This week, it’s really been hitting me how much I truly want to stay a Christian. Ministry college was actually a lot of fun some times and I learned such valuable lessons. One of which was that no one on the planet is unequivocal
ly right about everything. I discovered the tragic Christian history where people majored on the minors and had my-God-is-bigger-than-your-god(s) debates that often ended in bloody, drawn-out wars. Where I came from in my understanding of theology was akin to the Spanish Inquisition. People expect you to believe certain things to be called a “Christian”, but if you don’t believe those things, you are ostracized and treated unfairly by those who say they love.
And it’s comparable only in our sanitized, entitled American culture. Sure we don’t kill those who stand up for what they actually believe in, but we keep them out so that the “Truth” will reign in us. Being afraid of people who believe differently than you is not the mark of a true Christian. It is the mark of a coward. Someone who refuses to listen to other sides, for fear they may fall under the sway of the new argument and abandon God altogether, is being cowardly not courageous.
I have been a coward. Sometimes, I still am one.
I start to feel stuck when I think I have to have all the answers right and if I don’t push myself to get over the smug feeling of thinking I’m right, I stay stuck. As you probably know, I am addicted to South Park these days, and unabashedly so.
In the episode about Scientology, Stan says to an entire crowd who thinks he’s a prophet that “We’re all looking for answers, you know. We all want to understand who we are and where we come from, but sometimes we want to know the answers so badly that we believe just about anything.”
Unfortunately, this has also become true about Christianity. When having faith means giving more money to be healed, evangelizing means getting people to come to only your own church, and worship has to happen in a specific building or with certain music, Christianity has strayed from its message. Inasmuch as I am able, I desire to express my love for Jesus in a different way than “Just Saying No” to everything. I think Jesus loved the world and he would’ve been hanging out with a lot of the people we Christians feel so compelled to avoid.
I was raised with a Christian perspective that meant I believed two important things: God loves the entire world, no matter what. God wants us to share his message with the world so that they can stop sinning and be happy with Him. It’s very subtle, but the second message can be really destructive if people take them completely literally. What scares me though is that for the general Christian person I’ve experienced, it’s the first belief that is in question. We try redefining love and bring in images of the scolding parent who still loves their child. We think that all-around “love” is not the answer and we imagine that as Christians, we are to push forward the conviction of all around us. But this is not what Jesus did. He gently and kindly spoke to the outcasted sinners of society and constantly told the religious people that they were missing the point.
Moving to Spokane was the craziest adventure of my life so far. The most terrifying was when I moved in with some Christians who believed some really ridiculous stuff. Running from that, I found my dear current roommate, an Atheist who has changed my life and viewpoint forever. My roommate, Rachael is a hero for me, someone who pulled me out of something that was really scaring me, a girl who I barely knew, who offered me a place to live. You see, we as Christians can get so wrapped up in thinking we know everything but we really and truly don’t.
It wasn’t a Christian who was my Good Samaritan when I needed help. It was a kind and sassy Atheist, we had one lunch, two or three talks and then she took me in. I do believe in God… I really don’t know to what extent. But I know that my roommate, and other Atheists, others who question religion, are so very human. They are imbued with kindness we dismiss, love that we ignore and I completely think we should rethink our stance on “unbelievers.” If a believer is someone who acts like Jesus did, I’ve seen a fair bit of “unbelievers” who fit that description.
Being a Christian is not supposed to be about abstinence. It’s supposed to be about freedom. Freedom to choose and to thank, freedom to love, freedom to be who you are and know you’re loved. The other day, I was listening to the song “Testify To Love” by Avalon. It’s an old family favorite and reminds me of who I’ve always wanted to be as a Christian.
Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/nwQhsL98qkg
“For as long as I shall live, I will testify to love.” As I listened to the song in the Spokane chill, I thought back on the darkness brought about by Christianity. All that I had learned in ministry college came flooding back. People were burned alive, their blood spilled as a sweet incense to God, the disagreements on biblical principles were so heated that they led to tragic wars that overwhelmed history with religion-led bloodshed. I, as a young Christian had shoved the concept of Hell into the faces of those who bullied me and those of my friends who believed differently. In ministry college, I had cheapened the gospel by forcing myself to share Jesus with random people in the mall, not letting it happen naturally in calm conversation without pretense. Growing up, I always felt I had to have an ulterior motive for friendship. I could be their friend if they would eventually accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
My roommate has told me she experienced the other end of that perspective when she was growing up. Friends would invite her to church and then get super intense, hoping she liked it. I am grateful for the change in my life that led me to Spokane, that I woke up and realized I didn’t believe all that I was preaching. Because now, I can hear Rachael’s stories, and listen to Christian histories and be disgusted. Now I can live and let other perspectives in and it doesn’t change that fundamental part about me. I am Christian. But being a Christian has more to do with what you let in, than what you don’t.