I find myself at theological odds with almost every Christian I know. So much, in fact, that I question whether or not I should continue to refer to myself as such. In our culture, there is very little similarity to what I believe and to the cultural baggage that the word carries.
Here are some beliefs that seem to make me unChristian in today’s world:
Violence is wrong under any circumstances. Jesus didn’t fight the oppressor Rome. Rather, he continued to try to open everyone’s eyes until they killed him — a death to which he submitted peacefully, forgiving his killers. Until Constantine legitimized (Romanized) the Christian religion, all Christ followers believed in non-violence. This is so far from the truth today, where we are perfectly comfortable supporting war in the name of our religion.
Pointing out other’s moral failings is not the way of Christ. The only people who Jesus condemned were the folks who were criticizing others. Calling gay people “unrepentant sinners,” criticizing the movie Noah for not being Christian enough and looking down on others in any way is a distraction from the love and peace that is present in Christ. Culture wars — yuk.
Many of the writings in the Old Testament are not literally true. Christ shows us what the spirit of God is actually like. I don’t believe, in the story of Noah, that God is a regretful killer who exterminates mankind. That is not the God I know. I think that story, and many like it, consist of layers of historical, cultural and philosophical meaning, some of which are obscured due to lack of context. For example, perhaps the story of Noah is about the death of the ego. Who knows. On the other hand, when the prophets cry out against injustice against the poor, I do indeed hear the actual voice of God speaking through them. How do I pick and choose what I think is true in the Old Testament? It’s simple. If it matches up with Jesus’s words, then I believe it. I am a Christ follower, not Jewish or a hybrid of Jew and Christian.
Religion holds us captive. Jesus came to set the captives free, but religion puts chains on our minds. Why is it so scary to contemplate that our sacred writings might not be the actual words of God? Because we’ve been taught that to question is to be condemned. This is not freedom. Jesus continually referred to the Jewish canon as “your scriptures.” He didn’t call them “my word” or anything like that. He wanted people to open their eyes and be free.
I’m not really worried about anything Paul said. I like the apostle Paul, especially what he says about the fruits of the spirit. But I don’t fret anymore over trying to figure out his writings. I don’t think he ever fully released the bonds of his culture, and this is reflected in his writings. Whenever there is a conflict between something he wrote and the freedom I find in the words of Jesus, I choose Jesus.
I think sin is a lack of love. For example, promiscuity is wrong not because of the act, but because it’s not loving to sleep around. Not to the resulting child who will then likely grow up without two parents or to the broken-hearted partners that one leaves in one’s wake. Selfishness is a sin because it ignores the needs of another. The only cure for a lack of love is to show love, not to point it out in a self-righteous manner.
I’m sure there’s plenty more things that disqualify me for Christianity in many people’s books, such as the fact that I can’t stomach attending a church that doesn’t believe in female clergy, for example. I am definitely at odds with American Christianity.
I am content to not label myself at all, but if someone asks, I suppose I’ll keep saying that I’m a Christ-follower and leave it at that.