ways of thinking that present reasons to transcendentalize human existence or at least exalt it above nature. I was also greatly inspired by the subjective insights, linguistic beauty and grammatical genius of Marcel Proust. I learned through the 18th Century French literature of ‘sensibilité’ how popular moral sentiment can use framing and posturing to mask a reality that is in fact empty of any real moral virtue. Through my other Balzac studies I learned that it is possible to portray and commentate all of human life and interactions encyclopedically, and in a way that commands respect for its sophistication and true-to-life feel, whilst keeping God and metaphysical realities firmly in the picture. Through my studies of medieval French troubadour literature and the medieval Italian love poetry that was so strongly criticized by the didactic Christian poets of the same era, I discovered how culturally-bound the roots of a lot of ideas about romantic love are, which are popularly held as universals today. I observed in Tournier’s Le Roi des Aulnes how “being true to oneself”, or being true to a certain perception of self situated within one’s personal myth-world and its supporting narratives, can influence moral compass in spiritually and socially noxious ways. I also observed how stigma can muddy and controversialize morally complex problems that require a suspension of judgement to be understood.
I graduated from the University of Manchester in 2013 with an MA in Translation and Interpreting Studies. For my dissertation I chose to translate an extended passage of the biography of a Reformation martyr authored by a protestant (Reformed evangelical) Italian author and published by an Italian protestant publishing house in 2010. I also produced a critical analysis in which I discussed cultural, theological, political and stylistic factors involved in producing an English version that could be published with a leading US evangelical publisher, and appeal to a broadly protestant US and UK audience. This activity forced me to learn a lot more about my own Reformed evangelical theological tradition, as well as some Catholic and other protestant theology. It was a time of great exploration that eventually took me out of my Calvinistic cage stage, which freed me to explore other Christian traditions in light of my own. I explored multiple ontologies and epistemologies on which to examine both the role of translators in society and translated texts themselves. I furthermore realised that it is impossible, using the political approaches grounded in critical theory, to accurately account for Christ-centred, self-crucifying motivations behind Kingdom-focused activities from the perspective of a ‘born again’ insider, because the underlying assumptions of those approaches are entirely naturalistic and assume a dog-eat-dog struggle for political power as an a primary motive, and weave these assumptions into the tools that they use to evaluate their objects of study. I have learned that it is however possible to use these approaches to observe how similar the church and the world can sometimes be.
I spent a 7-month stint living and working in France, where I made a Pentecostal church and a non-charismatic evangelical church jointly my spiritual home. I have travelled to Florence and Bergamo and spent a month in each place, and I sampled some of the Catholic culture there.
My current interests are amateur theology, inter-denominational dialogue and the persecuted church.