I am not a Christian…

If a Christian is someone who has all the answers and knows they’re right and others are wrong, I’m not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone with a one-way ticket to heaven who’s convinced that everyone else is going to the fiery place, I’m not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone who knows they’re better, holier and more moral than everyone else, I’m not a Christian. (I generally think I’m considerably worse than most people, but that’s neurosis for you.)

If a Christian is someone who thinks they have exclusive access to God and knows exactly what God thinks about everything, I’m not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone who accepts everything in the Bible at face value as God’s inerrant Word, I’m not a Christian.

If being a Christian means mentally assenting to a required and unquestionable set of doctrines, creeds and theological statements, I’m not a Christian.

If being a Christian means believing six impossible things before breakfast because ‘the Bible says so’ or ‘the church teaches so’ then I’m not a Christian. Similarly, if a Christian is someone who has to disengage their brain and suspend their critical faculties in order to maintain a set of nonsensical religious beliefs and practices, I’m not a Christian – I hope.

If being a Christian means having a magical or superstitious attitude to life, reading every random event as a ‘sign’, treating the Bible as a horoscope and using prayer just as a means to get what you want, then I’m not a Christian. (Or to be more accurate, I sometimes am but don’t want to be.)

If being Christian means excluding gays or treating women as second-class citizens, I’m not a Christian.

If being a Christian means disliking, disregarding or looking down on atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Sikhs, or people of other church denominations than myself, I hope I’m not a Christian. If it means not listening to people with differing beliefs and moral views, I hope I’m not a Christian.

If being a Christian means not caring about the environment because I’m going to be ‘raptured’, or because I see the world as a God-given resource for me to exploit for my material ends, then I’m not a Christian. (Though I could certainly do more to care for the planet.)

If being a Christian means only listening to approved (or ‘Christian’) kinds of music, reading approved books and watching approved films, I’m not a Christian.

If being a Christian means kicking up a fuss whenever some film, book, play or song allegedly ‘blasphemes’ against my faith or my God, I’m not a Christian.

If being a Christian means living under a permanent cloud of guilt and fear of punishment, I don’t want to be a Christian. Though on the other hand, if being a Christian means I can do whatever the heck I please because Christ’s death means I get off scot-free, well, it’s tempting but again no.

If being a Christian means being politically right-wing or a believer in unfettered free-market capitalism, I’m emphatically not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone who rejects the biological theory of evolution, and insists that the universe was created in six days 6000 years ago, I’m definitely not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone who’s known primarily for what they oppose, eschew and disapprove of rather than what they love, enjoy and engage wholeheartedly with, then I don’t want to be a Christian.

If being a Christian means being suspicious of the arts, imagination and creativity except as vehicles of evangelistic propaganda, then I’m not a Christian.

If being a Christian means any or all of these things, then I wouldn’t call myself a Christian and hope no-one else would call me one either.

And if a Christian is someone who is always good and nice, never swears and never does ‘un-Christian’ things, I haven’t got a hope.

But…

But if being a Christian means following the Christ who accepted and welcomed all who came to him in need, then I’m not probably yet fully a Christian but I’d definitely like to be.

If being a Christian means loving God utterly with all your heart, mind, soul and body and loving your fellow-human as yourself, then I’m not really a Christian but I aspire to be.

If being a Christian means becoming more and more filled with, and more and more like, the God of love and goodness and beauty and reality, then I’d certainly like to start out on that eternity-long journey.

If being a Christian means laying aside our doctrinal disagreements and personal agendas, and working together to build the kingdom, welcoming the stranger and outsider, caring for the poor and rejected, loving the unlovely and healing the sick, then I’m daunted by how far I am from this but I see the rightness of it.

If being a Christian means being fully human, fully alive; a fully-flourishing, fulfilled, whole human being, then I’m nowhere near that but I desperately long for it.

