Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dark Secrets

I have a deep, dark little secret. And once I tell you what it is, you may never look at me the same. I hope you'll take the time to hear me out, to really hear what my heart is trying to communicate. But I guess I'd also understand if you are too scandalized and offended by what I am about to say.

So here goes:

I don't like to call myself a Christian.

{Insert wailing and gnashing of teeth here.}

Okay, okay, listen. I really do have {what I think anyway} are good reasons.

It bothers me that saying, "I'm a Christian" can mean a million things to a million different people. It bothers me that there are people all over the world who give not a second thought to actually doing anything Jesus said who nonetheless call themselves Christians. I don't want to be lumped in with a group of people I can't identify with in any substantial way, and who believe a lot of things {sometimes even about God} that I completely disagree with.

In short, my definition of true Christianity is clearly different from the generic way it is used today, which makes me hesitant to use it at all. And I also don't like the idea of having one word encapsulating all I am and believe.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Say you have a hankering for a latte, and while in line at Starbucks you notice a nifty little chalkboard sign with some wise words etched in calligraphy on it. Not knowing the source of the quote, you ask the smiling barista {who has likely imbibed too deeply of the caffeinated products she's selling and talks a little too fast} whether she knows whose words are on that little chalkboard. She replies that it is a Ghandi quote.

She starts telling you about how the words of Ghandi inspire her, how wise she thinks he was. You smile and nod. Then she asks you about yourself.

But to say to the barista at Starbucks, "I'm a Christian," will fill her mind with all kinds of images you can not control. Maybe she grew up in a Christian church, and she feels just fine about it. She smiles and hands you your latte and all is well.

But then again, maybe she shared a class in college with a so-called Christian who was completely intolerant towards anything that was different from themselves: other religions, viewpoints, sexual orientations, etc. Maybe the only encounter she has had with Christianity has been hate, arrogance, and political agendas.

In which case, said barista looks at you, thinks "Oh great. One of *those* people." And she hands you your latte with the hopes you won't try to cram your religion down her throat, because she's not interested in your brand of religion, thank-you-very-much.

And I don't think *that* brand of Christianity looks a whole lot like Jesus.

It also bothers me that, in many ways, Christians {as the term is used today} are largely a fear-based people. They are afraid to learn about other religions, other view points, other ways of doing things, sometimes because they feel by doing so they are compromising their faith. I do not believe this to be true.

I believe that we can learn a lot from all kinds of other people, and should.

To quote author Penelope Wilcock,
"My own feeling is that I am not so wise that I can afford to ignore the wisdom of others because their religious affiliations are different from my own... if the truth in Christ is absolute and real, then we need never be afraid to seek after truth wherever we find it, for in His grace our search will ultimately lead us to Him... I have found that the wisdom and insights of world religions have enriched rather than threatened my faith: Jesus Christ is my lord and Master, and I would have it no other way."

I realize this is a rather broad statement, and that there may be some of you reading this who are imagining all the ways that this could go very wrong. I am not suggesting that all Christians should immerse themselves in other religions. I am simply offering for consideration the idea that we not be afraid of other viewpoints, and that we can recognize and discern truth, no matter what the source. We should not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I am also adamant that being a Christian is not so much what you believe but much, much more about who you are. You can believe in all the right theologies and give some sort of mental assent to all the creeds of the faith, and not be a Christian. Jesus' own words in the Bible make very clear that it is what we *do* and not what we *say* that make us His followers.

You can believe that if you plant seeds in your garden they will germinate and bloom into beautiful flowers. But believing this does not make you a gardener. You have to actually plant the seeds.

It is this saying and not doing that makes so-called Christians unpalatable to others.

Because how can we say we love Jesus and not care about the widow, the orphan, taking care of the Earth-home He has provided us, feeding the poor and clothing the naked and caring for the animals he created?

This makes me very sad.

I have one more point I'd like to touch on, briefly. It's a touchy one, but it shouldn't be left unsaid. It bothers me tremendously that Christians fight one another, because of differences in theology or ritual or liturgy or what have you. It bothers me that in any given town, you can have two churches, sometimes even of the same denomination, across the street from each other, and that the people will not associate with members of other congregations.

Are we so audacious as to believe that only our church or denomination will be going to Heaven? Then why do we act the way we do?

If the church today is supposed to be the body of Christ, do we imagine He will allow it {His own body!?} to be so fragmented?

Sadly, I find that most of the issues Christians bicker over really should not be deal breakers. Can't we learn from one another rather than separate and alienate one another? *sigh*

Well, I guess I've gone on enough for now. If you've read down this far, thank you. I appreciate your willingness to hear me out.

I love Jesus. My life is caught up in trying to follow His example in my day to day, ordinary life. And I find that His way embraces people, it discerns truth wherever it is found, it makes all things holy.

Jesus was not afraid of differences. He was not concerned about the company He kept, what people would say about Him for the things he said and did, or His reputation. He just went on loving His Father, and loving the people that came into His life.

So, in a nutshell, that's what I intend to do as well.

All that to say, I'm not crazy about labels. They complicate things that should be kept simple.

And I like simple.

~amy danielle


  1. Well I'm with you here, hon x

  2. Me too. I've called myself a Christ-follower for a long time. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk about faith I find myself doing gymnastics to try and use words that aren't weighted down with stereotype and negative connotations. I think we have to use fresh language sometimes to help people see Christ in new ways.

  3. You are so right here.....Loved the post. Blessings on your day. Lori

  4. I agree Amy. This is such a beautiful post!


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