Since my faith is central to me, here is a capsule explanation of Christianity for those who don't follow such things (like me with professional sports):History.
Jesus of Nazareth healed the sick and preached to Jews about "our Father in heaven" with traditional religious but also radically compassionate views. He also claimed to be "the son of God," which according to C.S. Lewis makes him either a lunatic or truly the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. After predicting he would rise again, Christ was crucified (a gruesome death, as seen in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ
). His followers (first Mary, then a dozen-plus and finally hundreds) saw him and spoke with him after he "rose on the third day"; later they watched him ascend to heaven with a promise to come again. Fearing persecution, they laid low for fifty days until they were "baptized in the Holy Spirit and in fire," which emboldened them to preach "the Good News" that "the kingdom of God is at hand," adding thousands to their numbers in the first day alone. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch about ten years after the persecutor-turned-apostle Paul of Tarsus began preaching Christ to non-Jews. The "gifts of the Spirit" poured out on Pentecost (the birthday of the church) have begun to reappear in the last century, but they remain a minor trend and highly controversial.Theology.
Orthodox and Roman Catholics are the most traditional and conservative Christians, accounting for half of all believers. Protestants (Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians etc.) represent denominations that have appeared since Martin Luther and the Reformation, largely for differences in theology (Calvinists favor God's sovereignty over humans' free will by imposing a false dichotomy) and polity (hierarchical vs. democratic governance). Non-denominational groups prefer charismatic qualifications in their pastors over academic and ecclesiastical ones. Catholics and most Protestants are mainstream, mainly "preaching to the choir," but evangelicals and fundamentalists (esp. Baptists) are on the rise as they proselytize the unchurched and even nominal Christians from mainstream denominations.Faith.
Evangelical Christians maintain that you must believe in Jesus and say so aloud as the only way to be "saved" (find your life's purpose and, later, find admission to heaven). Fundamentalist Christians maintain that the Bible must be interpreted literally (God and morality are black and white--no grays, not to mention colors). However, mainstream and evangelical Christians agree that to go to heaven, it is not enough to "be a good person" or by merely associate with nominal believers; one must make a "personal decision to choose Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior." (Infant or adult baptism is a secondary issue, but once is enough.) This begins a personal relationship with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit; by God's free gift of grace, one's character becomes more like Christ's. The true Christian is called not to know about God, but to know God's own heart and so to be changed in order to glorify God, to love others as much as oneself, and to speak the truth in love. The true Christian's cry is "Jesus is Lord!" and his anthem is "Come, Lord Jesus!" Almost everything else is human interpretation…