A few days ago I was scrolling through Facebook and stumbled across a thread in which two of my friends had entered into a lengthy theological debate with one another. People treat religion like it’s a sporting event, and every congregant is n bench-pew quarterback screaming that their plays are the only ones that matter. I skimmed through the first few comments before I felt a tidal wave of existential ennui come crashing down upon me.
How could we possibly know which of them are right? What difference would knowing possibly make? In that moment, I felt absolutely suffocated by what Christianity has become in America. I tried to take a breath, but it had filled my throat and gotten to my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. I needed to step out. I needed fresh air.
I have tried my best to make sense of the schizophrenic state of American Christianity. The religion part is easy– love God, love people. That’s it. The end. That part I can get behind and support. Everything else though… Honestly, I can’t take it anymore.
The way Jesus gets trotted out to push political agendas. The way Christianity has become an excuse to remain ignorant of science and of suffering. The way Christianity continues to be used to draw lines between “haves” and “have-nots”.
For the past decade, I’ve watched as my faith has crumbled around me. I’ve stopped believing that the Bible is meant to be understood literally. I’ve stopped believing that the Bible is infallible. I’ve stopped believing that God “blesses” anyone. I’ve stopped believing in the devil and hell, in the traditional sense. I’ve stopped believing that Christianity is the only means to a meaningful afterlife.
These were not easy conclusions to draw. I had to wrestle with each and every one of these points. I desperately wished I could just go to church, raise my hands, and believe what everyone else around me believed. It would have been so much easier. This process has terrified me. I’ve lived in a constant state of fear that I’ve finally “gone too far”.
But here’s the part you, dear reader, should be frightened of: God led me this. I fought it. I tried to remain conservative and theologically sound, but it wasn’t to be. God flung me headlong into heresy.
It’s scary. There are no certainties. Every day I’m painfully aware that everything I know could be wrong. I could wake up tomorrow and have to start from scratch again.
But you know what else I’ve found? Every time I’ve stopped believing something, a wider, warmer, more inclusive belief replaced it. I’ve found freedom, out here in the margins. There is liberty to be discovered in the gray. Not only that, but there’s also God; unadulterated and unshackled by dogma or orthodoxy.
I’ve found God in the uncertainties. And I’m finally embracing it.
It’s taken me years to be able to say this, but I don’t care about any of it anymore. I don’t care about your quadrilaterals. I don’t care about your denominations. I don’t care about your take on speaking in tongues, handling snakes, or abortion.
It doesn’t matter.
It’s all window dressing. All I want, the only thing I need, is God. If your beliefs aren’t making it easier for me to know or understand God, then I don’t want or need them. If your beliefs aren’t making you more loving, kind, compassionate, and an all around better person– guess what? You don’t need them either.
I’ve given it all up. Everything. Reading the bible. Going to church. Reciting wish lists out loud and calling them “prayers”. I’m done, I’m out. It’s over.
I don’t feel right calling myself a “Christian” anymore. Not just because of the schism I feel regarding religion, but because labels carry weight. The notion of American Christianity has veered so far, I’m not thrilled with being associated with it.
So for now? I’m not a Christian. I don’t belong to any particular ideal or to any sect. For now, I belong to God, and that feels like enough.