Last week I posted that I was no longer calling myself a Christian. Although I had thought that posting that I still believed Jesus to be the Christ would remove any confusion as to whether I was an apostate, confusion still occurred. So I’m hoping this post clarifies what I believe, and what I don’t.
What I Believe
My beliefs can be best summarized in the Nicene and Apostle Creeds. The same creeds that followers of Christ have affirmed for centuries:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the begotten of God the Father, the Only-begotten, that is of the essence of the Father.
God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten and not made; of the very same nature of the Father, by Whom all things came into being, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.
Who for us humanity and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate, was made human, was born perfectly of the holy virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.
By whom He took body, soul, and mind, and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance.
He suffered, was crucified, was buried, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven with the same body, [and] sat at the right hand of the Father.
He is to come with the same body and with the glory of the Father, to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there is no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, in the uncreated and the perfect; Who spoke through the Law, prophets, and Gospels; Who came down upon the Jordan, preached through the apostles, and lived in the saints.
We believe also in only One, Universal, Apostolic, and [Holy] Church; in one baptism in repentance, for the remission, and forgiveness of sins; and in the resurrection of the dead, in the everlasting judgement of souls and bodies, and the Kingdom of Heaven and in the everlasting life.
I believe that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you shall be saved” from eternal separation (hell) from God after death. [Romans 10:9]
I believe in “Believer’s Baptism.” That is, only an individual who is capable of understanding what it means to profess faith and has personally chosen to profess and believe that faith in Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God should be baptized. I believe baptism is only an outwardly showing of an internal transformation. [This is why I can’t become a member of my current Presbyterian Church].
Lastly, I believe that “[a] ll Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Tim. 3:16-17]
Jesus, A Radically Awesome Dude
This last year, I really “fell in love with Jesus.” I know that’s a crazy “Christianese” term, but I don’t know how else to say it. As I began the year with another faith crisis, I dug through the New Testament. Although I heard a lot about Jesus growing up, I realized I always spent my own Bible time in the Pauline Epistles, and never took time to get to know Jesus.
I believe that Jesus was God incarnate, fully God and fully human. The crazy thing about him, is that he chose a life of suffering. He chose to be a member of the lowest class of society.
Jesus, A Bullied Outcast
Jesus was conceived by Mary, an unmarried teenager. Premarital sex was grounds for stoning, and I have no doubt that that scandal rocked that town for decades.
Not only was he born to a poor teen mother, he was also a persecuted religious and ethnic minority. The Jews were a people that had been overtaken by a foreign government, bullied, and oppressed. That’s one of the reason topics such as taxes and obeying the government were “hot topics” in the New Testament and so controversial.
Jesus was also a refugee. After he was born, his family had to flee the country because their child was at risk of being murdered by the oppressing government.
Throughout his life, Jesus lived as a radical outcast: mocked, kicked out of his hometown, eventually crucified. He preached a radical messages love, service and acceptance that was rejected by the religious leaders at his time.
Jesus, Lover of the Outcast
Throughout scripture, we see Jesus radically pursue the forgotten, the sinful, and the outcast. He went out of his way to seek out adulterous women (aka: really awful sinner rejected by the religious community), defended a woman caught in adultery (aka person that should be severely punished because of their sin), touched the sick and defiled (aka the people religious reasoning and common sense tell us to avoid), ate with tax collectors (aka the ones responsible for persecution), invited children into worship (aka people the religious leaders said shouldn’t be part of worship service) and many more.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: Jesus sought out and defended the oppressed. He loved everybody, especially those the institution of religion had rejected.
Christianity as a Political Statement
The term Christianity has become a political statement. It means fighting for a child to be born and then not caring what happens to the child after it’s born, as The Handmaid’s Tale so beautifully illustrates, Christians only seem to care about a woman being forced to carry pregnancy to term, but then who cares what happens after; it means hating individuals of the LGBTQ community; it means wanting abortion doctors murdered; it means hating refugees; it means bowing to evil leaders because they say they’re Christian (but only if they’re Republican); it means loving guns more than children; and the list goes on. This is what I don’t want to be associated with. And if I say the word Christian, I’m saying I agree to all of this AND I DON’T.
Y’all, I love Jesus. I want to mirror him in my life. I want to stand up for the oppressed, to seek out the persecuted, to love the one’s religious institutions and society rejects. BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT JESUS DID.
Growing up, I was taught that how people view me matters. I shouldn’t drink in public because people may think I’m an alcoholic or associated with sin and it will hinder my testimony; I shouldn’t live together with a man, even if we’re not having sex, because people will think we’re “living in sin” and it will hinder my testimony; I shouldn’t dress immodestly because then people may think I’m immoral and it will hinder my testimony. So, by no longer saying I’m a Christian is applying this reasoning: I can no longer self identify as a “Christian” because people will think I hate people, and it will hinder my testimony.
Supporting Evil Institutions
I also don’t want to financially or socially support institutions that I believe are supporting Christianity as a religious statement. But this becomes more difficult. What does this mean? What does this look like. To be honest, I’m not sure.
I love my church here in the City, and as far as I’ve seen, their views of what it means to be a follower of Jesus aligns with mine.
But what about the other churches I’m associated with? Cutting them off completely, refusing to ever step in the door for any reason, doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. In fact, I need to have conversations with those congregants about what, to me, it means to live as a Christ follower.
I know to the critics that read my blog and will never be happy with what I do, this isn’t enough. I know they’d want me to walk away from religion and Jesus completely, but I can’t I love Jesus.
But what I can do is condemn the political practices and call out those who are not loving Jesus, a persecuted refugee. I’ll be honest, I’m open to suggestions on how to live out my faith well.
So, here’s to being a Christ follower, and not a Christian.