And if being a Christian means believing that God is good, that people matter, that the universe is beautiful and life has meaning, and that in the end all will be well, then yes, I’m thoroughly and wholeheartedly a Christian.

So…

So which is it? Is a Christian a Bible-bashing gay-hating bigot, or a grace-filled Christ-like human being?

If it’s the former, I would have to reject Christianity completely; but then I believe that Christ would also reject it. I don’t think that’s what being a Christian is about at all. I believe that being a Christian, truly being a Christian, is potentially the most wonderful yet also the most impossible thing in the world.

So am I a Christian? I don’t know. But by God’s grace, if he’ll have me, falteringly and stumblingly, then yes, I hope I am.

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About TheEvangelicalLiberal

Aka Harvey Edser. I'm a web editor, worship leader, wannabe writer, very amateur composer and highly unqualified armchair theologian. My heroes include C.S. Lewis and Homer Simpson.
This entry was posted in Atheism/agnosticism, Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, Heresy/blasphemy. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to I am not a Christian…

  1. Reblogged this on multicolouredsmartypants and commented:
    Lovely. I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t know all the answers, I follow Christ falteringly but live by grace and am made alive by grace – and it is a glorious way to live.

    Like

  2. Oak Hill Studio says:

    Thank you for this…I can really identify.

    Like

    • You’re very welcome, and thanks for commenting! Sometimes I wish we could have a different word than the widely-misused ‘Christian’ to describe following Christ (or trying and generally failing to follow Christ)… but then I also need to guard against writing off all the people whose Christianity I don’t like but who are still equally loved by Jesus…

      Like

  3. Noel says:

    Beautifully written! This is a post that many people would need to read, particularly atheists. Many people accuse Christians for the first set of descriptions you wrote. But they choose to ignore the second set of characteristics , which reflect more God’s love. Keep it up!

    Like

    • Thanks Noel! There are so many wonderful people out there doing their best to follow Christ, but it’s almost always the Pharisaical and narrow-minded ones who get the attention… but then I mustn’t write them off either. There but for the grace of God and all that…

      Like

  4. Nigel Harris says:

    Splendid. If you’re not a Christian, I don’t want to be one either.

    Like

  5. jimpgrave says:

    Just great!!!

    Not just on the strength of this post, but for generally being a fab read, I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Blog Award – you can see the nomination here:
    http://wp.me/p3ng0V-6L
    I’ve really enjoyed your thought provoking posts and the discussions I’ve had with others arising from them … thank you!

    I was really encouraged when I received my nomination … I hope you are too!

    God Bless,
    Paul at ‘Red Setter Christian’

    Like

    • Hi Paul,
      Thank you so much, and I’m sorry for not getting back to you sooner!

      It’s hugely encouraging to receive the nomination – thank you enormously! And it’s perhaps (if possible) even more encouraging to hear that people have actually had discussions arising from things I’ve written… 🙂

      I love writing and I’m aware that I write far too much… I’m always amazed that anyone actually bothers to wade through half the stuff I’ve churned out!

      Thank you again, and bless you,

      Harvey / TEL

      Like

  6. lotharson says:

    Hello Harvey. I think we should stop deluding ourselves.

    Neither you nor I are Christian, we are worthy of hell for not recognizing (due to our sinful pride) that the Canaanite genocide was a good thing for promoting God’s glory.

    I have just written a post about Evangelicalism and homosexuality here:
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/on-conservative-evangelicalism-and-homophoby-iwer-de-konservative-evangelikalismus-un-schwule/

    Sinfully yours.

    Like

  7. Roger Metzger says:

    Most people who think they have rejected God have only rejected a caricature of him.

