It’s Holy Week in Christendom. What better week for my coming out party as a Christian. There. I said it – I am a Christian! So why does that make me so uncomfortable?
Could it be because I was raised in the eighties when evangelicalism ran rampant?
Or because I’m from Texas?
Or because I was raised in an extremely conservative community?
The answer is most likely the perfect storm of these overlapping ideas. As much as I want to write about faith and God’s love and call myself a Christian I still feel locked in the stranglehold of the evangelism of my youth. I cannot think of the word Christian without massive judgement coming up about the conflicting ideas about what Christianity is supposed to be. What I’m wondering is — If Christianity is truly about loving your neighbor and acknowledging that all people are equal in the eyes of the Lord — what the hell have I been fighting against? And more importantly, who am I without my Christian rebellion?
I have just as much a right to my Christian heritage as the next American. I was baptized as a Protestant, probably Methodist because my family attended the Methodist church. I could have also been baptized in the Christian church, the church of my grandparents — though probably not. I only ever saw my grandparents in a church at funerals and weddings but Granny would go out of her way to say things like, “Oh, I am a very proud member of the First Christian Church!”
My dad’s side of the family was Baptist. Dad’s mom, my Granny Pearl, liked to drink Schlitz long necks and go dancing at the honkey tonk bars. She also rocked her grandchildren to sleep singing old Baptist hymnals –“On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross…” yet the Bible thumping section of my dad’s side of the family considered her the darkest of the black sheep.
I’ve seen the inside of many denominations of Protestant churches, know more than a few hymnals and hundreds of uplifting Born-Again songs from the 1970’s. I attended Catholic elementary school in a tiny town of a thousand people. We went to mass every morning and said the rosary every day after lunch. I could never make an ‘A’ in religion class because I was not a Catholic, even though I felt I knew more about religion than most other kids considering that I went to the Methodist church with my family on Sundays, went to the Baptist Sunday school across the street from our house and then went to Catholic mass every weekday.
Just yesterday I linked to a blog about instilling value into our daughters. I was so excited to find the voices around how to raise healthy daughters. And then there it was – right out of the gate the blogger asked, “Are you raising a rebellious harlot of Babylon or a Bride of Christ?” Really? Those are my only two options? The nuns I knew in elementary school considered themselves to be Brides of Christ, married to God’s son, celibate in physical reality. I knew that was not my path. Bride of Christ gets me in knots for many reasons – it feels submissive, judgmental and pious. Then there’s the obvious snark – If I’m the Bride of Christ does that mean I am cheating on Christ when I get married or does that make me polyandrous?
Herein lies my uncomfortableness. Where I grew up these were my only two options — rebellious harlot or Bride of Christ – I chose the former and because the options were so narrow I questioned God’s presence and also God’s nature. I eventually abandoned Protestantism for Catholicism in my late teens and almost abandoned Jesus altogether a few years after that because they had taken Him as their own. They had appropriated Jesus, made him the husband of their daughters. I couldn’t compete with that! My rebellion and I couldn’t compete with girls who wore virginity rings and took virginity pledges and went to church on Sundays AND Wednesday nights. My doubt and skepticism did not come from my lack of faith, it came from an idea that somebody was doing Christianity better than me.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 20% of Americans claim no religious affiliation. In research and media circles these people have become known as the “nones” (somewhat ironic but bearing no affiliation with actual Catholic nuns). These people include many of my friends.
While working on this blogpost I mentioned the title of this post — I’m a Christian. Why does that make me uncomfortable? — to a few close friends to see their reaction.
One of them looked at me befuddled and said, “Wow! I haven’t called myself a Christian in a long time.”
Each one of the women I talked to said something along the lines of — I’m not atheist and I’m not agnostic, I just hate what those pedophile priests have done to Catholicism and I don’t agree with evangelical Christians. See! These women are spiritual and maybe even Christian, they just don’t want to admit it because there is no clear paradigm of their beliefs.
So goodbye to my rebellious nature and goodbye to the uncomfortableness that keeps me separate from who I am, from God. I’m off on a journey to clarify this paradigm for myself and many other women who no longer feel at home in the Christian faith that has been designed for us and who very much want a place to call home.
