How can you still be a Christian?

Saturday selfie

I ask myself this question quite a bit. And I hear it from others.

Just last week, I met an acquaintance who said she was interested in coming to our church. She implied that she was surprised that I went to church, based on my Twitter feed (which is usually a motley assortment of left-wing propaganda, book reviews, and dog photos). “I follow you on Twitter,” she said, “and I’m…” I interrupted her and finished the statement: “… surprised that I’m so liberal?” She laughed and nodded.

So, how can I still be a Christian? In light of everything that we think we know about Christians today? Some thoughts.

1: The GOP does not own nor speak for Christianity, as much as they would like to think that they do. Republicans and the conservative right have co-opted Christianity for political purposes, and they have wielded it with frightening power since the rise of the Religious Right. This is what most Americans think about when we think about Christians today. An inbred church picketing military funerals and shouting about how much God hates you. Politicians who, in the purported name of Jesus, are proponents of preventing the poor from receiving “handouts,” keeping out refugees, teaching or even learning any science at all, giving everyone access to an assault rifle, and barring women from reproductive rights. This, I am happy to say, is not the universal church, even if the Religious Right may be its loudest and most powerful faction.

2: Christianity is not static, and it has progressed, in various denominations, beyond some of its judgmental, fearful peers. I, for one, am a proud Episcopalian, and I’d wager that I have more in common ideologically with a run-of-the-mill agnostic than your average Southern Baptist. We Episcopalians stand on the “liberal” side of various issues (such as ordaining women and gay people) and yet still believe in Jesus. Imagine that.

3: We are personally so grateful to be part of a church community that believes that we cannot save ourselves. We attend a church that preaches, day in and day out, that we have all fallen short of the glory of God and are all in need of forgiveness. Yes, even us so-called and self-identified Christian righteous. We are no better than anyone else, and judging others is a waste of your wild, only life (not to mention baldly hypocritical). More about how this church saved my faith in another post.

4: The person of Jesus is about grace and freedom, not law and judgment. Don’t believe any Christian or any church who tells you otherwise, because they clearly are not very familiar with the Gospel.

Yes, sometimes it feels like a theological high-wire act to maintain my personal faith amid the din of ignorant, hate-mongering politicians who claim to represent my religion. It is hard. Guion and I talk about this a lot. We sometimes feel very ideologically lonely.

But there it is. I still identify as a Christian, because I still identify with a Jesus who embodied freedom, grace, and no-strings-attached love. He has nothing to do with a close-minded, hate-filled, and judgmental religion. And so neither do I.

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9 thoughts on “How can you still be a Christian?

  1. I think that Jesus (at least as he is presented in the gospels, which may or may not be accurate) was a complex guy. He talked about grace and forgiveness, but also talked about hell. He encouraged love and peace but also divisiveness and conflict. He encouraged family bonds, yet he also demanded people to give up their families. I don’t think his ideology is particularly easy to nail down… especially when we can’t be sure which parts are true and which aren’t. That said, in general I find there’s a lot of good in his teachings and I have a lot of respect for liberal faiths which strive to interpret their understanding of god through a progressive moral lens. I hope that these sorts eventually overturn the archaic and hateful church that still holds so much sway. Good luck to you all!

  2. Lovely post, and mind opening for those of us who recoil with horror at the thought of organized religion (especially after the GOP debates). I remember reading Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (which preaches that God should be the only judge) and getting confused about the Christian hate and judgement voiced everyday on the news towards people of different beliefs. It’s so refreshing to hear about religion from the perspective of a progressive thinker! Wish it were your opinions we heard on the news, instead of those of the Religious Right.

  3. I like this, although not a practising Christian my self I was raised Catholic and stopped going to mass after realising that all ideology is high jacked by the right. The Christian teachings of love and forgiveness have been forgotten, perhaps in reaction to the new more extremist teaching of Islam. The right wing will always use any available belief system as they are inherently with out an ideology and are in essence simply cynics or bass tooth and claw reactionaries.

  4. This is so refreshing to see. These are things I hear and ask myself all of the time. This post made me feel ok to be a Christian and have more liberal views. And I absolutely despise it when I tell someone I am a Christian and they automatically assume that I am someone who protests against the LGBT community. Thank you for this post!

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