    So…… I’m looking for an organization that proclaims the glad tidings about the nature of the kingdom and the nature of the king (which means that the organization is neither fundamentalist nor overtly political) the agents of which organization do NOT teach (and try to avoid implying):
    That we can earn or deserve God’s forgiveness or citizenship in his kingdom.
    That the Bible must be interpreted by traditions, church councils or modern revelation.
    That humans need the mediation of priests on Earth or saints in heaven.
    That an organization is the church.
    That God decided, before each of us was born, who of us would be saved and who lost.
    That the Decalogue has been changed or abolished.
    That the grace of God is received through “sacraments”.
    That humans have innate immortality.
    That the finally impenitant will roast in a fiery hell for all eternity.

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    • Hi Roger, thanks for your comment. I agree that most who think they’ve rejected God have only rejected a caricature. Unfortunately most who think they have accepted God may also only have accepted a caricature… and I would include myself among them.

      If you’re serious about seeking an organization that lives out those positive things while not embodying any of the negative ones, well, I think there *are* some churches and para-church groupings that might broadly fit the bill (depending perhaps where you live). But of course none are perfect, and I’m not sure that organizations are always the best place to look for the life of Christ…

      I personally would differ over a couple of the items on your list – for example, I think that God’s grace *can* be received through ‘sacraments’, I just don’t think it’s limited to those things which the church defines as sacraments. And I’m not too sure about the Ten Commandments – while important, I wouldn’t regard them as central. So would your ideal organization (and its members) have to agree with all your points, or is there room for different understandings?

      All the best,
      Harvey

      Like

  8. John Watson says:

    Thought provoking read. Thanks. I expect I would not agree with you on everything. But you do present a challenge to holding and sharing my beliefs as a less liberal evangelical in ways which do not give rise to the caricatures of unpleasant bigots that bring shame on the name of Christ. For example, if I believe that homosexual practice is wrong ( just as heterosexual practice outside marriage, and greed, and pride, and worshipping idols, are wrong) it does not mean that I have to fear or hate gay people, or Hindus, or right wing politicians. It certainly doesn’t mean that I think it is the worst sin possible, as some people seem to give the impression. If I believe that the whole Bible is God’s inspired word, I won’t ask anyone to suspend their intellect – the language of Genesis 1 for example is in my opinion clearly poetic, so I do not see it as demanding that I have to believe in a 6 x 24 hours creation, any more than Psalm 23 makes me think that God walks around with a rod and a staff and forces his followers to sleep in fields beside pools, and spill their drinks.

    By the way, I use the term “evangelical” in its traditional British context, and would probably be considered wildly liberal by many Americans who use the term – so please don’t hate me for it.

    Like

    • Thanks John! I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to agree with me on everything – or indeed necessarily anything… and I’m not always sure I even agree with myself! This blog represents my thinking-on-paper (or on screen) and certainly not a final, fixed position. And I always have to keep open the possibility that I’m probably wrong on many things and will likely need to change my views in future.

      And though I might dislike the more fundamentalist end of evangelicalism, I hope I wouldn’t hate you or anyone for holding even extreme evangelical views! My own ‘problem’ with evangelicalism, such as it is, is mainly that I haven’t felt truly comfortable or spiritually at home within it, which is a matter of personality as much as anything. I do take issue with a lot of evangelical emphases and doctrines, and this blog deals with many of these, but I certainly don’t see evangelicals as enemies.

      All the very best,
      Harvey

      Like

  9. Mere Dreamer says:

    I don’t claim the Christian label because so few understand the word in light of your definition. (Though others may choose to apply it to my life, or not, since they form their own opinions.) This was encouraging and beautiful. Thank you.

    Like

    • Thank you for your kind words, and thanks also for quoting my piece on your excellent blog!

      I think that the Christian label can be very unhelpful, carrying as it does so much baggage and so many negative associations. Indeed, I think almost all labels are generally unhelpful, as they tend to restrict and exclude. I do still choose to identify myself as Christian, mainly for convenience, but really I’d prefer to avoid labels entirely.

      Nonetheless, I very much believe in the ‘truth’ (in the broadest sense) that Christ represents – the transforming love, life and light of God made real and available for all.

      All the very best,
      Harvey

      Like

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