Do you wonder if you’re still a Christian?

"No Longer a Christian" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“No Longer a Christian” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

OWN THE ORIGINAL OR A PRINT OF THIS CARTOON
So what’s going on with this guy? Has he lost his faith? Have his beliefs changed beyond recognition? Does he no longer believe and identify with the pervading version of Christianity he finds himself in?

OR… has he been informed that he is no longer a Christian?

My beliefs have changed beyond recognition. In fact, I no longer even use the words “believe” or “faith” to describe my inner life. I question belief and faith. I also question the historicity of Jesus as presented in the gospels. There’s a lot about me that gives people enough fuel to burn me.

Here’s the thing: I still consider Christianity my family of origin. It’s a significant part of my DNA. Like I like to say, “My home’s in Christianity but I have cottages everywhere.” This makes a lot of people uncomfortable, frustrated, and sometimes even angry.

Their problem. Not mine.

Am I a Christian? Or a progressive Christian? Or post-Christian? Or a Universalist? Or a Syncretist? Or an agnostic? Or an atheist? Or a Buddhist in Christian clothing? Or completely confused? Or a heretic? I get these labels thrown at me every week. None of these own me. None of these offend me.

I’m totally at peace. And that’s what counts! It wasn’t easy getting here, but it was worth the work.

[NOTE: I help people through this kind of difficult transition. You can help yourself in a supportive community at The Lasting Supper, or you can let me help you one-on-one. Just email me.]

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31 Responses

  1. Douglas says:

    This is me. And I like the atheish label, if I chose one. But I don’t think a single label fits well enough to wear full-time.

    My external life is informed by the internal, and the internal has a bedrock of Christianity. I can’t escape it. I may drill a well or two or three, but my thoughts and opinions are shaped by 35 years of Pentecostalism, 5 years of Anglicanism. I can’t escape it, nor do I want to. I want to transcend it and love deeply, and share “communion” with all I can. I may never darken the door of a church, but I have fellowship with those kindred spirits whereever I find them.

    And my interpretation is that I am more of a real Christian now. Jesus came to fulfill the law. The prophets called people to justice. So being a real Christian means loving and helping the poor, the downtrodden, defending the weak, being a voice for the voiceless, challenging the status quo. Loving deeply, sharing what you can.

  2. Thanks Douglas. Sounds like you’re in a very good place.

  3. Sabio Lantz says:

    I spent the evening last night with a retired Methodist minister (from my town). He sounds similar to you. He dislikes the “believism” of most of Christianity — where right belief or faith is felt to buy you a ticket to heaven (and maybe even a better life now, or certain more meaning and deep happiness). He says, “Now, when people ask me if I am a Christian, I tell them ‘If I said either I was or I wasn’t, it would tell you nothing about me.'” To me, he has no problem saying he is not Christian, but to most of the pro-Christian population he knows, he feels more comfortable being ambiguous.

    David, you said, ” I still consider Christianity my family of origin. It’s a significant part of my DNA. Like I like to say, “My home’s in Christianity but I have cottages everywhere.” This makes a lot of people uncomfortable, frustrated, and sometimes even angry.”

    Well, like you, I was raised Christian, embraced it enthusiastically in my late teens, so perhaps, using your language, Christianity is my family of origin too. But having lived around the world with families of many different faiths and those who were faith-free, I have lost any need to identify with that particular family of origin and don’t consider it my home at all. (I am also no longer a Browns football fan, no pledge allegiance to the USA.) Living faith-free new home has been much more freeing. Loosening identity and allegiances is freeing and allows broader understanding and compassion for me.

    But I get folks like you and my friend, you both have larger investments and deeper anchors in the traditions before theologically checking out — so it is still an influential culture for you. Like my many Jewish friends who are atheists — they still proudly call themselves Jews.

  4. “But I get folks like you…”. This is exactly what I’m talking about. You don’t get me. I don’t even get myself. Sorry to disappoint 😉

  5. Jordan says:

    I don’t wonder if I’m still a Christian – I wonder how long it’ll take for a lot of the Christian upbringing to get out of my system during my journey into Judaism.

