Last month I wrote a post about religion and my relationship to it. It felt really, really good to write it and I’ve received a lot of great questions in response. It’s funny how a situation where I felt like I had finally said everything I could say left others with tons of questions.
That makes sense, though. My sacred mantra, right now, is “I don’t know.” But I’ll try to put that aside for today and try to address three of the topics that people have been asking me about the most.
So what are you? Are you a Christian? Are you an atheist?
No. To both. I mean, to me it’s not important to have a name for what I believe. That’s where I’m most comfortable. And also, it’s important to remember that “not a Christian” does not equal “atheist”. There are as many belief systems as there are people on this earth. For a while, when I was a Christian, I was hesitant to claim the term because I was so embarrassed by the way that many Christians present themselves. And, in retrospect, I think that was pretty immature. Now, though, I don’t care if you call me a Christian or not–whatever makes you comfortable. I just don’t think that most Christians would care to claim me based on how there are some crucial parts to the Christian theology that I think are… kind of made up. Ugh. I hate how condescending that sounds and I don’t mean to sound that way but if you’re really wondering where I’m at, that’s it. I think the Christian story a beautiful, important, even life-changing myth.
And while that’s what makes the most sense to me and that’s what helps me to fall back in love with faith and spirituality, I totally understand if that’s not true to you. I never want to give the impression that I think less of people who believe differently than I do. I don’t think you’re dumb or simple-minded at all. At all. In all honesty, I have a lot of admiration for anyone of any faith (or lack of faith) that is pursuing, whole-heartedly, a life of joy and peace for themselves and others. It took me about thirty years to embrace that part of life and do my best to drop the rest but it’s finally happened for me and I am completely without apologies about that.
So if you’re not a Christian, then what are you doing in church? Is that fake? Is it obligation?
There have definitely been times in my life when I was fake in church or attending out of obligation but that’s not where I am right now. When I go, I go on purpose.
I like to take an active role in spiritual connection. I like to learn about spiritual things–especially from perspectives that I might not seek out on my own. And I love to engage with community. Attending a local Christian church in town is a good fit for a couple of different reasons, not the least of which being that it speaks a language that I’m familiar with. Do I agree with everything that everyone says in the church? No. Do I occasionally laugh at some of the words in worship choruses? Absolutely. But, truly, anyone who’s paying attention is going to experience that, I think. There are lots of things that I have to drop in order to keep my hands open to the things that serve me but that’s important to me. It keeps me more engaged than I ever was, before: blindly clinging to everything tossed in my direction. I wasn’t happy or even thoughtful, then.
There was a time, at the beginning of the deconstruction of my faith, where I hated everything having to do with church. I’d sometimes go because I felt an obligation and I’d grit my teeth and tell myself that this is all fake and the people are all fake and it’s all stupid fake fake fake. I wasn’t happy then and I was un-generous. I looked down on people who didn’t get it like I did in my enlightened state. Ugh. Gross. I hate to think of it but I do know that there are times in life where the pendulum needs to swing heavy in both directions before finding a good settling spot. And for that reason, I’m grateful that I went through/ we all survived that season.
After a decade of trying to set that aside and embracing the myth-perspective of scripture–it unlocked something inside of me. I can sing worship songs and mean it–probably differently than other people in the congregation but we’re all different people, anyway. I can hear the Christmas story and even the Easter story without rolling my eyes. I don’t think those stories are fact and that’s going to be a deal breaker for most of the Christians in my life. But I’m in love with the story and I do think it can be a life-changing one. I just don’t think it’s the only life-changing one.
I can’t imagine that there’s a faith community anywhere in the world that’s going to fit me perfectly. And I live in a relatively small town, so I feel lucky to have a place to go, on occasion, where I feel like I fit pretty ok.
Can I pray for you?
Probably the most common question asked from Christians or those who knew me in my “former life” (it’s not former at all; life is long. I contain multitudes.). I want to give you a very enthusiastic, conditional, “yes”. Sure. Yeah. You can pray for me if you feel like you need to. I totally understand–don’t forget that I grew up in this community and I understand the pull to pray for people.
All that I ask is that you keep a firm grip on fear. Don’t pray for me out of fear or desperation. Don’t worry about the state of my soul. Don’t be afraid of me burning in hell fire. Don’t do that. Exercise that faith muscle. If you believe that God is big enough to do all of the things that you believe he is, there should be no room for fear or worry for me. If you pray for me–pray in a spirit of faith and peace. If you can’t do that, I’d really love it if you would move on to something else that calms your spirit. More than anything–I want to be something that helps to soothe your spirit and if that’s not happening when I come to mind, go ahead and drop me. I’ll be okay. ❤
Thanks for caring about this subject. I love talking about it with you. Let me know if you have any other questions or themes you’d like to discuss on this topic.
I think you’re great.