Why I am Still a Christian Despite . . . Well, Despite Everything

Why I am Still a Christian Despite . . . Well, Despite Everything June 4, 2015
a moment of beauty from my garden
A moment of beauty from my garden, photo by Christy Thomas

Why am I still a Christian when people like the Duggars sacrifice their daughters on the altar of TV fame?

Because I know that today, a woman in her early 50’s who was sexually abused by her adoptive father in such a horrific way that it churns the stomach to think about it formally adopted her five-year-old grandson and thus redeemed the whole nature of adoption. She has also been able to walk through a forgiveness process none of us can fathom where her adoptive father was concerned. He, having acknowledged the despicable nature of his actions, has a hard time understanding why his adopted daughter helps to care for him in an extended illness.

Why am I still a Christian what a mega-star pastor can affirm an admitted pedophile but seeks to disgrace this man’s former wife when she rightly petitions the state to annul a marriage that was fraudulent from the beginning?

Because I know that on this day, a bundle of nobodies made sure that the hungry homeless were fed a hot and nourishing meal and asked nothing in return.

What am I still a Christian when a fame-blinded prosperity pastor tells his flock, many likely living on a bare edge, to each give $300 so he can have a $60,000,000 airplane?

Because I know the woman whose thankless job means she spends her days raising funds so that children have a safe and properly equipped public park where they may play and explore.

Why am I still a Christian when daily I see theologians and pastors tell those who don’t fix their definition of sexual “rightness” that they are less worthy in the eyes of God and will suffer eternal torment if they don’t get it right?

Because I know the pastors and people who toil quietly to bind up those wounds and pour healing balm on the battered hearts and torn faith of the despised and denigrated.

Yet even as I affirm I am still a Christian, I am aware of a large body of those who also call themselves “Christian” who would not admit me to their table. I had a long conversation with a good man who is a leader in one of the neo-calvinist, fast growing churches. After I pressed him on the issue, he finally admitted that I am not welcome to participate in the sacrament of communion there, despite the fact that they say they have an open table. My beliefs do not line up adequately with theirs for me to have a place at the feast.

I am aware that some whom I love with such undying passion that I would indeed willingly lay down my life for them are questioning my salvation and whether I will spend eternity with them. They wonder if I am one of those non-elect who will experience never-ending conscious torment. I know this. My heart breaks. However, I will not return to that world.

But I am still a Christian. In my maturing Christianity, I have moved from the God of anger, a God who appears to despise the very creation and the creature made in God’s image, a God whose capriciousness says, “Yes, I pick you but you I do not pick.” Yes, I have left it.

I am instead in love with Jesus who came to open wide the doors to the heavenly places to all, to the outcast, the leper, the foreigner, the sojourner, the widow, the orphan, the barren, the lost. I am in love with this one, sent by the Cosmic Lover, to hold in his dying agony all of our betrayal, all our ignorance, all our stupidity and meanness and murmuring and gossip and greed and lust and envy and gluttony and laziness and self-righteousness and sexuality and then say, “Father, forgive them. They simply don’t know what they are doing.”

I am in love with Jesus who would pay the ultimate price out of love . . . and then show us that death cannot contain or hold back that love. It will indeed find life again.

Yes, I am a Christian despite my growing despair over our infighting, over ridiculous battles about the tiniest of matters, over the way those who call also call themselves Christian decide that it is OK to demean women (or slaves, or people of color or those who long for a same-sex marital covenant) as part of God’s will.

I am a Christian despite the fact that my own beloved United Methodist Church will undoubtedly crumble to dust in the next 20 to 30 years because we have forgotten that we are supposed to treat one another in the same way we ourselves wish to be treated. Our uncivil treatment of one another, not outdated polity or aging buildings and parishioners, has so infected us that we are about to go into septic shock.

But I am still a Christian despite . . . well, despite everything but Jesus.

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  • Jennifer Sanders

    AMEN!!!!

  • Nice, Christy.

  • Dan Hatzenbuehler

    Hi, Christy. First and foremost, you know that I love you and all you have contributed to a loving and mindful spiritual community. We have known each other far longer than we have not. I love your posts.

    But ( and I know you knew this was coming), I don’t believe one has to believe in Jesus or Christianty to live out the values and attributes toward social justice that you attribute to Christianity.

    Having just returned from Japan and witnessed the values, social justice ethos and compassion for the disenfranchised that Japanese Buddhists and Shinto followers embody makes me skeptical of claims that Christianity is superior to other world religions with respect to social justice.

    How many Buddhist countries wage war these days?

    Thank you for raising these very important issues. We are all better people by reading your blogs. Keep it up!!

    Much love and admiration,

    Dan

    • Thank you Dan for this thoughtful response. Yes, I agree it is very possible to be socially conscious without Christianity. I’m not claiming superiority for Christianity just stating my own position after a week of feeling battered.

      One of the best books I’ve ever read was titled “without Buddha, I could not be a Christian.” I find myself growing growing closer to the author’s stance daily.

      And thank you for your kind words about my writing. I find this a very challenging life. Much more discouragement than anything else and yet I feel compelled to keep at it.

      • Dan Hatzenbuehler

        It is increasingly hard not to feel battered most weeks given the insane world of religion and conservative politics that we live in today. It clearly adds to our collective sense of cynicism and frustration. Thanks so much for shining a bright light on the “non- Christlike” behaviors in our society, especially when such actions are clothed in the name of Christianity.

  • <3 This is why you are so awesome. Don’t change, and don’t ever stop loving.

  • Pete Hill

    Thank you for holding forth for the love of God!

    • Thanks–and thanks for reading. This is one of those posts that few will read because it is not poking fun at others or revealing a scandal or saying anything that might be a way to justify our own righteousness–and I’m guilty of all those things. But yesterday, it simply all came down hard on me and this was a result.

      • jh

        This was a fascinating post. What makes it that one person who was a devout christian walks away and yet, another person who is a devout christian remains faithful, even when confronted with fault lines and schisms in one’s religion?

        I couldn’t hold onto faith or belief in Jesus.

        The idea of a jesus is nice (except for a few versus). It would be a nicer world if everyone treated everyone kindly. But, no matter how nice an individual christian is, I couldn’t help noticing that there was an equally nice hindu woman or a nice pagan or a nice muslim man. Surely Jesus wasn’t the inspiration for their good behavior.

        Just because there were some nice examples couldn’t let me blind my eyes to the faults inherent within christianity. To me, the inconsistencies, the immorality, the lack of justice and truth, the coercive quality to christianity – believe or go to hell, the lack of proof to justify the sacrifice were too overwhelming.

        I chose to walk away from an ideology that I could no longer accept and had no desire to save. To put it in bible speak, to me, christianity was that house that was built on sand.

        • Thanks for writing and offering your story. I very much understand why you chose to walk away. The kind of coercive, inconsistent and hypocritical Christianity stays troubling to me. I think underneath all this is a core of eternal goodness that continues to draw me and the language of Christianity is the best I have right now for this. I am always reminded that we see through a glass darkly and actually know so very, very little.

  • Larry

    Great missive. I agree with Dan about other non-Christians who carry out selfless tasks daily in the name of other disciples and gods or perhaps no God at all. My stance would be, “why I’m still compassionate despite, well, everything.”

    Over the last 5-10 years, I have searched for an alternate “religion”, finding none that I believed in enough to worship or have religion. Too bad there is no “Godian”. Therefore, I have become agnostic, not knowing any truth. This has been a remarkable decision because, with no faith, you only have yourself and the opportunity to reach an inner peace with life and the afterlife. Without faith in anything other than my abilities and my trust in some people, I have become more compassionate and loving for others, likely hoping to make their short stay on the round ball as pleasant and non confrontational as possible.

    So, not Christian, perhaps from the very reasons you discuss but ultimately because I find it too vague and biased; however, I still have compassion to continue to make the world a better place.

    –now let the stones be thrown at the non-believer–

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  • I’m a Christian because Christ has risen from the dead.