  6. Sabio Lantz says:

    Yeah, David, don’t be afraid to being classified and pinned down, I am not doing that. I get people who still call Christianity their home though they are unrecognizably Christian. When I say “I get”, I mean it in the broadest terms. I am sure you use the phrase sympathetically at times too.

  7. I see. Sometimes I don’t hear your tone correctly. Thanks for the clarification.

  8. Wendy says:

    I’m an atheist who loves Jesus, whether he existed or not. I don’t believe in God, but I think this Jesus guy might have been on to something. My dad once wrote a song called “Christian Without a God “. I guess that sums it up pretty well.

  9. mary says:

    I am still a Christian, my belief in Jesus is strong, but my fundamentalists views not so much. I went through a very dark time when I lost my brother to suicide years ago. Almost wiped out my faith. But it didn’t. I found I missed my best friend too much. But, in my finding my way back home I found that God was so much more than I had perceived before. He got out of the box you see, and I cannot get him to go back in. I found out he was so much more love, so much more grace than I ever understood before. So in that journey I found I could no longer agree with a lot of the fundamentalist views of who God was and what He cared about most. Sometimes it makes me wonder if I am still “saved” but then I feel the peace flow into my soul, and HIS presence and I know I am, and I know what matters most is to love one another. That’s the most important thing of all.

  10. Kathy says:

    I don’t wonder if I’m still a Christian…but I’m sure others do…

  11. Brigitte says:

    I can’t see how this sort of muddle is the pinnacle of peacefulness. We all doubt and we all struggle with doubt and we all have to have faith in something. But what. What holds?

    The other day, I had a visitor who does not go to church and she told me how spiritual she is. I did not debate her, as she talked non-stop for three hours, and there was no point. She was unloading. One of the stories she told me was about her encouraging someone who was going to go help her daughter who had a terrible illness and she did not think she would be able to cope. My visitor had told that lady, that she just has to believe every morning that her daughter will get better. We see that there has to be some hope, to keep on going; everyone knows this.

    You can call it “believism”, like Sabio, or the power of positive thinking, or endurance, or just plain hope and trust in the future. But is there a basis for it. You can’t pull yourself up by the bootstraps.

    People want to discard labels and ideologies and just be Christians without Christ, and Jews without Yahweh, and Methodists who can’t share a firm foundation in Christ, etc. and just in some pragmatic way be spiritual.

    I used to wonder if I was a Christian, when I thought it meant that you were a “good person”. When I learned that we can’t be good and faithful, by our bootstraps, so to speak, it was a great relief. The assurance is promised over and over in the ceremonies and sacraments and sermons, that many decry as lifeless. In fact, they are the very life because they are the basis for faith. When all faith seems to be gone, the words are still true, calling to repentance and to life, and the promises are still spoken and heard. And from there we get at least a glimmer of faith.

  12. Brigette: I know you speak from your heart. I think you are a good person, with integrity, and a very strong faith.

    I find it interesting actually that very strong Lutherans (is there any other kind?) follow my blog, read what I write, and like my cartoons. I often wonder why because most often they come across like you do. And it’s curious to me. I don’t know if you are here because you feel the need to be a corrective to me, or provide balance, or are secretly struggling with the questions I encourage people to ask, or if you just like it here because you can have a voice. Or something else.

    My cartoons are seen, I estimate, by approximately a quarter million people per month, from my blog, facebook pages and groups, instagram, and other social media. I can’t even keep track of who likes what others share and who shares from shares. So my cartoons get around. Most often though I hear from people saying, like just yesterday, “I would share, but that’s just a little too edgy for many of my FB friends. Grace to you, David.” That happens a lot!

    So I don’t know. Perhaps I am just as much an anomaly to you as you are to me. But that’s okay. Accept me as I am as I accept you. That’s cool.

