I don’t want to call myself a Christian anymore. To clarify, I don’t want to be known as an American Evangelical Christian. For years, I wore that label comfortably and confidently, as it has been the core of my identity since my earliest memories. But now, that label makes me uncomfortable, and even disgusted, and I want the rest of my life to be defined by something very different.
As a child, my Christian faith was just as much a part of my identity as my brown hair, my shyness, and my love of softball. My family was at church every Sunday, we prayed before dinner, and read the Bible before bed. I went to church camps, youth retreats, and Christian concerts. I attended a Christian high school, and pledged a Christian sorority in college. The Christian label accompanied a good majority of my activities, even through early adulthood.
Today, as a not-so-young adult and a mother, I find a lot about my Christian upbringing problematic. And now, in 2017, my eyes are wide open to how much of the world views my faith, and in many ways I don’t disagree with that perception. I’m horrified and embarrassed at the ways American Christianity is promoting nationalism, political agendas totally contradictory to Christ’s teachings, and a president who in no way represents the Jesus I was taught to love.
The adults who mandated I wear a one piece swimsuit to church camp (to fulfill some arbitrary standard of “modesty“) also cemented a core belief that sex outside of marriage is sinful and damaging. And I believed them. I followed all the rules and wore the right clothes. I saved myself until marriage, which had it’s own far-reaching consequences, regardless of how Biblically I behaved. And then, many of these same adults endorsed Donald Trump for president, even after undeniable evidence that he is an adulterer, misogynist, and sexual assaulter. And I am devastated.
The Christian leaders who taught me that every life is sacred, who sang Jesus loves the little children…all are precious in his sight, are silent or make flimsy excuses about escalating racism and police brutality in our country. They celebrate travel bans that discriminate based on religion, but are all for Christians being able to discriminate because of their religion. They boast tagline in their church bulletins saying Come as You Are…but wait, not if you’re gay.
I will never understand how so many Christians who have worn, marked up Bibles and prayer journals continue to support the political party who seems intent on destroying access to healthcare for the most vulnerable Americans. The poor and disabled in this country (as well as millions of children) are facing massive cuts to Medicaid. Without Medicaid, how are these people going to get the healthcare they need to live? For those that say it’s the church’s job to take care of the sick and poor, where is the evidence for that being a sustainable, long term solution? Because right now, the church is missing the need by a long shot. I don’t believe the church has a responsibility to pay my child’s exorbitant medical bills, but I do believe as a Christian, I have a responsibility to graciously contribute to the programs that are capable of meeting those needs. Most of the time, that means I pay my taxes so programs like Medicaid can exist to take care of the poor and disabled.
I feel like a child who has discovered her parents have been lying to her for decades. How could I have missed this? How did I not realize how off I was about the religion that shaped the path of my entire life? How do I reconcile that both elders and peers in my faith think a president who bullies journalists, mocks the disabled, and repeatedly disparages women’s physical appearances is perfectly acceptable, so long as he is “pro-life“, “pro-Israel” and “pro-America”? It seems to me that the selling out of an entire religious moral code is a steep price to pay for a Supreme Court nominee or two.
I’ve been told I need to pray for our leaders. What exactly am I praying for? Because prayer alone isn’t going to fix the mess that our country is in. Prayer alone isn’t going to save Medicaid for millions. Prayer isn’t going to allow refugees fleeing terror to enter our country. Prayer isn’t going to give a desperate woman seeking an abortion resources and support so she is able to keep her baby. And prayer certainly isn’t going to take away Trump’s twitter and keep him from acting like a junior high boy with no filter. So yes, I will pray. But I’m also going to do something.
I’m not going to hide behind my Bible, or my privilege, and stay quiet about injustice because it may not impact me personally. I’m not going to show up at church on Sunday, talk about God with a bunch of people just like me, and pretend that makes me a good Christian, or even a good person. I’m not going to stay out of politics, despite being whispered about behind my back by pearl-clutching Christians who find “liberal” and “Jesus” to be incompatible terms. The Jesus I know was loving, fair, and gentle, but he was also bold. And political.
I really don’t know where I go from here. I’m frustrated, angry, and lonely. I’ve lost friends, and the foundation of my entire life has been cracked, probably irreparably. I don’t know how to answer my children’s spiritual questions, because none of my answers feel genuine anymore. But I’ve decided I don’t need all the answers immediately, and I’m content to be discontent and wandering a bit right now. I may be disillusioned by religion, but I don’t doubt God and His power in my life. I also don’t doubt that He loves me, even with my instinct to walk away. I still want to be a Christian, but need a new definition of what that truly means.
11 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to Call Myself a Christian Anymore”
Oh I understand. I stand with you. I do not understand how they call themselves Christians. But I do believe there are Christians who are tolerant of all and don’t have to have political power.
I didn’t grow up in an evangelical church but I have a similar background otherwise and I’m 100% with you. The hate and hypocrisy has gone from (yeah I’m just going to quote a Tinkerbell movie now) a trickle to a roar.
(PS I like the new WordPress site!)
Dear Elizabeth, Your quote “I may be disillusioned by religion, but I don’t doubt God and His power in my life.” actually tells me you are in the best place you can be. Religion is NOT the same thing as being a disciple or follower of Christ. Looking to our elders or bible teachers to tell us how to act, what to believe, how to dress and how to treat others is only helpful to a VERY short extent. Really we should be having a love affair with our friend and savior Jesus. And when we spend time getting to know him and his heart for others, then we’ll not be so thrown when our “religious idols” disappoint us. Like you, I spent many a year on the performance track trying to be the BEST Christian I could be. But now I know loving like Christ is not just about Doing but Being. Don’t let the actions of modern day Pharisees harden your heart. God can handle our emotions; don’t stop talking to him. And call me if you want to get coffee!! Annette
What an eloquent, well written expression of exactly what I believe. I’m not ashamed of Christ,or His importance in my life, but I am desperately ashamed of the road “christianity” has taken in the last 40 years. I know I need a community of believers to help me navigate this life, but sometimes church is the LAST place I can find them…and sometimes it’s not. It’s the times when I meet, or read something like this, that help me understand we’re not alone.
Literally every single post you write anymore makes me nod in agreement and sadness and frustration. You are not alone. I am proud of every step you have made in this journey, and I am right here with you. Thankfully my current church as a whole is more open than yours on certain topics at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that all of the congregants necessarily are. *sigh* It’s so crazy to me that people can’t just CHOOSE LOVE.
This article was everything about where I am now. Thank you for sharing.
You are absolutely not alone. I found this blog because I wanted to see if there were other people who felt like me. I live in the Bible belt. There may be others that feel like me, but they’re hard to find because no one wants to speak up and be “that person” who questions the entire religious structure. Good thoughts being sent your way. Keep on keeping on!
I can’t believe that Annette’s response is exactly what I wanted to say but couldn’t articulate. Yes, yes, YES!
I just want to add that if we ALL just pause to remember Who is really in control, all of this worldly stuff becomes minutiae. So take a deep breath and embrace the Great Commission. As for religion, there is a growing movement of home churches, where Christians walk away from the pomp(ous) and ceremony of organized religion and revert back to the days of smaller groups crowding into houses to hang out with like-minded believers. It looks like we’ll be heading that way, too, even though I’ll be out of my comfort zone for sure!
[…] anyone threaten my safety. But, in the last year, I’ve been dealing with a major shift in my faith and how I see the church, and it’s been excruciatingly painful. And a lot of that pain has […]
Thank you for writing that, Elizabeth. You’ve expressed well what a lot of us are feeling now. It’s so hard to relate to people with the “marked-up Bibles” who seem blind to the harm and injustice they’re supporting. I used to read about churches during the Civil War whose minutes didn’t reflect anything about slavery. I couldn’t believe it but now I do. It’s happening right now. I read Elie Wiesel said that religion is not between you and God, it’s between you and other people. That sounds about right to me, and this so-called Christianity could care less about the other people. Keep writing…