I've been thinking about a series of conversations I had some time ago. It was with a middle-aged Christian woman, a friend who became interested in my writing. She was an aspiring writer, herself. Knowing her background, I brushed off requests to read my stuff. I eventually even tried to deter her, not interested in upsetting her with the sorts of things I was thinking about. I knew it wasn't a "fit."
After a time, she convinced me to share a few samples. She assured me she was trustworthy. I gave her a few older pieces that were less theologically liberal/heretical than what I'm writing now, but focused more on removing cultural boundaries and engaging in deeper relationships with non-Christians.
I didn't hear from her for several weeks. Finally, she e-mailed me: "You're a very good writer, but I can't understand why you even call yourself a Christian."
One of the pieces had been about visiting a gay bar with some friends, and thinking about how badly the church had treated the folks who were there. I called it a "fallout shelter" from an intolerant religious culture. The other piece was about going to an after-party, following a stage show I saw in Portland. My best friend was an actor in the production, and afterward we went out and mingled at a bar with the rest of the cast and crew. As usual, my conversations with strangers tended toward the spiritual, and I had some really great (and some painful) conversations with people who felt really betrayed by their church experiences.
Nowhere in either vignette did I question Christian orthodoxy (as I often do now), or profess outright liberalism (as I am guilty of today). I was simply painting a picture of what the world really looks like, and I was doing it in a way that attempted to portray an ethos of nonjudgmentalism, and a lack of fear.
Apparently "Christians" can't do that.
Last Sunday I attended an Episcopal Church service. In the circles I was raised in, Episcopalians aren't even considered "Christian." The 3rd largest Christian sect in the world (Anglicans rank 3rd behind Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) somehow doesn't manage to rank "Christian" in the eyes of many conservative Evangelicals. Frankly, the same circles wouldn't affirm Roman Catholics as Christian either. Lutherans follow shortly after. It's a dangerous cycle that ends with individual, local, sectarian microcosms digging theological trenches and machine-gunning everyone on the other side.
So what does "Christian" even mean? And do I even care?
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