    By the way, one reader left in a huff I guess. I cannot tolerate that kind of demeaning sexist name-calling. Some people think it’s far worse to say certain things than to call names. But sometimes it’s hard to draw the line on the content of an argument. But it’s never hard to ban name-calling. He tried to publicly attack and shame me on my nakedpastor FB page too, but I deleted that there. Ain’t got time for that.

    So… to your point. We disagree. Belief and faith are no longer words I use because my inner life doesn’t align with those ideas any more. I haven’t backslidden. I won’t come around. And I’m totally at peace. Finally.

  13. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ David,

    I enjoyed your delineation of 1. to correct 2. to balance 3. to doubt with me 4. to have a voice.
    Blogging, and perhaps FB, allow all that. Some bloggers allow every comment, some have comment policies and some just allow a supportive congregation. You essentially allow all comments (well, except a few that most would agree to ban). So you get folks like Brigitte and me and Jordan and many others. The loud folks will repel many types of folks. Likewise, comments that are pure sappy support (where the blogger edits out negatives), will repel many sorts of dialogues (the poetry blogs I participate in are just like that — nauseating to my kind – so I write poetry, but poetry blogs have no dialogue in comments — they are suppose to be warm fuzzy congrat comments.)

    You know all of this, of course. Watching your responses to comments over the years, just as yours of mine, has been interestingly informative to me.

    I think the fun thing about blogs is when people disagree, try to correct, try to balance, challenge and stuff. All the stuff you encourage in churches — things many pastors highly dislike because they love the pulpit.

  14. haha. it is interestingly informative to me too. thanks Sabio.

  15. Brigitte says:

    I don’t go around measuring strength of faith or temperature of faith. In that, I have a detachment, like you have about the content of faith. It’s not about me, essentially, and that actually is a relief. I comment because I am provoked to and there is no one else here to balance out the view. If there were some others, I would let them have the field.

    Just yesterday, or so, we had the idea from Caryn, that Joseph Smith and Luther are the same sort of thing. While both are human and flawed, they are not at all the same sort of thing. This is just plain post-modern willing ignorance. It is not ok to just let it stand. Next year, is the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the theses, a world-wide observation of the bravery and discussion it took, to confront the abuses in the Roman Catholic Church of the time. This is something entirely different from one of the American restorationists claiming to have found gold plates, that no one has ever seen. –so, that distinction does not matter anyone here. But it should. (I am going on holidays. I am not mad)

  16. Dan says:

    Brigitte, you do know Luther was extremely anti-semitic? In his “On Jews and Their Lies”, he advised leaders to set fire to synagogues and exterminate the Jews. “The rulers must act like a good physician who when gangrene has set in proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, and marrow,” he said. And he really meant it too (he wasn’t speaking figuratively). Luther planted a seed–one of many–that blossomed into the German holocaust.

    I suspect that you would deny this. Yet I assure you that it is something that most non-Christians accept as obvious. In that way, the blindness towards Joseph Smith is a lot like the blindness people have toward Luther. Both seem obvious to outsiders. Both are denied by their adherents.

    In my opinion, Luther was not a nice person at all. He was adamant about his own views and unwilling to listen to others. He confused his own thoughts with God’s. During the Marburg Colloquy, insisting that the bread and wine was really transformed into the body and blood of Christ (which to many non-Christians sounds a lot like “golden tablets” religion) he said, “If he were to order us to eat shit I would do it…you just have to close your eyes”. This is the sort of blind faith that inspires suicide bombers. Unquestioning reliance on dogma. Don’t think about it, just act. “You just have to close your eyes.”

    I know you would disagree, but that’s because it’s your faith group. People on the outside don’t see a difference.

  17. Brigitte says:

    Dan: http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.ca/search?q=Luther+and+the+Jews

    I don’t believe in Luther. I believe in Jesus Christ. As far as Luther helps me believe in Jesus Christ, I listen to him, where he talks nonsense, I don’t. He suggested many great things and some not great things. He only speaks with authority as a Bible teacher and translator, and not as a politician, etc. Luther also does not teach that the bread and wine “transforms”. Read more precisely, if you have a moment.

