A few weeks ago, a colleague approached me at the coffee maker and asked me a pretty simple question, “So what are you doing this weekend?”
That weekend… I was doing a church thing.
Listen, I grew up in the South where a question about your weekend plans was not necessary because, duh, you were going to church and then watching football. Move on to something less obvious, like “What do you want on your Publix sub?”
But not here in sunny Los Angeles.
And not at this point in my dance with faith.
And not in this moment in history.
I have become increasingly hesitant to tell people when I go to church.
I am a grown woman.
I will bring to task any misogynist, sexist, slimeball without breaking a sweat. I will loudly proclaim my right as a female to do gosh darn anything I want. I will march in any march and wave any flag I need to. I will challenge (unrelentingly) harmful theology and fight for interspiritual respect.
And truth be told, I go to church less and less. While I am part of a weekly women’s group, I do not attend a Sunday service. It just so happened that this weekend my women’s group was hosting an event.
So I took a deep breathe and answered, “I have this thing, at uh… church.”
Absolutely silence for a few heartbeats and a wide-eyed stare. Followed eventually with, “Oh. I didn’t know you were a churchy person” she said, trying but failing to hide her confusion.
Friends, there would have been a time in my life that this one comment would have sent me on a shame spiral so intense I would have needed to go up to the altar and accept Jesus again, sure that I had misplaced my salvation somewhere. I would have chided myself with “they don’t know me by my fruit!” or “I am not reflecting Christ’s love!” or any manner of shaming “christian-ese” things sure that the one glass of wine I had at the holiday party (okay fine, three glasses) meant that I was a poor representation of who Jesus was.
But what she said next stopped me, “You just seem so happy and… kind. Aren’t you a feminist?”
And friends, my heart broke. Right there in the kitchen at work, holding my freshly poured cup of coffee, my heart broke. I’m not making this up, and this is not the first time this type of conversation has happened. As I step further and further outside of my Souther Christian bubble and expand my idea of God, I identify less and less with Christianity.
I want to be very clear, I am not ashamed of being a spiritual person. I am not ashamed of Jesus. I am not even necessarily ashamed of good, solid Christian Theology. But Dear Ones, I can be ashamed of the Church sometimes and often I am embarrassed by Christians.
The things we say.
The things we write.
The hate, and offense, and trolling…
What we chose to vilify and what we are willing to forgive leaves me speechless.
What are we even doing anymore?
What are we trying to prove here?
The truth is… that I hate telling people when I go to church. The moment I say the C word, I just know they are putting me in a box and assigning me to the very theology I have fought against for years. I see it on their face as their smiles turn into narrowed-eyed hesitation. I see them trying to combine what they know of me as a person with the image of Christianity that the Church has sown… and reaped.
Please hear me when I say, this is not a “they will hate you for my name” thing.
The judgement, the suspicion, the hate … well we’ve brought this on ourselves.
In Matthew 7 Christ told his disciples that they would be able to tell the false prophets by their fruit.
And right now our fruit is:
-Disregard for the planet. We’re not of this world anyway, and we’re not here for long. Who cares?
-Prolonged and perpetuated patriarchy at the continued expense of both women and men
-Sexual assault, sexual abuse, and hypocritical purity culture
-Racism and bigotry, past and present
-Willful ignorance towards any of the above
-The massive evangelical support of Donald Trump
Does this list characterize every Christian in America? No.
Does this list describe every church in America? Of course not.
Are there plenty of Christians who are part of a distinct and decisive move away from this list? Thank God, yes.
But if you can honestly tell me that when you think of American Christians or the American Christian Church nothing on this list comes to mind- my friend, you don’t know enough non-Christians and no one has handed you a mirror yet.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I do not believe that the above list describes everything that is the Church. It can be an incredible instrument of good, a place where you can belong, a place of sustained community. It is the hands and feet of God worldwide- working to end hunger, poverty, and hopelessness.
But all the good the Church does is being overshadowed. I long for a time when the word Christian means follower of Jesus Christ again.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:3
I think we need to take a good long look in the mirror and ask ourselves honestly:
Am I loving others well?
Are my actions worthy of the title “Christian?”
I’m not sure the word Christian describes me anymore. And I really don’t know what to do with that.
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i understand how the use of the words “Christian” and the word “church” are difficult to say in front of others even saying “Jesus” is hard for me right now. I don’t know what I believe right now and I’m ok with that. What does it mean to “follow Jesus” I don’t feel like I’m being lead anywhere. Am i new age? I don’t know. I do belive in a higher power because I have seen the work in my life. Right now I can’t read the bible or go to church, and right now, I’m ok with that
I think it takes practice to believe in your own experience and validate the truth of it over the prescribed theology or doctrine of any religion. Like you, I too have see the work of The Divine in my life. I’l constantly learning to be satisfied with those experiences when church fails me.