Links that inspired this post:
16 thoughts on “I’m a Christian. Why does that make me uncomfortable?”
Wow. Awesome post. It is so hard sometimes to admit being a Christian. I definitely struggle. And because I’m a feminist and lean toward the more liberal side, I find myself getting flack from both conservative evangelicals and liberal atheists. It’s a hard place to be, but so worth it. Like you said—there aren’t only two options. The world needs people like us to be vocal about what we believe! So thanks for sharing!
Okay. I have to tell you that it was your post on Full Frontal Feminism that started this whole thing. I read that blogpost then I looked at Sarah Bessey’s website and thought to myself, “Look at this! They have a dialog going on that is not shoving Christianity in your face but it’s definitely present.” Your post gave me the courage and the curiosity to explore deeper into the part of my faith that I can no longer ignore. I’m knee deep, three years plus, into writing my book about how cancer strengthened my relationship with my mother and opened my heart to adopt a daughter. I’m just now facing the fact that I can’t finish that story without really delving into my relationship with God. Your blog had a powerful impact on me. Thank you.
Aw I’m so glad to hear that! With such an incredible story, I think it’s important not to leave God out of it! I’m continually learning that I can’t take credit for any of my accomplishments—all the glory goes to Him. It’s not pushy; it’s just the truth. God bless your writings!
hi kiddo. born a Baptist, christened a Methodist and evolved to vaguely Episcopal here. from time to time i discover why it makes me uncomfortable to express my faith — because so many people are using their faith as a sword rather than a bridge… for example, someone local assured me today: “Obama is the Anti-Christ”. so i thought i would go googling to see how many people were expressing that view. omg. i never found a number, but i did discover, not only are Barrack and Michelle partners of the devil himself; Michelle Bachmanm is Jesus’ little sister. who would have known it? when i strike these bumps in my road, a little bit of Bill Moyers helps. Good for Bill, he tells us we can be Baptist Buddhists. what the heck, let’s keep on being ourselves and try for inclusion rather than exclusion. your blog pieces are most thought provoking. i dearly hope you and yours enjoy Easter. (even the pagan egg hunting. chuckling) later, lj
enjoyed reading your post! I am a christian, not uncomfortable, but fall into the “harlot” mode for periods of time…check out my blog- I plan on writing about a bride and what that is supposed to mean 🙂 !
I love the post you wrote today! It feels very serendipitous to me that we posted what we did on the same day. I know I have been to your blog before and can’t believe I wasn’t following it. Well, I am now. I look forward to your subsequent posts and feel very lucky to have you as part of my growing community of powerful female Christian voices.
I am new to all of this! I am following you now as well! Thank you for your encouragement- I think I may enjoy this blogging “thing” 🙂
I love ‘Baptist Buddhists’. My Baptist grandmother would have loved that. She wouldn’t have know what a Buddhist was but would have enjoyed watching her relatives hate it. And all that other stuff…where do people come up with this? It’s truly mind baffling! Thanks!
i wonder if the challenges of identifying oneself thoughtfully with a faith tradition are universal? I grew up Baha’i rather than Christian but still will talk about it only with people who aren’t going to misconstrue a conversation about it as an attempt at conversion or be unable to see past a label or imagine that I’m somehow representative of all Baha’is. I got pretty quiet about having a strong set of religious beliefs in the philosophy department in college where it was assumed we were all too sophisticated to believe in God, got more quiet when we lived in Texas where “Christian” was used as an adjective interchangeably with “good” “moral” and “traditional” and strangers would introduce themselves in parks asking if we had found a church yet.
Then there was the challenge of reconciling faith with my own version of feminism since so many qualities of faith are submissive/humble/unassuming which are the qualities one associates with women being thrown into subservient roles, and I was only able to articulate how choosing and working at those qualities was a different matter than having them forced on me because I was a woman by reading the (really amazing book!) At the Root of This Longing by Carol Flinders and Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.
