I am not a Christian.
I was wed in a Christian church, christened my children in a church, and attend a Christian church on a (fairly) regular basis. I volunteer there and donate there and engage in fellowship there.
But I am not a Christian.
It’s one of the last secrets I guess I have, though it’s not like I am trying to mislead anyone, or that I lie about it. I think most people would assume that with all of that Jesus-ing in my life, that I am Christian. (The cussing might throw some for a loop, but I assure you that some of the most Godly folks I know can curse up a blue streak.)
It didn’t matter for a long time. I wasn’t raised with any real religion, and even though I don’t prescribe to anything specific, I would still say that I am a spiritual person. Hubs and I wed in a church with a (wonderful) pastor because it was important to him and his family, and even though I may not strictly be a “believer” I didn’t find any of it offensive or patently untrue so I was fine with that. (Although, I wish I had a camera the moment I told our pastor in pre-nup class that “I’d like to have as little Jesus as possible in the ceremony, please.”) Our ceremony was created from the Bible, traditions all over the world, and our own imaginations.
I don’t believe in hell. I think we just die.
As much as I desperately want to, I don’t believe in heaven, at least not in the conventional, clouds and harps sort of way. I think we just die.
When the time came to make a decision about our kids, I was fine with teaching them Christianity in a church that was open and didn’t preach fire from the pulpit– that recognized that other religions might also know about how to be Good and Right. When the church we regularly attended at the time started to preach less tolerance than we were comfortable with, we made our way to another church (across the street, AWKWARD.) We’ve been there for 5 years now. My children learn great lessons on patience, and love, and justice, and hope, and tenacity. It happens to be within the framework of Christianity, but that does not invalidate the lesson, in my opinion.
Sometimes I sit in the pulpit and I feel SO GUILTY. Like I am telling a huge lie, to these people and to my children. I sing the hymns with as much (or more) fervor as anyone– I really like to sing. Sometimes the music moves me. I say all the words, and I even take communion.
The other day Noise asked me if I believed in Jesus, and I gave him my very measured response:
I do believe in God– whatever that means to whatever religion you might believe in. I believe Jesus existed, and was a pretty good dude. I believe there are lessons to be learned in Christianity, but I don’t believe that Christianity holds sole license on what is RIGHT and what is GOOD. I don’t believe Jesus was the Messiah, but I’m also not waiting for one. I believe the Bible is a good book. Full of good things to teach. And some not-so-good stuff. Just like the religious books of lots of religions.
Sometimes I feel like there must be a neon sign above my head that lets everyone know that I am a FAKE CHRISTIAN. Like I turn blue and everyone can tell from the outside. But the truth is, that feeling comes from me. I have never been made to feel at my church that my beliefs were less than. In fact, every week in church our pastor makes a point to say that we are welcome “wherever we are on life’s journey.”
And I believe he means me.
It’s awkward to explain to children why we go to church if I don’t believe in Jesus the way they probably eventually will. It’s strange to say to them that if they are believers, I couldn’t be more proud and happy for them. (I don’t think believers are wrong, I just can’t get there myself.) And if they are not, that’s okay too. But it matters to me that they are good people, and I believe that being a part of a congregation and part of something bigger than themselves can give them pieces of that.
And when I listen to the sermon, and it speaks to me, I think that this is what church is supposed to be about, whether I agree with everything in the actual religion or not. I sing the songs, and they move me. I take communion and I feel at peace with myself and with my congregation who I feel really cares. Communion does not mean to me what it means to you, surely, but I believe that’s probably true of all of us in the pews. My journey is not your journey, which is not anyone else’s journey.
And I believe I can be Good, and I can make a difference, and I’m not too sure God cares which patch is on my backpack so long as I am working towards that effort.