The Point Whereupon I Become FreePosted: 12 March 2012
This blog post has been a long time coming. I have an admission, a declaration to make, which has changed my life forever.
I am no longer a Christian.
Just typing those words stirs up a maelstrom of emotions. It is so difficult for me to write this. But I need to sort this out in my own mind, if not for the friends who care about me. For those of you who may be reading this in shock and disbelief, I’m sorry. I hope I will be able to justify my decision. Please don’t judge me for it, or try to talk me out of it, no matter how much you feel you need to. I’ve already made it.
For those of you who may be reading this with a ‘told you so’ smirk, don’t assume that I’ve turned into a Christian-bashing atheist overnight. Not to say that all atheists bash Christians. But a lot of them do. I am not that either.
For a good few months I’ve been turning this issue over and over in my mind. If you don’t know me very well then you perhaps wouldn’t realise that I was brought up in a Christian household and attended church from a very young age. It has been a part of my life for so long that there are many complications to this decision. It is difficult to view it from a removed point of view: am I still clinging on to my faith because of my true beliefs, or just because I’m so used to it that I’m scared of entering a future without it, leaving it all behind? Am I now a different person?
I still don’t know the answers to these questions. I’ve had God’s voice in my head for so long. It is speaking to me now, saying, “If you deny me in front of others then I will deny you”. The thought of that terrifies me. The Christian in me approves of that fear.
For the longest time now I’ve had problems with the Christians around me and with the Church in general. The ignorant remarks made about homosexuals at a prayer meeting. The outright racist behaviour exhibited towards an innocent visitor to our church. The ‘don’t care, can’t deal with it, so let’s sweep it under a rug’ attitude that even the most loving of my Christian friends have shown me time and time again. The way that I was treated by a whole congregation when my father was dying, when I needed their help and guidance most. The constant and ongoing hatred I see every day which is only there because someone believes that their faith demands and legitimises it.
For the longest time, I’ve comforted myself with the mantra, ‘That’s not Christian behaviour. Not everyone is like that. You’re not like that.’ But as the examples mount up I feel I can no longer draw the wool over my own eyes like that. I can’t lie to myself. The reason that I am ‘not like that’ is because I am not one of them. I find myself unable to condone hateful behaviour just because ‘the Bible says so.’ After the aforementioned prayer meeting a person I am still struggling to forgive told me, with a disbelieving smile, that if I don’t accept the Bible’s word as paramount then I’m not a Christian.
That hurt, but it struck a chord. If I choose to follow the path of unconditional love and tolerance, the one Jesus showed me when I was a child – if I choose to break away from the religious mass and do and believe what I think is right, then maybe he was right.
If ‘being a Christian’ means that judgemental words written in a book hundreds of years ago should govern my life today regardless of how I feel inside, then I don’t want it. If ‘being a Christian’ is drawing the cloth over my own eyes and ignoring the hurting of others when I should be relieving that pain, then I reject it, utterly.
There is a difference, I feel, between what ‘being a Christian’ should be, and what it has come to be. I feel that if the God who has been with me since I was a child is looking down on us, he wouldn’t approve of the Church as it is. He would be crying with and for the millions who’ve been wounded by those throwaway self-justifications, the people who have turned away from Him because of something His servants have done – the ones calling themselves ‘Christian’ but failing miserably to understand what that really means.
I don’t know what this makes me. I still believe in a governing force (which I call God) and I still believe in Jesus, and his teachings. Or at the very least, I’m reluctant to part with those beliefs. They’re hardwired into my psyche and they are not coming out without doing a lot of damage. But I refuse to accept the mantle of ‘Christian’, since that means I am kin with those whose beliefs and actions differ so completely from mine.
A word occurs to me that may replace ‘Christian’ – that word is ‘hermit’. Perhaps I should flatter myself here – the feelings I’m experiencing could be kin to the old saints who spent their lives in seclusion. I have no intention of going to live in a cave, though, and I am no saint. Maybe ‘spiritual un-saintly hermit’ fits me better. Maybe the idea of choosing a title to define myself with is meaningless, and not the point I should be aiming at. If anything should come out of these musings to myself then it is that I only hope to become a better person in future and learn to love others as myself, like Jesus wanted.
Picture is from the ‘Orlando Furioso’ by Ludovico Ariosto.