So let’s get the song of the day out of the way first. Not all that related to today’s posting(or is it?), but the chorus lyric has always gotten to me a little bit, and it’s the song that’s playing right now.
So, to briefly recap the last post…my crisis of faith came to a slimy little head a few years ago. I was working–volunteering, really–for a Christian charity, and the “team” that I was working for began to treat me quite shittily, only with a shiny religious veneer, so it all seemed OK. Some bad things happened that mattered enormously to me, but very little to anyone else. I blamed myself, mostly, and after leaving and having even worse things happen, I apparently developed a hateful bitter little core which showed up this week when I said, without thinking, that I hated someone.
I’ve never said that I’ve hated someone. Ideologies, things and The Man all catch it in the neck from me, but generally speaking, I don’t even dislike people, let alone hate.
This worries me, as does the fact that God doesn’t really seem to care very much about all of this and has pretty much left me to my own devices. And all of this has led friends, one in particular, to ask me just how and why it is that I am still a Christian after all of this?
Here’s why, after the jump…
The biggest reason I get asked that question, I suppose, is because I have often been mistreated, in a well-intentioned way, by Christians. It’s not always immediately apparent to myself, but other folks are quick to point it out. Two things are important here…number one, that I’ve been treated well by Christians too. Christians donated money to me when I was volunteering, Christians put me up in their homes when I didn’t have a place to stay, Christians counseled me through a truly difficult emotional and spiritual internal renaissance, Christians prayed for me, and Christians offered genuine friendship to me.
Other Christians stole from me, treated me as though I as less than them, lied to me, patronized me, stereotyped me, insulted me, and ignored me.
The whole thing reminds me of a quote from one of the Harry Potter books. Some well-meaning adult tells Harry, a bit impatiently, that the world isn’t divided into Death-Eaters and heroes. It’s the same with Christianity, really. The world isn’t divided into Christians and bad people. People are just people, at the end of the day. Some will treat you well and some won’t.
The misanthrope in me puts it even plainer…Christians are people, and people suck. Get over it.
So yeah, SOME Christians have treated me horribly. But then, some Christians have treated me wonderfully. Furthermore, as a Christian, I’ve treated some people wonderfully. I’ve treated others horribly. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater because of universal human fallibility?
Besides, that brings me to my next point. I really am not that bothered about Christians, as a whole. My faith is not contingent on the way that other Christians behave. I don’t believe in Christians. I believe in Jesus. And that’s where things get trickier…
I started this whole thing, back in 2006, out of no particular piety. I am not a believer in big evangelism, to be honest. I’m not a super pious person in the sense that I don’t really live a particularly “Christian” life. Is my life moral? Yes. Is my life Godly? I think so, as much as it can be at the moment. But is my life, lifestyle and culture, Christian? Absolutely not. Non-Christians immediately know I’m Christian. Christians are always trying to save me. I’m actually a little irrationally proud of that.
I didn’t get involved in evangelistic Christian ministry because I thought(or think) that any of that sort of thing is a good idea. I’m not charismatic. I’m barely evangelical. I don’t think I earned any super halo points for being a missionary...if anything, my retrospective of the experience made me want to beg forgiveness and repent. What I’m saying is that while I’m certainly sitting on a high horse, it’s not the same one as the one most evangelical Christians seem to be sitting on. I don’t think I have the right to tell other people how to live their life. I can certainly live my own the best way I know how and if other people want to adopt bits of that, they’re welcome to. But I don’t think I know better than the rest of the world simply because I am a Christian and they are not. As a matter of fact, I think that mentality–the superiority and ulterior relational motives that often go with Christian acquaintances–is one of the most wrong things about modern Christianity today.
So basically, I didn’t start doing wild and crazy Christian things because I thought it was a good idea, or because it was socially acceptable(good GOD was it not. There are still people who don’t speak to me over this shit, some of whom are related by blood.), or because I really thought I’d get anything lasting out of it. I did it because God basically showed up in my life, in the flesh and blood and bills and bus stops reality of my life, and asked me to do it.
I could have said no. I didn’t. I don’t regret not saying no, but I do regret saying yes so wholeheartedly at times.
That is not a reason to stop believing in God.
But, my friend–remember him? From the beginning of the story? Not a Christian anymore? Yeah, that guy–he asked, “But don’t you feel that God has abandoned you?”
Well…I don’t know. I don’t THINK so–part of the appeal of believing in the God that I believe in is that He’s supposedly not the type to abandon folks, no matter what it seems like. But I will say this. I don’t see or hear God as apparently in reality as I used to. But that doesn’t mean abandonment on His part. I am, understandably I think, far less open to whatever it is the Divine has to say these days, and I may be for some time to come.
I’ll make one more point and then it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming, okay?
The last question I am often asked is how on earth can you still believe that God loves you?
Well, once again, I’m not as open to the idea as I once was, although I am far more confident in saying that God loves me than I am in saying I love God. That’s not saying much. I don’t know if I really believe in love to begin with, at least not in an emotional sense. I’m not even as open to the idea of God’s love in an active sense. What I mean by that is I no longer believe that love is contigent on actions or feelings. The common Christian catch phrase is that “love is a verb” or less popularly, “God speaks through your emotions”, but those two statements, IMO, have little to with God and everything to do with bad psychology.
Love is a state of being. It may be expressed through feelings and actions, beliefs and thoughts, but ultimately…the more I live of life and the little I know of love, I see that true love is a thing completely unto itself. It isn’t dependent on what is happening in a situation, what is done, what is thought, what is felt, what is believed. Love simply is, and as a force unto itself, is unfathomable, unquantifiable, and unqualifiable except for at very rare and transient moments.
If that’s truly the case…then it’s no coincidence that scripturally speaking…God is love.
And I realize that that is really no answer to the question, but it’s the best I’ve got for now.