Recently, I’ve been seeing my interests and passions change and develop, much of which comes from a combination of my increased independence and my interest in looking inward a little more. Changing passions has also revealed to me more about my call, what I’m meant to do in my life. In this season, I’m interested in doing pastoral ministry for those who have been hurt by the Church, or those for whom Church is not a safe space. Do I know what that looks like practically? Not even a little bit.
This past weekend, I attended a conference called Why Christian, which asked several people from all denominations and places of life to answer the title question. Quickly, my experience shifted from a mini-vacation to an unbelievably inspiring and spiritually restful time. We sang and worshipped together, and broke bread with one another. Each time someone new got up on stage to share their story, I was reminded that Christianity doesn’t need to be conventional in order to be a real experience.
So, why Christian? Here are their thoughts.
- Because I believe that the self God has a relationship with is my actual self.
- Because the story of Jesus is still the story I’m willing to risk being wrong about.
- Because how can I not choose a God who has chosen me?
- Because God is not a white man, and a white man is not God.
- What’s the alternative? I need God.
- Because there is a Gospel of hope that proclaims courageous life.
- Because of love, which destroys shame.
- Because I’m human-because I’m fallen, bled and crashed, and broken down. I should not be here right now.
- Because our faith story does not begin or end in the violence and pain of the crucifixion.
- Because Jesus is even more stubborn, relentless, and annoying than I am.
- Because I need a savior who still has scars.
- Because I’m realizing that the fullness of who I am reflects the Divine.
You’ll notice that not one of the responses say “I am Christian because my church made me get confirmed when I was twelve”. Nobody responded with “I am Christian because the Bible told me to”.
The reasons why we are Christian have nothing to do with the institution of the Christian church. In fact, sometimes that institution can even become a reason why we are not Christian. Our identity, whatever it is, comes from our story, the experiences we grasp tightly to, and the moments which define our humanity. The moments in our life that simultaneously offer deep clarity and total chaos are the ones that tell us why we believe what we choose to believe. Our pain is grace, and that grace for me, is God.
I belong to an imperfect Church. I participate in a structure which oppresses people and tells them they are not worthy enough. I’ve been told that I am not good (read: masculine) enough to preach. I sit next to people who refuse to believe the ‘love’ they are showing their neighbor is actually creating a scarring trauma in them, and I participate in some of that right alongside them. I stay quiet when it matters most because I am afraid of losing support from my mentors, pastors, and friends in the Church.
Even Jesus was born in a dysfunctional family of faith. -Rachel Held Evans
My understanding of being a Christian is far from perfect, and yet I’m still here. So, I ask myself, why Christian?
- I am Christian because nobody is making me- not even God.
- I am Christian because for me, God doesn’t take on male pronouns.
- I am Christian because I suffer from anxiety, but it helps to know that I don’t need to do life all by myself.
- I am Christian because my personal salvation and self worth does not rely on my merits, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
- I am Christian because of people like Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz Weber, Nichelle Guidry, Jeff Chu, Anna Keating, Onleilove Alston, Asher O’Callaghan, Rozella White, Jenny McBride, and Sandra Valdes Lopez, humans who proved to me this weekend that our vulnerability is strength, and that when we share from the deepest places of our hearts, God shows up.
So Friends, this is why I am Christian. What about you?