A Test of Faith
If you aren't already a citizen of the United States, and you are planning on becoming one, you may be interested to know that the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services has some news for you: they are changing the citizenship examination. The old test was comprised of one hundred questions, including trivia like the number of stripes on the flag and which state was admitted forty-ninth to the Union. The new test will still have one hundred questions and some trivia, but will focus more on the the Bill of Rights and the meaning of democracy. "The idea is not to toss up roadblocks, it's to make sure people who apply for citizenship and who want to become citizens understand and adhere to the values we have as a society, the values that are part of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights," said Shawn Sauder, spokesman for the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services. "The current exam doesn't guarantee knowledge of those values. We want them to study and look at this information, not toward the eye of memorizing it for a trivia exam."
That big sigh of relief you hear belongs to those of us who, by birth or naturalization, are already citizens. Despite the common sense embodied in this new approach to acquainting our future fellow citizens with our government and societal traditions, we wouldn't want to be put to the test ourselves. If citizenship were like a driver's license, renewable every four to six years only if you passed a vision and road test, how well would any of us do? Betcha that evokes a little more sympathy for people trying to enter the United States with the intent of a better life for themselves and their families. Once here, they will now be required to envision what this country was created to look like, and then map their way on a road trip through what we have become.
No less daunting, really, than what those of the Christian faith have been doing for centuries. We have struggled to understand the concept of faith that Jesus laid out in his three years of public ministry, which was then interpreted by Paul and other early church leaders. From there, the church became institutionalized in both Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. Among all these historical facts are settled small pieces of information you may or may not find enlightening or important: On what day of the week was Jesus crucified? When did Martin Luther tack his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Whittenburg? What year did the Episcopal Church begin ordaining women? But, facts they are, ones that point to who our faith community was at that point in time, and to what we had struggled with before and after each of those historic events occurred.
But here is where our government is actually on the right track. They want people to know what this country is about so that these newest citizens can participate fully in the process. The also want us who already benefit from our citizenship to know we can learn from this new exam and can use it as a springboard to deepen our commitment to our country. Pretty good stuff, if you ask me.
Can we as people of faith do the same?
Paul's letter to the Colossians spoke of this fulness of life we can have. "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7)." Paul's words imply teaching in the facts and important values that were a part of how people, then and now, come to an understanding of what the Christian faith is about. Then, the real test: live your lives in God through the example Jesus lived on earth. This sense of faith being an ongoing project, including continuing education, is more than implied.
What if our membership in the faith community were also like a driver's license, only renewable if we passed vision and road tests, proved that we understood what the Christian faith was about and could apply that knowledge on a road trip through reality when called upon to do so? What if you couldn't pass the test the first time? How many retries would you want or need? I can only imagine how many people would come to a new practice of prayer, and new definitions of forgiveness and mercy, especially if they believed they were on their last chance to do it right.
But many of us have faced "last chances," only to discover that God never gave up on us, and that we were in the middle of a very long licensing process. We were never going to be refused the privileges of faith, or its responsibilities. we were only going to be required to keep living as citizens in God's kingdom.
About The Author
Cory L. Kemp
Date Posted: May 18, 2007
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