I have been thinking long and hard lately about courage: courage to get past the fear, courage to take the leap, courage to do the hard thing, courage to do the right thing. In this case, courage to say that I don’t want to be a Christian anymore. I suppose it’s been a long time coming, and my reasons for it are numerous. I’m not walking away from the church or God or truth. I am, however, shedding the label and the association. Ultimately, I just want more for my life and more for my faith than this:
1) WE AREN’T ALL THAT GRACIOUS. We talk a good talk about grace, we sing songs about it, we admonish our friends to “extend grace” (whatever that means), and we claim to be the grace-filled people of God. But we rank pretty low on the grace metrics. I have seen angry staff members not allow for the mistakes of church leaders, and split a whole congregation only so they could be right. I have heard stories of people turned away at small groups because they made a brief, but devastating, error in judgment. I have watched youth exploit the sins of other youth so that only an angry outcast exists where there was once a pretty good kid. We say grace over meals but we don’t live grace in the moment. Not even with ourselves.
2) WE MOCK THOSE DIFFERENT FROM US. I was sitting in a presentation by a well-respected Christian business leader, looking forward to the information being disseminated because it would aid me in my work. At one point, he shared some crucial data and said it would only hold true if we weren’t dealing with any “dough-head agnostics.” The people sitting around me, also professing Christians, started laughing. I started swallowing hard so as not to throw up. I am disgusted by the ease with which we poke fun at those who believe differently. We so often miss the point and honor of respecting our fellow humankind and seeing them as created in the image of God.
3) WE EMPHASIZE THE IN-CROWD. A friend recently told me that he was fed up with the cliques at his church and had decided to leave. I was shocked by his admission and his brutal vulnerability. I knew what he was talking about, but I was confused as to why a person who was one of the in-crowd, by all outward appearances anyway, would recognize the issue and want to leave. It all came down to the fact that while he enjoyed his status as “one of the cool kids”, he no longer felt fulfilled by being part of the problem. I have mad respect for that man – he took a huge, unpopular leap and is now where the Lord would have him. I see the boundaries all the time – in the pew, in the small group, in the worship team, in the youth, in the Sunday school classrooms, in the Bible studies. We are nice, but don’t try to get in on your own. We’ll let you know when we decide you’re welcome.
4) WE DON’T KNOW THE FIRST THING ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY. I have heard Christians use prayer requests as a means of spiritual gossip – like a sacred Twitter feed, complete with hashtags. I myself received a phone call this week from someone (with absolutely no place in my life and no right to know what’s going on) who wanted to know about a deeply personal matter – information which had already been received from someone else with whom I had shared in strict confidence. I know too much about other people’s struggles and deep-seated issues, things they never told me and things they don’t know I know, all because someone else deemed it appropriate to share with a large circle of comrades. We don’t know how to keep our mouths shut and we really hurt one another with this one.
5) WE ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE AND HONEST. We have our churches and our small groups and our potlucks and our prayer meetings and our Bible studies and our coffees and these things bring us into constant communion with the broken and hurting: ourselves. But something about the scarred that show up deep and raw and bleeding, something about the homeless and the refugees and the smelly and the toothless and the drunks and the depressed and those chained deep in sexual bondage, something about them just makes us queasy. A few exist who are willing to go there and listen and be kind, but they are few and far between. For some reason, the blood and pus and shit and honesty of real life is too much. Like we have it all together.
6) WE DON’T LOVE VERY WELL. This is the hill on which I am willing to die. We don’t love very well and frankly, we often don’t love at all. My dear friend and her husband, who both grew up in the church and have since turned to atheism, once told me that I was the only Christian they had ever met who was nice. Ever. They have about 40 years of church attendance between them (!!!!) and I am not always very kind – I know this. I was horrified by their statement. But I knew what they meant: when it comes down to it, we are a pretty cruel and hateful bunch, dark smirks cloaked ever so slightly in measured kindnesses. The problem stems from not truly believing in the full and deep love given to us by a good God. When we do not accept this love, we neglect to love ourselves and others. In so doing, we miss the privilege of being a mighty vessel, a cup spilling over, a wild river, of love in abundance and excess. We miss out. All the time. Every day.
No, I don’t want to be a Christian anymore. I want to be a fellow traveler. I want to be a servant. I want to be a disciple who tells others of this Savior I long to imitate. I want to be a lover of others. I want to be a wildly abandoned worshipper of the Lord. I want to be a bringer of joy. I want to be a compassionate friend. I want to be a listener. I want to be a holder of hands. I want to be a helper of the brokenhearted and downtrodden. I want to be a God-seeker. But I sure don’t want to be a Christian.