I still am uncomfortable with organized religion as a great big exclusive club that focuses always on how one group of people is different from/better than everyone else, and find I have to focus on what I have in common with others. I appreciated this post for waking me up a little to the sort of prejudice I feel when someone uses “Christian” as one of the first modifiers to self-identify, because the truth is, all of my closest friends have struggled to find a place for faith in their lives whether they have followed paths of Christianity or Judaism, Buddhism or the Baha’i Faith or have found a faith outside of any formal affiliation with religion or conventional notion of God.
Thank you Mara! You have given me an abundant garden to explore in subsequent posts. It was a joy and a relief to recently discover my passion for this topic- really of adding my voice to the many who are speaking up about our beliefs – although generally they may look different on the surface, are fundamentally about living in the spirit of love in our daily lives. I look forward to continuing a dialog and to your insightful wisdom to prod me forward.
Mara, there was a delightful poet who lived here named Dorothy Lee Hansen. she traveled all over the world visiting Baha’i friends. we had many a delightful discussion concerning the messages of each of the prophets and other topics which centered on inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness. one often wonders if the world would not be a more cohesive place if more than just a few of Christ’s disciples had been set in moveable type early in the history of the Bible. i am still fond of the theory that Christ was “just off being Buddha” when he was missing… how many reincarnations are there in a single lifetime. and since the dear fellow has already arisen once and is coming back, why do most contemporary Christians rail against the concept of reincarnation. oh, my. you ladies are most thought provoking. thanks for stirring my gray matter!
I enjoyed reading your post and understand your dilemma. My question is, “Why do you even believe in Jesus/God?” With all due respect, from your words, it appears that you have been indoctrinated. Indoctrination is so powerful that most don’t even realize that this is what has happened to them. Did it ever strike you that one’s religion is a product of birth and origin?
I’m off to read another one of your posts, have a great day!
That’s a really great question. My biggest problem with saying I’m a Christian is that I will suddenly be pigeonholed into some sort of religious dogma and someone else’s idea of Christianity and what kind of Christian they think I should be. For years I rejected the idea of connecting with a ‘higher power, someone or something outside of me that knows better than me. I went to Catholic schools and was taught by nuns so to answer your questions, ‘yes’. I was definitely indoctrinated. It was this indoctrination that I rejected. I come from a family that does not buy into organized religion – even the conservative older folk in my family saw religion an opiate of the masses.
In MY darkest hour, though, the question I had to ask myself is, “WHAT do I believe in?” I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t believe in myself, or some God someone else told me to believe in, nothing. This began my spiritual journey that took me to yoga, chanting, meditation, Buddhism. Long story short, it’s a feeling. It’s not ‘out there’ anthropomorphized as some all powerful person. It begins and ends in the heart, the physical organ to whose function I owe my life.
On my spiritual journey I discovered how important having ROOTS is to any spiritual practice. In my opinion, without roots the spiritual takes on a metaphysical mumbo-jumbo wooo-wooo that I am not interested in. I studied in a new way the words Jesus said, not the church built up around those words. Jesus’ words are lessons in LOVE. Peel away the religion, dogma, INDOCTRINATION and what is at the heart? It’s THE HEART – THE HUMAN HEART. What is it that ultimately drives the religion, dogma and indoctrination? It’s the desire for power – to capitalize on and own LOVE. That is an impossibility but people are still going to try because religion is a great way to get power. That fact is not going to keep me from following the path that answers my question, “What do I believe in?” The answer is LOVE. I realized that when I am operating from my HEART I am living in my highest power and don’t have to look outside of myself to find the answers I ultimately seek.
good question, well answered.
Jean Paul Sarte: reality is as we perceive it.
Some llama, not sure which one: All of the energy in the universe is everywhere at once.
(i like to think of Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion. Bill Moyers has a nice bit about it being possible to be a Baptist Buddhist. interesting take on the whole thing)
generally, when “power” is accumulated visa vi religion, it seems to be mustered from the elements of fear and superstition, not the elements of faith and belief in the natural order of life and death, doncha think?
Thanks Lela Jane, well said!