I’m a Christian. Why does that make me uncomfortable?

by jane arie baldwin

The Wrong Store, Marfa.

The Wrong Store, Marfa.I

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: