Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Am I A Christian?
I share this in open, raw honesty and vulnerability. I share it not to be the recipient of a lecture or to endure another round of the evangelical inquisition, but to ask a difficult question about what it means to be "heterodox" and yet completely head over heels in love with Jesus Christ. To want equality for women and the LGBTQIA community, to think the Bible is an imperfect document, to vote for the Green Party, to want rights for animals as well as fetuses, and yet also truly believe in the deity of Christ, and his life, death, and resurrection. I share this so that you, conservative evangelical, can know that I exist, that there are other people like me who exist, and to beg of you to please stop using the "no true Scotsman" fallacy when it comes to doctrinal purity ("No true Christian would believe/do X!" is not helpful dialogue). George MacDonald once wrote, "No opinion, I repeat, is Christianity," and maybe, just maybe, as important as ideas and beliefs are, and God knows I've been hurt by abusive ones, that there's nothing wrong with holding them with an open palm and wanting to explore them, nothing wrong with putting down our figurative torches and whips. And perhaps the abusive potential of theological concepts wanes when we don't hold to them more strongly than we hold to the two highest commandments.
Is it worth sifting through shit to find a diamond?
What about a pearl?
Last night I dreamt I walked down the long aisle of a beautiful cathedral. I walked through a cloud of smoke created by fragrant incense, up into an altar lit with candles and adorned with red and gold tapestries, and there stood the Divine Son and the Divine Mother. They held out a plate of fresh bread, and said in unison, "Take and eat."
I reached out my hand to grab the warm dough, but pulled back at the last second. "I don't belong."
They knelt down and looked me in the eye, and spoke again, in unison,"You do if I say you do."
The idea of whether or not to refer to myself as a Christian has plagued me for a few years, but especially in recent months.
I'm one of those people who loses their faith a lot. It happens when you come out of fundamentalism. You lose, find, lose, and re-find your faith a million times, as you come through the fog of abusive theology and learn to let go of certainty.
My, there's so little I'm certain about any more.
So I wonder, can I, should I use that nine letter word that is loaded with so much history, beauty, tragedy, hope, abuse, wonder, ugliness, and baggage?
There are many people who, if they were to review a list of the beliefs I now hold, would conclude, "No, you are not."
"I don't need to tell you what I do or don't believe," sings The Choir. But I want to mention a few, because it's important to voice them, especially when the self-appointed gatekeepers of the throne of God are constantly shouting, "This close you may come and no closer."
I believe that my gay friends are telling the truth when they say they were born that way, and that caused me to reevaluate my views on the bible.
I believe that the Bible is imperfect, and just as I can believe what Plato wrote about Socrates without believing Plato was divinely inspired to pen each word, so I believe Jesus is God.
I believe that the church has never had a serious conversation about women in leadership roles, and until one is had, it cannot say with confidence that the tradition has been worked out and we know where we stand. The canon was a conversation. The trinity was a conversation. The issue of women leading the church has not been given the conversation it truly deserves. Listening to my arguments and then saying, "The Bible clearly says..." is not a conversation, by the way. Some Eastern Orthodox theologians have acknowledged this, and have said that perhaps a true council should be convened to properly discuss it.
I believe that God is 100% my mother as well as my father, and it doesn't matter to me what Bible verse you quote, because none of them will say God is NOT my mother. And I don't want that feminine imagery to be in the background, because it puts my femininity in the background, and after centuries of women being oppressed and shunted to the background, can't we admit that the way we talk about God as only or mostly being masculine-Father, King, Master, Lord, Son-alienates and shunts women off to the side, and this has led to some fairly horrible justifications for abusing women? Am I really created fully in God's image, or are men more in God's image than women?
I believe that we are all worthy of love, in our essence. I believe that what we truly are is righteous, and the great unveiling of God's grace is shoveling off the shit to find the diamonds in our souls that have always been there, and we are truly being cleansed and renewed to become exactly like Jesus. Our image has been marred. But we don't deserve Hell. We don't deserve eternal torment. As odd as this might sound, we deserve grace, because what loving Mother, what loving Father, would create broken people without any eye towards total restoration?
I believe that we're all destined for Heaven and Union with God, it's just going to take some of us a lot longer to get there.
I believe that God comes to us, and we to God, through a million different paths. And it could be Buddhism and it could be Hinduism and it could be Christianity.
I believe that tradition can be useful, that there is a democracy of a dead, but I'm worried that friends of mine enamored with tradition are turning it into the tyranny of the dead.
I believe that people should come to Christianity because of it's beauty and the way it illumines their soul and lightens their burdens and fills them with hope, not because of fear and guilt and shame.
Some would say all of this means I'm not a Christian. Some reading this now want to debate me on one or more of those points, and although I've mentioned my beliefs here, I'm not debating them, because this isn't the blog post to discuss the minutiae of those ideas: it's the space to discuss what it means to use a certain moniker to describe my spiritual and religious life. I know the arguments against them quite well. I've wrestled with them for years. I can quote chapter and verse of the conservative arguments against me. I share these so-called heterodox ideas because I know that they are what set me apart as someone who should firmly stand in the non-Christian camp.
Because I'm a universalist who rejects the existence of Hell
and believes the Bible is imperfect
and I think my gay friends are just swell
and I want women to wear vestments and preach the word if they're called
and I call God Mom probably more than I say Dad because I spent 26 years not calling him Mom so it's time to correct that imbalance...and I just phrased it that way on purpose.
Christian literally means I am the follower of the anointed one, and some days
some days when the tears are drying
and the fog of pain and guilt and shame
and abusive theology clears
and I'm not listening to people
who have the definition of Christian
sussed out in a five thousand page document
complete with a rubric for perfect doctrine
and the final exam you take
before you can enter the pearly gates
I think I might be.
Posted by Marie Bacon at 7:31 PM