Maybe I’m Actually Not a Christian After All

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I’ve always thought that I was a Christian.

I’ve simply assumed that since I believed myself to be and strived to be, that this was enough. Though I’ve devoted my days to emulating Jesus and to reflecting his character in the world, this seems to have been a woefully errant path leading me far afield of righteousness.

Over recent years I’ve spent countless hours debating with those who contest my claims of faith; self-professed believers who debate my authenticity, my theology, my conduct, my motivations. They make dire assessments of both my moral worth and my eternal destination, chastising and condemning with great conviction.

It’s difficult to quantify just how much time and energy and mental bandwidth I’ve expended attempting to justify inclusion in their heavily fortified faith fraternity and to prove my personal spirituality valid and genuine in their eyes.

But these days I’m looking at what alleges to be Christianity in my country and I’m now almost certain that I was wrong about myself all along.

Maybe I’m not a Christian after all.

Over the past two years, as our American political process unfolded, and as respected and high-profile evangelists and preachers and Christian speakers endorsed candidates and took to social media with ever more bigoted, hateful, alarmist claims—and as millions of pledged Jesus followers gleefully rushed to celebrate and defend and accompany them in their crusades, I’ve come to find myself estranged; pushed to the furthest periphery of “God’s people”. And it’s only gotten worse as this Presidency has wound on.

And I think it’s my fault. I think I’ve been deceived.

You see, I’d been led to believe that the greatest spiritual aspirations I could ever have, were to love God and to love others as I desired to be loved; fully, sacrificially and without condition. I must have been mistaken, because that doesn’t seem to the prevailing theory ruling the day.

I’ve always thought that caring for the poor and sharing my blessings and walking humbly and showing mercy and seeking peace were all inherent in my calling as a Christian, yet from what I can see I really dropped the ball somewhere along the way, because these are certainly not on trend in the Church I’m seeing on the news and in Christian Universities and in pulpits. I seem to remember the Jesus of the Gospels shunning status and opulence, casting aside power and privilege, bending to serve and feed and heal, but that can’t possibly be right given the headlines.

Apparently we Christians are supposed to fear and resent and vilify those who don’t look or talk or believe or love the way we do, we’re supposed to wield the power and be the bullies and seek retaliation and shut down disagreement. From what I can tell based in what I’m seeing, followers of Jesus were commissioned by him to go and be angry, crass, affluent, racist, misogynistic, homophobic warmongers, known in the world by our incendiary rhetoric, our stockpiled arsenals, our doomsday predictions, and our flag-waving bravado. (Funny, I always thought it was by our love, but that shows you the level of deception I’ve fallen victim to).

I’ve lived with this delusional idea that my personal faith in Jesus should drive me to the marginalized and the hurting, that it should move me to defend those who are alone and invisible and voiceless, that my Christlikeness alone was the mark of my faithfulness. I’d been led to believe that a life marked by goodness and gentleness and peace was the desired yield; the visible, proving fruit of my deepest spiritual convictions—silly me.

I always thought that the Church was meant to be the oddly beautiful, counter-intuitive, set-apart entity that quietly but boldly reflected the image of Jesus to the watching world; that as it mirrored his compassion and kindness and humility and dignity, it would be a beacon to all those seeking the best life possible. Nope.

I used to believe that I was a Christian, simply because I wanted the world to see Jesus when they looked at my life.

I’ve certainly got some learning and some repenting to do.

I once was blind, but now I see.

 

 

395 thoughts on “Maybe I’m Actually Not a Christian After All

  1. I know my path took me farther than you are from faith but this post resonates greatly! While there are many reasons and stories, the crux of my departure was realizing I wanted to be a better human than Christianity allowed me to be.
    Much love and respect journey!

  2. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, be vary wary of any right wing evangelicals that tout themselves as “Christians” while holding a bible and a gun while wrapping themselves in the flag of patriotism

    They are neither Christian or Patriots.

  3. A truly spiritual person would be aware that they are built with a mechanism called the conscience and not fall prey to the gobbledegook of any religions attempt to teach a lesson.

    Take what helps from these antiquated self-help books, just as there are many sources of guides and knowledge, but the ultimate resource of knowing the difference between right and wrong is built in. A truly faithful person would access that instead of quibbling over words and concepts and nouns and things of what is god(s).

    Anything less is plain old cultish idolatry – the belief in god is literally idolatry.

  4. Perhaps you haven’t connected to the right Christians. Those who have helped me on my journey are not fearful and do not revile those who do not look like us. We look at the whole heart and how committed we are to bring God to everyone. And we are to live as Christ lived and to use our gifts to edify the body of Christ (the church).

