Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Giving Up Christianity, Again

[Warning: I didn’t proofread this very much - it may be completely wacked-out. These are just some thoughts I am working through]

Ok, so in spite of my unusual voting categorizations, the near-unanimous response to my “Giving Up Christianity?” post was, “What are you talking about?”

Allow me to explain a little (or maybe make it even more confusing…you’ll have to decide on that for yourself)

I will start with what I was not saying.

I was not saying that I hate Jesus. In fact, I wasn’t even saying I dislike Jesus a little bit. And actually, if you go back and read the post again, you might just find that I was saying I love Jesus a lot and want to take following him very seriously.

I also was not saying I hate the church. Hopefully, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you will have noticed that I love the church with everything in me.

And lastly, I was not saying I am not a Christian - I am.

So what in the world was I saying?

Well, I’m still working it out. I honestly wasn’t trying to make any specific statement. I just found the concept of “giving up Christianity to follow Jesus” to be an interesting thought.

Why would one give up Christianity to follow Jesus? Is there any reason to do that? In the movie the priest had a clear reason (you may see it as good or bad but he certainly had a reason). What would be the reason to give up Christianity?

Here’s my thinking about a potential reasoning for giving up Christianity (I’m sure there are other possible reasons as well). Everything starts with the fact that I believe there is something to Christianity. I really believe Jesus was/is real. I love God. I believe God is working in the world and that he works through people like you and me. He works through us to bring good things to people – to reconnect us with himself and to reconnect us with those around us. This is what God is doing. It is a good thing. And I want to be part of it.

However, I have talked with many people – current Christians, people who have given up on Christianity, and others who have never seen Christianity to be worth anything – who are fed up with all the crap involved with Christianity. They may just be sick of their particular church, but they might also sincerely believe that Christianity is bringing about the demise of our planet (to some this is quite literal). But overall these people have in common that they just find Christianity to be completely, or increasingly, irrelevant to their lives. And as I talk with these people I realize more and more that I agree with them in many ways. Now don’t get me wrong, remember, I love God, I believe in Jesus (if you ever start to wonder about this refer to the previous paragraph). I just think something has gone very wrong in Christianity, it has been wrong for a very long time, it is getting more and more messed up, and I just don’t know if it can be fixed.

So, into this context comes the idea of “giving up Christianity to follow Jesus” (think about this apart from the movie – connecting this with the movie probably just made things confusing). What if some people (not all) felt called by God to give up Christianity to follow Jesus? What if these people decided that for God to live in them and use them in this world they simply must cease to identify with the religion of Christianity? These people would come to the conclusion that there is just too much baggage – there is just too much that is worthless and genuinely damaging to others. They will have realized, “I cannot go on. I cannot love others and love God in the midst of this junk. No more.” And instead of turning their backs on Jesus, they instead decide to follow Jesus all the more – but outside the confines of the Christian religion.

I have thought about things like this before but this is different because it is about actually ceasing to call oneself a Christian. Instead of just agreeing with people that Christianity has problems, these people would completely leave it behind. They wouldn’t bash it – they would just leave it.

Ok, so hopefully that helps some. Again, I’m not suggesting I will do this. I’m sure I won’t. I just wonder if there is a real need for some people to do this.

There is one last thing and it’s very important. I also want to acknowledge that God works through messed up Christianity. I have embraced this more and more over the past couple years. I love the church – all of it. So a question I am still thinking about is how one could leave Christianity behind but also bless Christianity at the same time. I think it must be possible to embrace both - actually, I think it is going to become increasingly essential. Perhaps I’ll write more about this another time. I think this is just as important (see my previous post about reading Christianity for the Rest of Us – this book made me very hopeful for God’s work within the church and is the best book I've read so far this year).


Aaron said...

I think that it's dangerous to generalize christianity in this way. In the same way that it is possible to be wealthy and not spoiled, it is possible to be a christian without subscribing to all the messed up stuff too. It may not be common, but it is possible. Although i do admit that most non-christians can't differentiate between christians who are messed up and those who aren't, I think that more goes with the title rather than the individual. But the idea of casting aside the messed up junk (maybe even the title) may have something to it. In the end, i can say, that whether i call myself a christian or not, i'm still the same expression of Christ. Maybe it's just easier to say that i am a member of the body of Christ, and leave it with that.

sonja said...

Hi Adam, I found you from Brother Maynard's blog.

This is a pretty interesting idea. I've toyed with it fairly often. Jesus made it obvious that He did not come to begin a new religion ... that's on us. Or maybe it was the first church split. In any case it was humans who caused it, not God. My point is that I'm not sure there is anything holy or sacred about the name, "Christianity." Where two or three are gathered and the Holy Spirit is present ... now that's something else entirely. I've taken to calling myself a Jesus follower ... when I have to call myself anything at all. It seems to have less baggage.

