This is about religion. Sorry, not sorry.

Here’s the thing. I don’t really believe the Bible is inerrant the way a lot of people do. And I know that writing that down and publishing it on the internet means some people who share my faith tradition will lose respect for me, but I need to start there. I think that reading the Bible brings me closer to God, and helps me to know him better — but reading the Bible also reminds me of the ways people have [mis-]used Scripture to silence me and to silence my brothers and sisters on this planet.

It’s a complicated relationship, for sure. I want it to be less complicated. I want Scripture to bring only joy and not pain, but that just isn’t where I am right now. I haven’t been there for a few years, actually. Life is a journey, and I do not believe we are called to check all the boxes while shutting down our brains. Faith shouldn’t have to be a mental power struggle, where we refuse to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and confusions and doubts and scream out an unthinking “YES” to all the things they say we have to believe. For me, right now, it’s an ongoing effort to seek God’s love and pursue relationship. To follow Jesus. To find the arc of redemption moving in our world and to follow it, and to hope for the redemption that we believe will come. So, while I’m often frustrated or unsure about where I stand with the Bible, I trust that if I am seeking God and trying to follow Jesus, that one day I’ll be in a better place with the Bible too.

I still think I’m a Christian.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I spend every minute of every day seeking God and trying to reconcile with the Scriptures. Because I don’t. Reconciliation with Scripture and communities of faith is something I think about often and hope for. Scripture and faith communities are intrinsically linked to my childhood and my understanding of the world. But I’m not necessarily doing that full-time right now. I think about a lot of other things too.

I still think I’m a Christian.

The internet makes it harder. I read blog posts and articles and comments saying that if you interpret differently the meaning or application of one or two sentences of a certain translation of the Bible, you are throwing out the entire gospel narrative and you can’t be a Christian anymore. And I’m stunned because, holy cow, I wish it was only one or two sentences that I didn’t interpret literally. I wish it were that simple.

This week, with all of the World Vision USA hullabaloo, I read your words, and I felt even more that I didn’t belong. Here I am: I grew up in your world, I followed all your rules, I learned all of your Bible verses, I went to your camps and I graduated from your college, and I don’t belong. I still think I’m a Christian, but if I told you the truth, would you agree? Would you say that it’s okay to be different, to not understand the world in the same way as everyone else, that God is bigger than our doubts and our questions? I’ve heard that before.

But I wonder sometimes — is God only bigger than my doubts and questions because I am a straight, white, married female?

I want to hear you say that the world is full of nuance. I want to hear you say that we can all work with people, live in community with people, shop at grocery stores with people and bake cakes for people who believe different things than we do. I want to hear you say that you don’t believe everyone who thinks differently than you about the world, or religion, or the Bible deserves to live in constant fear of poverty because they cannot find or keep employment. I want to hear you say that each of us finds God and faith on a different timeline, and that it isn’t up to us to save people. That we pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to move within us and our neighbors, and that we love each other while we wait.

Instead, I’ve been hearing you say that a Christian organization that decides to stop excluding certain groups of people from its hiring pool has thrown away the Gospel. The entire Gospel. Now that they’ve changed their minds, I’m hearing you rejoice, slapping hands and taking credit for standing your ground. For the Gospel. And I wonder, what would you say about me, if you knew my doubts and struggles?

Well, now you know.

About these ads
Leave a comment

31 Comments

  1. thank you for this. i have been finding myself lost in the margins lately. living in the bible belt doesn’t help. thank you for writing this when i am too afraid to say anything.

    Reply
    • Thanks Alison. I think there are a lot more of us in the margins than we think, and we don’t tell anyone because we are all just a little bit afraid to stand there alone. Thanks for meeting me here.

      Reply
  2. You are a loved child of God. Just because main stream, evangelical Christianity says something different. You can’t believe that. You listen to what God says and I’m glad He says He loves us all, before we love Him. I am a straight, married, white mom who is called a grey Christian because I choose to believe that God loves unconditionally.

    Reply
  3. i’m glad you shared this mary beth. i’m still at a complete loss, and a bit grieved by the whole messy thing. not able to articulate what i feel, but your words:: I want to hear you say that each of us finds God and faith on a different timeline, and that it isn’t up to us to save people. That we pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to move within us and our neighbors, and that we love each other while we wait :: speak what my heart sighs. maybe if we just get outta His way to love like He said, things would change, the tide would turn. here’s to believing…believing He’ll come, convict hearts, and move in spite of all of it…

    Reply
  4. alls i know God is bigger than all of us … and when you one of His … He’s got your back …

    Reply
  5. This is so well stated! ” I followed all your rules, I learned all of your Bible verses, I went to your camps and I graduated from your college, and I don’t belong.”

