What is Christian Literacy?

refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.

Religious literacy
means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.

I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.

Friday, April 27, 2012


It’s become quite fashionable to say, “I’m spiritual, just not religious.” Another version goes like this, “I’m into God and Jesus, just not church.”

I understand what folks mean when they say these things, but still it sometimes feels like a subtle put-down of the church, or a slightly prideful way of saying, “I don’t need church. I can figure it out on my own.”

It seems to me that the big advantage of the church is that we get to try and figure it out together. And not just with one another. We have spiritual teachings that date back 4000 years. We have forms of worship and ways to encounter God that go back just as far. And at the heart of it all is spirituality - communion with God. That’s why we sing hymns, recite prayers and study the scriptures. I love church because I love God. And I find God within the church, its people and its ministries.

There are two beautiful images for the church in the New Testament.

One is the Church as the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). This image speaks of living in partnership, in covenant and in union with God. The church is a gathering for those who seek to live in a loving partnership with God. It’s a gathering for those who love God, who seek to live as God’s Beloved.

The other important image for the church is the church as the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:27). The church is to be a physical manifestation of Christ upon this earth. We’re to do what He would do if Jesus were physically here today.

After WWII ended a small town in England was being rebuilt. One of the town’s prize possessions was a statue of Christ that stood in the center of the village. Workers gathered the pieces of the statue together to reassemble it, but something was missing - the hands. They considered contacting the original sculptor to ask him to recreate what was missing. But someone had a better idea. They crafted a sign that was placed at the base of the statue. It said, “You are the hands of Christ.”

Question: Which image speaks to you more - the church as the Bride of Christ or the Body of Christ?

Prayer by St. Teresa of Avila

Lord Christ,

You have no body on earth but ours,
No hands but ours,
No feet but ours.

Ours are the eyes through which your compassion
Must look out on the world.

Ours are the feet by which you may still
Go about doing good.

Ours are the hands with which
You bless people now.

Bless our minds and bodies,
That we may be a blessing to others.