After World Vision: Why I Hesitate to Call Myself a Christian

3 years ago

Church in the Woods

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Mahatma Gandhi

Christian. What's in that name?

It's been a roller coaster of a week, and it's likely not over yet.  After initially coming out on Monday with the announcement that they would hire gay Christians in same-sex marriages, World Vision U.S. then reversed it's decision on Wednesday, citing backlash and pressure from Evangelicals and church leaders.

And now everyone is left to deal with the whirlwind.  What just happened?  Why do I feel like crying?  Why AM I crying?  What's the point?  What's the point!?!?!?  Where is Jesus in this?  Are you there, God???  We're pretty lost here.

It's 12:07 AM. I'm not sleeping, nor am I doing my seminary homework like I should be.  Instead I'm reeling over the feeling of betrayal, of hope lost, of grief for those hurt so deeply by the events that have taken place this week.  I am seeing, in present day, how we are still arguing over one thing or another and the Church, unified perhaps only in name, is splitting and fracturing still.  What does it matter?

But it matters. People's lives matter. Theology matters.

The theology of one Christian organization and its attempt to reconcile differences, and then its reversal of that attempt, left thousands (by some reports) of dropped sponsorships - broken relationships with real children - and countless hurt and confused Christians in its wake.  Just because this one Christian organization said, and then they didn't say, that they could at least work side by side and serve God and neighbor with folks regardless of whom they love.  They acknowledged our differences, offering a way for us to work together for the Kingdom of God still, and then they had to take it back.


We can't.

We can't allow you to serve and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  {Sorry?}  

We'll lose our money if we do.  

Christians will pull their money and food, literally, away from and out of the mouths of starving children (with whom they have built a relationship) because...there is no reasonable "because".

So, what is our theology? What do "we" Christians believe?  How do we show light and love to the world?

We've not been particularly good at this.  We've not even been particularly likable.  We Christians.

And, in all honesty, I have a really hard time putting myself in that category of "We Christians." For so long, I didn't even know if I could call myself one. A Christian. I grew up on the outskirts of Evangelical Christianity and stumbled into faith via a unique and bumpy path, finally finding Jesus and seeing him for who he is and what he preaches and how he loves.  (But only once I could peek behind the Evangelical curtain that had been all I could see for so long.)

Opening those curtains, slowly, was like opening my eyes and my heart and my soul and my mind.  Wide.  Yes, this!  Love.  Goodness.  Grace.  Gratitude.  Forgiveness.  Challenge.  Radical Inclusion.  Growth.


But now?  Now, I cringe a little every time I say it.

I am a...Christian, but...but wait!  Let me explain.

What you hear, see, or read in the news about Christians? That doesn't speak for me.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm vengeful, judgmental, angry, doubtful, prideful, hypocritical and a whole host of other un-Christian-like things.

But the anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-diversity, anti-immigrant, pro-gun, anti-poor, anti-PROGRESSIVE Christian in the news does not define me.

And so every time I say or write the word "Christian"... I hesitate a little. I confess. And after this week, I want to hide under the bed and cry whenever I hear the word.

But could we go by any other name?  I mean, we are named after Jesus...Christ-ian.  Maybe we could start a Jesus-ian movement.  Is that a thing?  You know, were we just focus on trying to love God and Neighbor like Jesus preached and preached and preached and preached... and preaches still.

Gay?  Come join us!  Straight?  You're okay too!  Transgender? Well alright friend, help us because some of us are still pretty ignorant here, but we're trying.  We'll learn and serve along side you.  Not from God's 'Merica?  Well, okay!  Welcome, friend.  Let's get to work in every language.  A woman?  Preach, sister!  A man?  Perfect.  Lead with us.  A Samaritan?  Teach us how to love.  Don't have all the answers? { neither.} Praise Jesus, you my friend, are always welcome here!

Okay, so in my happy little world (to which I have mentally escaped to avoid dealing with my real feelings tonight) we all don superhero capes and go out and save the world and feed the children and play with puppies and worry about the log in our own eyes and dance with Jesus under a rainbow-colored sky, singing Kum ba yah all the while.

But... reality.

I cannot start a movement.  I know this about myself.  I'm a sit-behind-the-screen and "write"-er, a sit at the table and "study"-er, not a "lead"-er.  {Plus, the message might be too long for a bumper sticker.}

But I am going to do one thing.  I am going to change my name.  My faith identifier.  I'm no longer just a Christian.  For me, the name by itself is too soured.  Too complicated.  Too far removed from Christ.  So, I am going to identify as a Progressive Christian.  As in, separate from or not fundamental, conservative, or Evangelical.  And I will remain so until there no longer needs to be a clarifying, "But Wait!"

Progressive.  Progress.  Slow and steady.  One foot in front of the other.  One step forward, two steps back.  And another step forward. Bending that arc all the time towards justice.

Lord, hear our prayer.  Kum ba yah.


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