    I don’t believe that feeling uneasy with scripture means that you’re not a Christian, but then, it’s probably not my approval you’re seeking.

    There are large groups of Christians who don’t hold the belief that the Bible is the -only- arbitrator of matters of faith and doctrine, and you don’t have have to be a “liberal Christian” (whatever that is) to believe that, either. (I spend many hours in theology class listening to arguments that picked apart solo sciptura as a false doctrine – and I went to the most conservative Catholic university in the US.)

    It’s possible to be a Christian, conservative or liberal, and feel the way you do.

    For some denominations, though, absolute Biblical inerrancy, solo scriptura, is the ultimate divider, the do-or-die, the litmus test of being a Christian. They will say you’re not a Christian, or that your soul is in danger of damnation. I don’t know if that will change much.

    I pray that you will be given the tools and guidance to know when to speak up, when to try to change the existing circumstances, and when to leave it all be.

    I’ve been reading for awhile and lurking…came here through Story Sessions.

    Reply
    • Welcome! Glad you’ve come out of the shadows here. (Though this isn’t my normal writing topic, which you probably noticed!) This comment is really lovely, and gives me a lot of hope. Thank you. We need to talk about these things more!

      Reply
  6. Good words here. Good questions. I am wary of people who have only answers and no questions.

    I still think you’re a Christian, too. Also, I’m glad we’re friends.

    Reply
  7. Great post! It always strikes me as odd that many churches will list beliefs and say, believe it all or you’re not welcome. That’s cult like to me. In my church, when we were in a search process for a new rector, one of our strengths was that we were a welcoming community for all Christians regardless of where they were on their faith journeys. This is how it should be. Sure, we all share some common core beliefs (like the Resurrection), but we can read the same passage in scripture and see nuanced meanings in our personal lives. You are still a Christian, you are just in a different place in your journey.

    Reply
  8. This resonated in so many ways. Thanks for being brave–and I am so thankful to know you and hear some of your story.

    Reply
  9. Oh yes. Thank you for sharing your heart, sweet girl. I resonate with so much here, your words bring light and truth to the surface.

    Reply
  10. Nikki Ringenberg

     /  March 27, 2014

    LOVE THIS! I’ve had similar conversations recently, and for me, the most important things are to love your neighbors (note the lack of an if, but, or unless after that in the scripture) and judge not lest Ye be judged. It’s not our place to hate or separate, just to love, that’s it, and thats I fear one of the most forgotten pieces.

    Reply
    • Yes — love our neighbors. Even the weird ones. Even the ones who aren’t quite like us. We get our priorities a bit mixed up sometimes. Thanks Nikki for sharing your heart here too.

      Reply
  11. I think you’re still a Christian and I am too. I think all of these things pretty often myself MB, thank you for voicing them.

    Reply
  12. When I first read this (from a book I checked out of TTU’s women’s center), it really resonated with me because of where I was emotionally and spiritually.

    “Is a Self-Respecting Christian Woman an Oxymoron?” by Carter Heyward

    http://books.google.com/books?id=SphwRQMV0McC&pg=PA68&lpg=PA68&dq=self+respecting+christian+woman+oxymoron&source=bl&ots=xZtKVn7Tim&sig=CnFl955PAAYedYb_px51Aq6dkKM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=n9c6U-1kz6-xBPyNgXA&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=self%20respecting%20christian%20woman%20oxymoron&f=false

    Reply
  13. Meagan

     /  April 1, 2014

    The saddest part is that you believe what I think the majority of Christians believe (including myself). It’s just that the minority are many times more vocal which makes us question our beliefs and if we really belong. The truth is – we do belong.

    Reply
    • Yes, I think so too. I’ve decided it’s time to start speaking up a little more, just to balance the sound in my own mind. Thanks Meagan.

      Reply
  14. I’d welcome you into the United Methodist fold… faith is a complicated thing! And that’s okay.

    Reply
  1. What I’m Loving — March 2014 | pink-briefcase
  2. Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.05.2014 | pink-briefcase

Have something to say? Add it here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 418 other followers

%d bloggers like this: