Updated: Sep 30, 2019
I had to learn to play the “game.” And the game was this: Intellectually I identified as “Christian.” Emotionally, I thought it was a crock of shit. So I kept up the appearances of Christianity to please those around me so I wouldn’t get the weird “I’ll pray for you!” talks or “You have to believe! You did at one point! You’re just confused right now.” I knew what awaited me if I told people what I was actually feeling. You know, the scary hell talks where I burn for eternity? That one seems to win so many people over, right?
For me, (and probably most of us) there was a giant disconnect between the character of Jesus and then the way his followers demanded you live. I liked Jesus. He seemed kind and compassionate and enjoyed associating with the people I associated with (the party crowd). However, I wasn’t interested in being a “Christian” if it meant looking like the status quo. His people were moral Nazis, and they had really strange rules. Once you said the prayer-thing asking Jesus into your heart (like, what does that even mean???)and were saved from hell then there were things Christians do — invent curse words that aren’t curse words, journal, don’t associate with people that aren’t Christians — and things they didn’t do — cussing, drinking, premarital sex, secular music. Once you nailed the latter list then you and God were on good terms. Follow those rules, and you’re a legit Christian. Oh, and never struggle. Never doubt. And never have deep issues.
The problem was, every Christian I met sucked at being good. They just happened to be really skilled at covering it up and looking pretty externally. And even the ones who were pretty on the outside usually got disillusioned or just ended up becoming judgmental cause they were “nailing it” (although that attitude reveals massive heart issues). I happened to be the guy that wore my train wreck on his sleeve, so I never fit in.
And honestly, I don’t think that much has changed on some level. You can get online at any point and read about large mega-church pastors covering up sexual abuse cases. Or rape charges. Or abuse. Or systemic racism within the four walls of our churches. Us vs. Them mentalities. And the overall view held by Millennials that Christians are judgmental, bigoted, and hypocritical.
So when people discover I’m a Christian (let alone on staff at a church), the response is usually an overwhelming, “You’re serious? You’re a Christian?! After all that?”
As Christians, our goal is not to follow a set of rules to earn God’s favour. Often there are people out there who can easily live more moral lives than us. In fact, it seemed most non-Christians were helping more people than those in the pews every Sunday.
To me the cross where Jesus died is a reminder that as good as we try to be, we still need someone to save us from ourselves because at the end of the day we love to compare ourselves to scoundrels. But Christianity teaches that if anything we realise what a train wreck we are, and so when we see people in this light it humbles us.
I know of no other religion that does that.
Christ teaches that his goal within the resurrection is to transform the world. Christ teaches his goal is a new heaven and new earth here on earth. Not that we convert people to our tribe and wait for God to nuke this place, but that we’re in the business of restoration. That we bring hope to the hopeless. That we help the needy, poor, and oppressed. That we give generously, freeing the captives and the addicted. That we transform the world where disease and suffering are alleviated. That we treat others different than us better than ourselves.
So, Why Am I A Christian?
Because I know I’m a train wreck in a dumpster fire. But I also know that God loves me 100% as is, right now, in the midst of the burning carnage that is often my life. I know that if I were to stack up my cards against most church people, I’d fold every time. I’m not that good at following rules. And yet, God loves me and is cheering for me as I get better and especially when I fall down. Where I see failure, he sees the opportunity for growth. Where I see addiction, he sees an opportunity to take a step. Where I’ve given up, he whispers, “You can make it”.
So maybe if we can all accept the idea that God’s love is wholly separate from our actions, receive it, and give it to others maybe then we’d have more Christians that look like Christ. Christians that don’t feel it’s important to beat people down with their theology and doctrine, but instead spend their lives in the gutter bleeding alongside other people.