Adam said...

Aaron, I don't want to generalize - you're right there. As far as being the same expression either way...I think maybe not. I think perhaps leaving Christianity would enable someone to express God in a very different way (which could be possible). Just a thought.

Sonja, thanks for stopping by - I'm glad you found me. I'm right with you here. I just don't see anything especially and necessarily sacred about "Christianity."

Patrick said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You

cheryl said...

me too, adam.


and then Life happened said...

Hi Adam,

I liked this very much..
"What if these people decided that for God to live in them and use them in this world they simply must cease to identify with the religion of Christianity? These people would come to the conclusion that there is just too much baggage – there is just too much that is worthless and genuinely damaging to others. They will have realized, “I cannot go on. I cannot love others and love God in the midst of this junk. No more.” And instead of turning their backs on Jesus, they instead decide to follow Jesus all the more – but outside the confines of the Christian religion."

This kind of thinking is bound to make some nervous and very disturbed. I love it!!

The awakening (a sober mindedness) Father is working into the core of our being is happening throughout the earth.
So much is being redefined in light of what has passed as truth's vs seeing/knowing it in light of the Truth.

I applaud the work of His spirit in you Adam, and continue to pray for you as well as the rest of His church-body, that our Father would continue to give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the True knowledge of Christ Jesus, and the eyes of our heart would be opened to SEE.

All throughout scripture, Light always precedes life-growth, as the True Light shines deep into our being, we will see Him, and in so doing, it will be Him coming forth, not religion.
There is a nameless, faceless people throughout the earth, they have one desire, and He is the author of it, they, like their elder brother Jesus, want to make known the Living/God-Father.

Your Bro in the faith,

Frank Hadzalic said...

Do you really know the history of why believers in Jesus are called Christians? It's in your Bible, the NT.

We are called Christians because of our "Christ like" behaviour. We were labeled by unbeliever's as Christians (Acts 11:26).

So in one sense, you are giving up your "Christ like" behaviour for "Christ like" behaviour. To follow Jesus means we are to become more like Jesus.

By and large the body of Christ has been a disappointment to many. But God still uses the faithful few to carry on doing the stuff Jesus did. Preaching, teaching and healing. Not always in that order but always in that practice.

If you are fustrated with traditional Christianity and want to make a greater impact as a follower of Jesus, look at and their School Of Ministry (SoM)

Following Jesus will not be easy. He was not popular; His message divided housholds; hardships can and do follow those who "wanna be like Jesus."

Are you willing to count the cost of following Him? (Luke 14:27-29).

Adam said...

Frank, I think what you are writing here is actually supportive of what I wrote. The Christian religion is not the point. The name "Christian" even developed from non-Christians who labeled the Jesus followers. I would like to go back to something like that. Instead of calling myself a Christian I would be happy to take on the name of whatever others want to call me - whatever they see my life looking like. I simply won't be very concerned about what I should call myself. Rather, I should be more concerned about what others see in my life as I follow Jesus.

Emily said...

Humm... I think you make an interesting point, Adam. Sometimes it's easy to see Christianity as a legalistic institution instead of as a community of the body of Christ, especially since Christianity has become more of a fashion and feel good environment than an actual gathering of disciples.

But though Christianity has its problems and stereotypes (good and bad), you need to remember that Christianity IS the Church. And if they aren't the Church, they need to know what the Church is really about... the church is just people anyways. People that God loves (cause as you know, God does love all humanity). The Church is messed up and dirty people that God loves.

I think a better way to follow Jesus is not by merely making a radical move by leaving Christianity and changing your label, but by making a radical move to love the unlovable...


sierrajuliettromeo said...

Interesting post. I've spent years in a fundamentalist cult, a couple more in a tiny struggling Korean baptist church, a bunch more in a thriving, energetic Vineyard church, and a couple more in an English speaking 1.5/2nd gen Korean Presby Church. Then I got sick of the whole thing and gave it up for a few years.

Your questions remind me of seeing David Bazan of Pedro the Lion in concert. He always takes questions from the audience, and someone ALWAYS brings up the question of whether he's a Christian, and you can just see him CRINGE because he just can't stand most of the people who identify themselves as such.

I've come to the conclusion that God is bigger than Christianity. I'm not a theologian or anything, but I think a lot of evangelical Christians are afraid of experiencing God outside the confines of Christianity, and that's their choice.

You've probably read McLaren's The Last Word and the Word After That. That's the book that really opened my eyes to just how impossible it is to pigeonhole God into a religion.

I'm now in a quasi-emergent Methodist church, but it's still hard for me to identify myself as a Christian because of the paradigm most people possess when they hear the term "Christian" which is probably not an accurate portrayal of how I would identify myself.

Anyhoo, I think it's very possible to be in intimate relationship with God and Christ outside the context of Christianity and the Church.