I am a Christian.
Actually, it’s more accurate lately to say that I am still a Christian.
I now say this with much trepidation. I say it with great fatigue. I say it somewhat begrudgingly. I say it with more than a good deal of embarrassment—not of Jesus, but of so many of his people and so much of the Church who claim to speak for him.
Looking around at too much of what represents my faith tradition, particularly in this election season, it’s become a daily battle to make this once effortless declaration, knowing that it now automatically aligns me with those who share so little in common with the Jesus I met when I first claimed the name Christian.
It now aligns me with bathroom bullies, politicized pulpits, white privilege, and overt racism; with bigotry toward so many groups of people who represent the “world” I grew up believing that God so loved.
There are things that used to be a given as a follower of Jesus, that no longer are.
For far too many people, being a Christian no longer means you need to be humble or forgiving. It no longer means you need a heart to serve or bring healing. It no longer requires compassion or mercy or benevolence. It no longer requires you to turn the other cheek or to love your enemies or to take the lowest place or to love your neighbor as yourself.
It no longer requires Jesus.
And so the choices are to abandon the idea of claiming Christ altogether to avoid being deemed hateful by association in the eyes of so much of the watching world—or to reclaim the name Christian so that it once again replicates the love of Jesus in the world.
I am trying to do the latter.
Yes, I am a Christian, but there is a Christian I refuse to be.
I refuse to be a Christian who lives in fear of people who look or speak or worship differently than I do.
I refuse to be a Christian who believes that God blesses America more than God so loves the world.
I refuse to be a Christian who uses the Bible to perpetuate individual or systemic bigotry, racism, or sexism.
I refuse to be a Christian who treasures allegiance to a flag or a country or a political party, above emulating Jesus.
I refuse to be a Christian who is reluctant to call-out the words of hateful preachers, venomous politicians, and mean-spirited pew sitters, in the name of keeping Christian unity.
I refuse to be a Christian who tolerates a global Church where all people are not openly welcomed, fully celebrated, and equally cared for.
I refuse to be a Christian who speaks always with holy war rhetoric about an encroaching enemy horde that must be rallied against and defeated.
I refuse to be a Christian who is generous with damnation and stingy with Grace.
I refuse to be a Christian who can’t see the image of God in people of every color, every religious tradition, every sexual orientation.
I refuse to be a Christian who demands that others believe what I believe or live as I live or profess what I profess.
I refuse to be a Christian who sees the world in a hopeless spiral downward and can only condemn it or withdraw from it.
I refuse to be a Christian devoid of the character of Jesus; his humility, his compassion, his smallness, his gentleness with people’s wounds, his attention to the poor and the forgotten and the marginalized, his intolerance for religious hypocrisy, his clear expression of the love of God.
I refuse to be a Christian unless it means I live as a person of hospitality, of healing, of redemption, of justice, of expectation-defying Grace, of counterintuitive love. These are non-negotiables.
Yes, it is much more difficult to say it these days than it has ever been, but I still do say it.
I am still a Christian—but I refuse to be one without Jesus.