No Longer a Christian…Here’s Why…

No Longer a Christian…Here’s Why… January 26, 2024

My daughter sent me this article from NPR: “Religious ‘Nones’ are now the largest single group in the U.S.”  As of 2024, the Nones make up 28% of the American population. I have identified as a None for a long time now. I am generally averse to labels, but the word “none” is probably the least offensive or stereotypical label I could adopt.

This article has motivated me to make a public declaration that I no longer consider myself to be a Christian. This isn’t new, but I’ve never renounced the label…until now.

Even in my book, Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical which was published in 2022, I still held on to the label “Christian,” but admitted that according to orthodox standards, I’d be considered a heretic…for a lot of reasons. I was okay with that. I know some great heretics who are wonderful friends, so I am in good company.

Okay…I’m no longer a “Christian.”

Understand that I have used that label and identity since the mid-1960s, so it is no small decision to jettison the label now, in my 60s. But looking back over the past 20 years or so, I can see that it is past time to say so and frankly an easy step to take. I’ll explain why shortly. but back to the Nones first.

While the White Christian Nationalists are getting all the attention along with their supposed new savior, Donald Trump, the biggest demographic story in America is the rise of this innocuous group called the Nones. What is clearly happening, and has been for a couple of decades, is the hallowing out of the White Evangelical Church and other mainline Protestant Denominations. White evangelical Protestant affiliation declined from 23% in 2006 to 15.3% in 2017 before falling to 13.6% by 2022. (PRRI data)

White Christian Nationalists are a small minority in American society…but perhaps the loudest and most obnoxious minority in our culture. Their penchant for being loud and obnoxious is compounded when combined with a propensity for violence, as we saw on J6.

It is no surprise then, that the Nones are growing in conjunction with a steady decline in those identifying as Christian. The Nones, who are much less likely to vote for Donald Trump, are also a group that is less likely to vote at all as the NPR article points out. Perhaps the disillusionment with the church has crept into their political priorities as well.

If the Nones were as well-organized, funded, and motivated as their much smaller Christian Nationalist counterparts, Trump would go down to a resounding and decisive defeat in 2024. This is the news story that the media is not paying attention to at their peril as perhaps the Democrats are too.

But back now to my declaration that I am no longer a Christian.

Being a None is a rather broad designation and can include atheists, agnostics, and those who simply when asked about their religious affiliation, check the “none” box. So, my declaration of not being a Christian doesn’t mean I am automatically an atheist…maybe more an agnostic, depending on the day.

But I’ve concluded that my beliefs about God do not mean as much as what sort of person I am. The Christian religion has been reduced to a set of beliefs; none of which influence the ethical nature of a human being. The virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, salvation, incarnation, heaven, hell, and all the rest are essentially ideas born in the mind and we are told if we believe these ideas, God will love us and allow us to not be tortured for eternity. Oh, and we also must believe we are depraved, no-good human beings who don’t deserve God’s love.

Christian “beliefs” are centered around guilt, fear, and shame. The impact has been toxic for many people.

This list of theological beliefs has in recent years been expanded into a list of cultural litmus tests. You must be pro-life, anti-LGBTQ, anti-transgender, anti-woke, anti-liberal, anti-Democrat, vote only for Republicans, and believe that Christians are being persecuted because the government asked them to wear a mask during COVID. It is all a little too much hokum for me. And it hurts people…real human beings.

Along with the cultural warriorism that Christians have now adopted, it has come along with a coarsening of the ethical teachings of Jesus.

There is no talk of loving your enemies or praying for those who persecute you. Turn the other cheek? Too woke!

There is no encouragement to be peacemakers and to put the “other” first. Too woke!

There can be no tolerance and help for immigrants and refugees because they aren’t like us, and… it’s too woke!

There is no requirement to be kind or show compassion, those virtues are considered to be…. “too woke.”

I saw this trend in the 1980s, but it has accelerated with each decade and each new generation of Christian cultural zealots is more interested in political power than the power of love.

So, the fact that people, especially young people, are leaving Christianity behind in the millions now should come as no surprise. But the only ones who seem surprised are the Christians who point their finger everywhere else except at themselves. They are constantly looking for scapegoats and have a paranoid sense that the “secularists” are out to get them.

Christianity has been reduced to a house of mirrors filled with absurdity, no credibility, and cruelty. I suspect Jesus would not recognize the religion that bears his name, nor would he be very happy at what he might see. I can sort of envision Jesus walking into a mega-church during an “I Love America Service” and turning over some of the money tables where they are selling David Barton’s books.

Christianity in America idolizes power, privilege for themselves, and nationalism. A deadly combination. These have nothing to do with Jesus. If the story in the New Testament is true, Jesus was offered these things and rejected them as idolatry.

But that gets me back to why I am renouncing the label “Christian.” I haven’t given up on the teachings of Jesus, but to be a follower of Jesus, I feel it is essential to ditch the “Christian” label. Here’s why.

Jesus was not a Christian! When Jesus was on earth, he was Jewish. If there was any label he assumed it was as a Jew.  He knew nothing of Christianity and from all we can discern from his teachings, he never intended to start a new religion based on some sort of supernaturalized theological beliefs about him.

Jesus’ goal was not to make Christians! Jesus’ teachings were not designed to make us better Christians. Jesus didn’t teach us to become Christians. Jesus didn’t teach us to care for the poor and the “least of these” so that we could earn a Christian merit badge. Jesus didn’t teach us to humble ourselves and love our neighbors as we love ourselves so that we could be seen as “good Christians.”

Jesus told his followers that by loving each other people would know they were his disciples…they wouldn’t be known as Jesus’ followers because they were cultural warriors or devised ways to “own the libs.”

Jesus taught a very simple message of love because that is what makes us the most human and being loving human beings is perhaps the most revolutionary act we can choose.

And that’s it. Love plus nothing else!

So, I don’t need or want the label of “Christian.” It is meaningless today and for many, it has bad connotations and has harmed so many people. I don’t wish to be associated with it.

But I do want to be a follower of Jesus, which means learning how to love everyone…the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Jew, the Palestinian, the Russian, the Ukrainian, the gay person, the trans person, the Black person, the Brown person, Indigenous people, the person with a disability…

and loving everyone makes me human…not a Christian.

Loving everyone means I don’t care what their beliefs are…I love them because they are humans. This is a simple message, yet it somehow gets lost in the labeling and defining of what being a “Christian” is…I can do without the labeling and defining.

I am no longer a Christian!

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