A Christian Without a Religion

Broken Cross photo by Cantabrigian (deviantart.com)
Broken Cross photo by Cantabrigian (deviantart.com)

“For the last few years, Christians— particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people.” –Thus begins a recent article by Stephen Mattson on Sojourner.com entitled “American ‘Christianity’ Has Failed”.

Thus is also a large part of the reason why I have no words. Why I can’t even…
The irony. The hypocrisy. The pride. The fear. The anger.

This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why I’ve recently deleted my Facebook account. This is why I said I’d written my last Spiritual Drift post.

But then again there’s nothing like a vow of finality to get the creative juices flowing.

My Own Hypocrisy

It’s becoming harder and harder these days to sit in the pews of church and stew in my own hypocrisy. When I hear offhand ‘jokes’ coming from the pulpit about a certain U.S. state being “the land of fruits and nuts”. When I hear fellow ‘Christians’ sitting around a men’s breakfast gathering, swapping stories about particularly touchy neighborhoods they used to patrol as former cops, including the homosexual community, spitting the word between clenched teeth then clarifying, “fags, we used to call ‘em” to nods of understanding and chuckles of solidarity.

I say “stew in my own hypocrisy” because the hypocrisy of the church has been on display for years now. Centuries even.

It’s not them, it’s me.  My own hypocrisy is in continuing to sit there. Numb. Dumb. Mute. Confused and angered. Unable or unwilling (fearful actually) to speak out.  Because apparently I’m the weird one. I’m the ‘no rules’ progressive. I’m the bleeding heart liberal. I’m the one practicing ‘hypergrace’. All accusations I’ve heard over the past months and years. Most all given in contempt with a dismissive wave of the hand if not all-out red-faced anger.

I guess those are supposed to be a bad thing.

Here’s my question…

When exactly did Christianity become the religion of walls? Of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink acceptance of misogyny, bigotry, and hatred, shrugged of by prominent Christian leaders as either “necessary”, “refreshing”, or “locker room talk”?

When did we start becoming okay with exclusion? With turning away the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?  With the feeling that the poor are on their own, or that they deserve their place? With the pride of what’s mine is mine because I earned it (or inherited it)?

When exactly did Christians abandon hope and turn to fear? And when did our Bible become expurgated, leaving out the passages that spoke of the foreigner among us…

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler (Job 31:32)

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49 – Not expressly about foreigners, but I thought it was apt.)

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

Yet, I’m willing to concede I may be wrong…

If you can reason with me that the current climate of America, and of American Christianity, is not rooted in fear, maybe I can begin to sit a little more comfortably in my pew.

If you can reason out that I’ve simply misunderstood the misogyny, hatred, and bigotry, maybe I can begin to chuckle at the backhanded humor of fruits and nuts and fags.

If you can honestly say I should follow what “the Bible clearly says” rather than the prompting of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, maybe I too can rail against the evil menace that is Islam. Or democrats. Or gays. Or progressives. Or pro-choicers. Or liberals. Or women’s rights. Or Mormonism. Or Black Lives Matter.

Maybe you can also convince me that Jesus spoke English, and that those depictions of the pale-skinned, Roman-nosed, fair-haired, slightly glowing figure that adorns the majority of our church walls is actually His likeness.

If you can do all that, maybe I can be okay with building walls, and turning away brown-skinned, Middle Eastern refugees because one of them might disrupt our status quo and upturn our country, our patriotism, and our religious beliefs.

Until then, I will remain what I am: A Christian without a religion.

I am also a gay, Muslim, progressive, democrat, liberal, feminist, Mormon, black man.
I am none of these, and all of these.
I am a follower of a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern refugee.
I am the least of these.
I am a gentile.
I am a drunkard.
I am a glutton.
I am a tax collector.
I am a sinner.
I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
I am the light of the world.
And I will no longer be silent.

The World is Watching….

From Al Jazeera news: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/trump-signs-executive-order-banning-syrian-refugees-170128033811131.html

From France, Germany, and Luxemburg: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-refugees-france-idUSKBN15C0CL?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=588c970104d30168b1f2b752&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

Even Iran: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-rouhani-idUSKBN15C07Y?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=588c9e0a04d30176ef2fac9b&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

5 thoughts on “A Christian Without a Religion”

  1. Thank you for the courage to write, Kent. It helps me. I wrote something tonight (https://thispastorspensieve.wordpress.com/2017/01/28/dear-france/). My wife asked, “We?” Yes, We, I said. I am complicit. I am hypocritical because I have kept silent amidst the same conversations you’ve heard. Once upon a time, I might’ve been active in those conversations on the wrong side. I will stick with my church, my religion, because for me to walk away now is to deny who I was or the hope that the sinners in the church might one day see. But that is a personal choice and I do not begrudge any who need to walk away to be a Christian without a Religion. Thank you again.

    1. Thank you, Jeff. I want to read your post (it’s late here and I’ll do it tomorrow, I promise), but more importantly I wanted to say ‘thanks’ for understanding. I’m not sure what the future holds as far as church goes for me and my family. As of now, I’ll continue to warm a seat in the auditorium but all I know is I can’t be silently complicit anymore. That realization has been quite freeing actually. I wonder if that–calling out hypocrisy, ours and others–might not be even more of what sinners (i.e. all of us) need to see within our churches.

  2. So glad to see this post!! I was worried when I read your previous one….and knew I had to write. I believe we in the church have let politics become an idol, instead of truly looking for God to show us the way. I am not silent any more either. You are not alone! Seek God….if He has put you there to be that voice in the wilderness….don’t turn your back on it. We need more of those voices. Honest men and women who really look to God’s word for direction…..and will kindly challenge the status quo thinking.

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. I’ve been kind of surprised at the (supportive) reaction. I wonder if it wasn’t the realization that, after my last post, less that I couldn’t find my voice and more that I’d just silenced whatever voice I had. Either way it didn’t take long to find it, ha ha! Strength and wisdom to you.

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