According to John Shore, I was never a Christian. Huh?

John Shore is a progressive Christian blogger who advocates for LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. He often gives advice to Christians struggling with what to believe about homosexuality, and has been featured on Dan Savage and published on the Huffington Post. I have followed his blog for probably a year, and appreciate his work to make Christianity more LGBTQ-rights friendly. And so I suppose I was a bit surprised to read the following in a recent post of his:

As for Christians who renounced Christ, who are no longer Christian? . . . As much ire as I know this will bring me, my vote is that such a person was never really a Christian in the first place—that their Christianity was always immature.

*facepalm*

Look, I expect this from fundamentalists and conservative evangelical Christians, the kind John spends most of his time combating on LGBTQ issues. I don’t expect it from people like John. I have to wonder whether John realizes just how much pain he causes when he makes a statement like that. He mentions expecting “ire” as a result of that statement, but does he realize that the anger is rooted in pain? For the amount of time he spends blogging against pain caused in the name of Christianity, I don’t understand how he can be blind to this.

Think about the thing you believe in most, the thing you are most devoted to, the cause you most want to further, the thing that means the most to you out of everything in your life. Now imagine changing your mind on that issue in the future. How would you feel, then, in this hypothetical future, if someone were to tell you that you had never actually believed in that thing? You see, with that one little statement, John is negating the very essence and core of who I was all of those years. And that really hurts.

With that out of the way, let’s look again at John’s statement:

As for Christians who renounced Christ, who are no longer Christian? . . . As much ire as I know this will bring me, my vote is that such a person was never really a Christian in the first place—that their Christianity was always immature.

Which is it, John? Was I never really a Christian, or was I just an immature Christian? Because to be honest, I’m confused. If someone has Christianity but that Christianity is “immature,” that means they’re not a Christian? I ask this because back when I was a Christian, we did use the word immature, but the idea was that there were both mature and immature Christians, and that immature Christians can grow in maturity over time, through God’s word, prayer, fellowship with other believers, etc. But John seems to suggest that if you have Christianity but your faith is immature, you’re not actually a Christian. What? But I’ll let that go. The sum of it appears to be that John thinks those who leave Christianity were never actually saved.

I don’t need to trot out my Christian credentials, because I don’t have anything to prove here. But I do want to talk for a moment about who I was and what I believed, because I think that the very thing that John suggests here should have him quaking in his boots. Because if I wasn’t a Christian, and yet somehow could have convinced myself and everyone else around me that I was a Christian, well. What does that say for John, or any other Christian? Is John sure he’s really saved, and doesn’t just think he’s a Christian?

I prayed the sinner’s prayer when I was four. It was my idea, and my parents thought I didn’t understand well enough, so I did it alone, voluntarily, by myself. I attended church every day from when I was a baby through high school, and when I left for college I found a new home church even though no one was forcing me or checking up on me. I did AWANA Bible club K-12, and beat all the other kids in how much scripture I memorized. I read the Bible literally every single day from around middle school until well into college. I studied Greek and Hebrew so that I could read the Bible in their original texts. I studied Christian apologetics, and even took a class with a professor at a local theological seminary. I did all of this voluntarily and of my own volition.

Oh, but John may say I was a “legalist” and thus not really a true Christian. Not so. I was passionate about my faith and dedicated to centering my life around Christ and God’s plan for my life. I believed I was a sinner and was saved through God’s grace alone, and not through my own works. I invited the Holy Spirit to direct my life and influence my actions, and I had a strong personal relationship with Jesus. I prayed constantly, and lost my self in worship and in God’s Majesty. God was the most important part of my life, and I fervently wanted to do his will. It wasn’t just my parents’ faith—it was very much my faith. And I didn’t live by rules. I lived by grace.

But now John may do what he did in his comments section, and suggest that I must have left Christianity for immature reasons—hurt by the actions of other Christians perhaps—and that these reasons prove that my Christianity was never mature or real. Again, not so. It is true that I experienced hurt at the hands of other Christians—my parents. But I responded to this hurt by running to Jesus and placing my pain at his feet. All through that time, I was buoyed up by prayer and my continuing desire to follow Jesus, no matter how hard that journey might be. I explored the history of Christianity and the richness of its traditions, and I read the lives of the saints and the early church fathers, and found comfort.

I left Christianity because in my studies of the history of the church and the origins of the Bible I found that there was nothing about either that needed a supernatural explanation. The development of Christianity and the composition of the Bible appeared to be, well, human. And as I was discovering this, my relationship with Jesus became more distant little by little. The two went hand in hand, really, it wasn’t intentional. I wasn’t mad at God—after all, he had helped me through the dark time with my parents! I was studying the history of the Bible and of Christianity because my love for Jesus and my passion for my faith wanted me to know more. I didn’t realize that it would backfire until the day I realized I simply didn’t believe it anymore. I didn’t want to come to that point. I loved Jesus, loved the Bible, loved the richness of Christianity. I didn’t leave because I was hurt, or because I was angry with God, or because I hadn’t really understood the depth of Christianity, or because I never actually had a personal relationship with Jesus, or because I’d just been going through the motions and had never made it mine. I left because it stopped making sense, and I literally could no longer believe.

So if John Shore wants to say I was never actually a Christian, fine, he can say that. But he should realize, first, that negating the real experiences of other people hurts—something he as a supporter of LGBTQ rights should be perfectly aware of—and second, that if it’s true that I was never actually a Christian, he himself can’t be sure he really is one either.

Bruce Gerencser has some good words on this same subject.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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