  5. I haven’t identified as a Christian in a very long time. I don’t believe in lying, judging, and hating. I don’t believe in breaking any or all of the 10 commandments, then repenting to my church, just to turn around and repeat that scenario over and over. I refuse to turn my back on the LGBTQ community. I refuse to wrap my arms around abusers, murderers, embezzlers and pedophiles until they’ve admitted their crimes and accepted the court’s judgement. I will not support a sexual predator for President, just because he pretends to be a church-going man. I won’t do any of those things and I haven’t since I was still in middle school. Christianity has become synonymous with hypocrisy. Those who do not subscribe to the hypocrisy too often loudly proclaim that it isn’t there place to judge those who do… unless, of course, the person needing judging is a member of the LGBTQ community, and then, heck, they are happy to judge. I refuse to immerse myself in hate and hypocrisy and I absolutely will not ever willingly expose my children to that nonsense. I can be a good person, do the right thing and help others. I can teach those tenets to my children and I don’t need church, a title or to support a sexual predator to do so. So John, I’m pretty sure I’m not a Christian either.

    • I too thought all these years that we were taught the word of Christ. Now I find the false prophets have no relation to what I and many of us were taught as children through adulthood. Has the glitter of fleeting fame, glamour, riches, perverted these persons? Why are we so misled? Why don’t we see the true religion of love, tolerance, and generous fellowship any more, but bigots standing holding the cross misrepresenting our true Christian religion. They should look into their hearts. It is not a sin to repent of mis-judgement or even evil action. But, they must not continue to lead in the way of bigotry, hate, scorn and deceit. We are better than that, sinners though we all be.

  6. Becoming a Christian!!!
    Believing the only way to HEAVEN is thru the grace of GOD. Do you love Jesus? Do you love GOD? The Father of Jesus is known as GOD. When GOD gave Jesus all his powers, he to become GOD. Believing in one is believing in both, believing in both makes you a Christian!!!!!

  7. I have considered these aspects all my life and I appreciate our reflections every day. Are we or aren’t we. I believe that Jesus came and he was whom he said he was. However, we often neglect that he was and is Jewish. My ancestry through my mother is Jewish. It is a small part of my DNA but an enormous part of me emotionally and philosophically. From the death of my great, great, great grandfather the family tried to cover up his birthright and their heritage to enjoy the white-Christian-American way of life despite the truth. Jesus came from the Jews; his gospel was hijacked and contorted to fit someone else’s narrative for control, through monarchies and societies and into the our nation today.

  8. I sometimes wonder the same thing. The voices claiming the name “Christian” for their hateful and fearful world view are loud and insistent. Do they have it right and I have it wrong? It’s a painful question. I think walking away from the name “Christianity” would not be hard. I don’t want to walk away from Jesus, or from Dr. King, Bonnhoeffer, Bishop Tutu, and so many others. I don’t want to walk away from the people I know personally who practice the compassion, humility, and striving for justice you mention and call themselves Christian.

    I think I still call myself a Christian in an aspirational way. I want the name to reflect Christ and I don’t know how to do that except by staying and modeling what that should mean. I hope you make a similar decision but understand if you do not.

  9. John,
    The only sense that the support of this administrations by those who call themselves “evangelical” is found in the destructive left behind utopia that ends up trying to force the “second coming” through a destructive leader. But alas it aligns entirely with fascism – the rule that introduces division at every turn. This is the ultimate narcisism of the left behind evangelicals symbolized in a presidency that is undoing environmental protections while climate change ravages the planet, that undoes diplomacy around the world, that pretends nuclear weapons are diminishing in North Korea while they are not. It is as fellow pastor/journalist Chris Hedges describes it in his book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.”

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  11. I read your article and know how you feel about what has happened to the name of our faith. It has been adopted by those who think by calling themselves Christian, it will justify their behavior. That their dishonesty will be respected if they call themselves Christian. And proclaiming it loudly makes them sound sincere.

    We know that those things have nothing to do with following the teaching of Jesus. In fact, it is the opposite. I think people who try to call themselves Christian to get votes are people who cannot actually be a Christian, as was taught by Jesus , so they think they can change the religion to meet their own agenda. They have looked hard and found passages that they can twist enough that they mean something entirely different.

    Christianity has been around long enough, however, that we do not need Mike Pence or “Evangelicals” to tell us what Jesus’ words mean. They cannot change the real religion, but they are loud and can get a lot of attention. We know stepping into a church for Easter services won’t make you any more Christian, it’s just a show for others to see. We know Christians are about inclusion, not exclusion. We know that helping others is love and we don’t have to prove it to someone else. There isn’t room in our religion for hate, but it is about love and is here and free to anyone who wants it. Can you imagine Jesus not allowing gays to hear him speak? Can you imagine him turning away the poor because they are poor?

    Of course not. Christians are about improving themselves, not trying to sell it to anyone else. Striving to be the best person you can be is quiet, not boastful. We know in our hearts what is true. So even though we get discouraged, and even angry over the widespread misuse of the name of “Christianity” we know what it really is about.

    Sometimes it’s not easy to do the right thing, so those who do not have any faith can’t practice it. The fakes are loud but they are the ones who are not Christians. We can quietly know who we are. The religion has not changed for us, and we do not have to change to call ourselves Christian.

    That’s not to say I can easily hear the things that Pence and others say, and then talk about going home to “pray”. It is often very hard to swallow and being human it makes me angry as heck. Then all I can do is ask for forgiveness and honestly try not to do it again. I am not a perfect Christian.

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