Micah Murray writes a provocative post today about wondering whether he really wants to continue to call himself a Christian. He writes:
Christians always tell me stuff about unity in Christ, how we’re all one family in God, how there’s room for disagreement. I get that.
At the same time, it seems that many Christians are reading the same Bible, using with the same words, and coming to opposite conclusions. At what point is that not even the same religion anymore?
I believe God is love. But all too often, Christians pay lip service to a God of love while also arguing for theology that makes God an asshole. ...
These are not peripheral issues. They get to the very nature of the God we worship, the Jesus we follow. And when your version of God is not only slightly different, but fundamentally opposite from my version of God, are we really in the same religion?
These aren’t rhetorical questions. I really don’t know.
There’s only one Gospel, but it seems that many Christians preach another gospel I don’t recognize anymore. Sometimes I feel like I’m caught between “What does it matter as long as Christ is preached?” and “If anyone preaches any other gospel, let him be accursed.”
If “Christian” is such a broad word that includes all this, what use is the word at all anymore?
I have to admit, he's got a good point. The key problem I have with Christianity is that the word seems, in the larger cultural context that we inhabit, to define the religion of those who follow Asshole God, and that's a problem for me, because I don't worship Asshole God.
Like Micah, I'm very clear in my own mind at least that God exists, and that God is in some unique way revealed in the life and death of Jesus Christ, and that Christ's resurrection is the sign and symbol of our renewed relationship with the God who loves us and created us. I believe, in brief, in Grace.
But, far too often, Christianity seems to be a religion devoid of Grace. In fact, it often seems to be the antidote for Grace -- Anti-Grace -- Grace Kryptonite. And I have a hard time identifying myself with a religion that does such a good job acting as its own refutation. Nietzsche was not in the slightest degree wrong when he suggested Christians are the best argument against Christianity. What he actually said was "“I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed.” And not looking redeemed is something that Christians excel at.
This has been on my mind particularly over the past week, as my inital blazing hot rage against World Vision's reversal of its new policy allowing for married gay and lesbian employees under pressure from conservative Christians focused itself on the underlying culprits. As Tony Jones, Rachel Held Evans, and others have reported, the pressure put on World Vision was enormous, and really took aim at World Vision's core mission of helping poor children and their communities around the world by threatening its major sources of funding. One can hardly blame World Vision for retreating under the circumstances, much as I wish they had stood their ground. But the real villain in the story is the asshole followers of Asshole God.
And so here I am, not for the first time in my life, wondering just how it is that I can continue to call myself a Christian, despite believing in the God that Christianity claims to profess. As I noted in an argument with a Christian who was determinedly arguing in the most absurd ways against any acceptance of same sex marriage at all, every time I hear a Christian come out against marriage equality, I become a little more atheist.
But, here's the rub: My atheism is directed toward the Asshole God that these people who call themselves Christian claim to profess. And I will gladly and loudly profess my disbelief in that God. It bears no resemblance to the God I worship. The problem is that that God is all over the place in Christianity. It's difficult to escape, which is why I periodically contemplate dropping the label altogether.
But the thing is, regardless of the label, one thing remains the case, and it's the thing that keeps me holding on to the idea of Christianity, and the name of Christian, in spite of myself, and that is this: I recognize that I'm an asshole too, and that the only thing that really is capable of helping me is, not an
Asshole God, but rather the God of Grace that I see manifested in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
It's Grace that keeps me a Christian in spite of myself. But believe me, a great many days it's a very near thing.