  18. Dan says:

    Regarding “transformation”, I think that’s something really debatable, and perhaps the distinction is merely semantical. Luther really believed that when he was taking part in the Eucharist, he was eating the actual body and drinking the actual blood of Christ. He may not deny that the bread and wine is still present — but before the sacrament, it’s just bread and and wine. I’m aware that his view is not called transubstantiation, that it’s called consubstantiation, but the difference doesn’t change my point (and I believe it’s a distraction).

    I’m glad you agree Luther sometimes speaks nonsense. You seemed unsympathetic to Mormons who respect Joseph Smith.

    I would like to say that I’ve been following David’s posts for a while, and I always read what people write. I’m one of the many who silently participates. I like to read your comments, and in fact I don’t always disagree with what you say. But it’s your tone that gets me… it just doesn’t seem kind. Your “Read more precisely, if you have a moment”, reads very condescending to me.

  19. Brigitte says:

    Mormons don’t respect Joseph Smith, they think he is The prophet and the stuff he wrote, though some of it plagiarized from the Bible, is Revelation.

    The Lutheran understanding the “in, with, and under”, I thought about it some over night. When the pastor speaks the words and the members consume, we say that it is in, with, and under. I thought about a wedding. When they say the vows, and the minister declares them man and wife, then they have just been transformed from single people to married people. Then they go home and comsumate and the change is complete.– How is that for an analogy?It is the word, the promise, the consuming that makes it real. In the Lord’s Supper we become physically one with Him.

  20. Brigitte says:

    Dan, forgive me, if I am getting slightly impervious to the “you are not kind” sounding. If you have read along over just the last week, as you say, you will see what has all been thrown at my head, and the way you just came at me here, charging ahead with the anti-semitism and me being ignorant of it and such… It seems a bit, let’s say it plainly, hypocritical. But I answer because I have faith that the truth does win out in the end.

  21. Dan says:

    I have been following along. I don’t see how I’m being hypocritical. I do not like Luther at all, because as I said, his views I believe are partly responsible for the holocaust. So by that estimation, he’s much worse of a person to me than Joseph Smith. It’s difficult for me to separate the good from the bad. Luther acted the way he did because his theology.

    Rather than filling-up David’s blog, do you want to correspond by email? My email is danielgrebow@fuller.edu.

  22. Go ahead and fill up my blog. I’m following!

  23. Brigitte says:

    The holocaust is the work of Hitler and his minions alone. They became masters of propaganda and they used whatever they could. And from the stats, Dan, I don’t see that you went to look at my posts on the subject. Also, I don’t think that you will find that your local Lutheran church is a front shop for Nazism and anti-semitism. There is plenty of antisemitism around right now, and we might analyze that one. Have a go at that one, rather than the straw man.

  24. Dan says:

    Brigitte, Hitler didn’t come from a vacuum. Nor is the halocaust the workings only of a small faction and a charismatic leader. It came at the behest of the German people, and there are reasons why they were so receptive to Hitler. One of those reasons is predecessors like Luther who taught people poisonous ideologies of hate and antisemitism. This is what I thought you would deny, and looks like I was right.

    Just to make it clear, I’m not attacking Lutherans today. Just like I’m not attacking Mormons of today. I am looking at the historical developments with a critical eye. I see problems with both.

  25. Brigitte says:

    There are historical problems with everything under the sun.

  26. Brigitte says:

    The holocaust did not come at the behest of the German people. That is a lie.

  27. Dan says:

    I don’t believe you’re thinking critically about this. Hitler didn’t gain power in a coup. The Germans wanted and elected a racist leader. And looking at what was accomplished (they– Jews in concentration camps– built V2 rockets for God’s sake), that can only be done by a very large group of people working in cooperation.

    “Hitler exterminated the Jews of Europe. But he did not do so alone. The task was so enormous, complex, time-consuming, and mentally and economically demanding that it took the best efforts of millions of Germans… All spheres of life in Germany actively participated: Businessmen, policemen, bankers, doctors, lawyers, soldiers, railroad and factory workers, chemists, pharmacists, foremen, production managers, economists, manufacturers, jewelers, diplomats, civil servants, propagandists, film makers and film stars, professors, teachers, politicians, mayors, party members, construction experts, art dealers, architects, landlords, janitors, truck drivers, clerks, industrialists, scientists, generals, and even shopkeepers—all were essential cogs in the machinery that accomplished the final solution” (Konnilyn G. Feig, “Hitler’s death camps: the sanity of madness”).

  28. Brigitte says:

    Dan, you must believe me that my understanding of the subject is quite thorough. Konnilyn Feig, however I had not heard of and I looked her up. I found about 5 or 6 reviews of her book detailing Nazi attricities and how people became complicit in them , or were forced to become involved in them. One person wrote that the book did not seem very scholarly. But, not having read the book, but knowing the Nazi’s and the camps, I am sure that she could not possibly have exaggerated the attrocities. They were utterly unspeakable, and inhuman. Every horrible thing that was said about it was true.

    But the subject is very big and indeed this may not the place for it, and I am on a holiday with my husband. I do encourage you to read a little bit more widely about the 20 century, the Darwinian socialism that infused various ideologies and caused millions of non-Jewish deaths. I encourage you too to try to consider the suffering of some of the other populations. Also read books about Nazi attitudes to all Judeo-Christian faiths.

    I also encourage you to consider that the final solution was conceived of fairly late and introduced to the cadre of solid Nazi’s already nurtured in the ideology. Many people did not know about any death camps, as they were located in the east. Many Jews when they were gathered up thought that they were going to a spa resort. Listening to any news outside of state sanctioned organs was punishable. When people did disagree they were sent to camps and hanged, etc. Themselves. Many pastors and priests perished in the same horrors. It was a dictatorial autocracy. People tried to assassinate Hitler so many times, and the attempts failed every time. It was as if the devil was allowed to reign.

    The church had been Nazified and denatured, such that underground movements had to spring up. And it has been shown that the resistance movement was not given enough support from foreign governments, such as the British, when Germans went over begging for help and support in resistance.

    Some people, like Eric Metaxas have studied Bonhoeffer and talk about this a great deal. He suggests that the lesson we should be getting from all this is that when ideologies desire to take over or weaken the confessional church that we stand in grave danger of getting steam-rolled by something very scary and oppressive. And discerns such a time to be right now. So, yes, we need to talk seriously about what is anti-Semitic and anti-Christian NOW, because our own times are getting mighty frightful, as well.

  29. Dan says:

    Thanks, Brigitte. Like David, I believe you speak from your heart, and I think you’re a good person with integrity and a very strong faith. Email me sometime when you get back and have a chance. Enjoy vacation!!

  30. Thanks Brigette. I’ve studied a lot. Sometimes too much. I have a huge appreciation of Luther. I remember reading his The Bondage of the Will and it rocked my world. He’s been a huge influence in my life.

    But at the same time, as almost all scholars agree, it is felt that his writings and his increasing bitterness towards the Jews for not converting to Christianity contributed to the anti-semitism growing in that region at the time. The anti-semitism that came into full bloom, it is believed, can find at least some roots in Luther’s teaching. He would be alarmed, I’m sure, and even regretful.

    It made me realize that we have no idea about the consequences of our words and deeds, and how careful we must be.

    I was struck this weekend, after posting a cartoon in tribute to Elie Wiesel’s passing that he wasn’t a perfect man. His opinion about Zionism and the Palestinian peoples betray something awry with his thinking. It’s frustrating, isn’t it, when a person can be so profoundly good and influential, except for some ideas of theirs that can almost seem to undermine their central contribution to the world.

    I think this happened with Luther. His influence, no doubt, was and is profound and mostly good. His latent anti-semitism, though, casts a shadow over his thought and must lead us to analyze his thinking to see where its holes are.

    I too hope you have a great holiday.

  31. Brigitte says:

    Dan, I am not going to enter into a private correspondence with you.

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