Why I Still Call Myself a Christian

I’ve spent a great deal of time on this blog exploring the ways in which my faith has transformed from the reassuring, cozy, traditional Christianity of my childhood. I’ve wandered far from home into nontheism, flirted with blasphemy, and questioned the existence of the supernatural altogether.

Many would say I’m not a Christian at all, and they might be right. If one defines Christianity as taking the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds as literal truth, then I certainly don’t qualify. I think I stopped believing the creeds long before I ever accepted my crisis of faith. Perhaps post-Christian would be a more accurate descriptor: I’ve entered a terrain which is beyond traditional Christianity, but only accessible by way of Christianity.

And yet, I still hold on to the label Christian, and the reason is simple: I can’t give up my love affair with the myth of Christ. I can’t let go of the story about the God-man who came to earth, told stories, taught love and radical peace, and then modeled ego-death and resurrection — the path we are all meant to follow, day after day.

In the most simple, minimalistic way possible I am a Christian: a follower of Christ, someone who makes Christ the most central image of my inner guiding myth. I’m not sure I can help myself; religion is mapped onto my being like a language, from the earliest days of my life. No matter how much I may doubt, wander, and reject the unfalsifiable claims of religion, I can’t rid myself of religion, and I don’t think I need to.

If this minimalistic Christianity strikes other Christians as heretical, too little, cloying and pandering to worldly doubt, that’s fine. I accept that. But I welcome others into my minimalistic religion with me. Those who doubt, struggle, and yet still yearn for religious life: we don’t have to believe in God or the supernatural, we don’t even have to accept the stories about Christ as true — I think many of them are probably legend. We can embrace the myth of Christ, and the transcendent, self-sacrificing path that myth sets before us. And that, I think, makes us Christians.

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10 thoughts on “Why I Still Call Myself a Christian

  1. Interesting post! I’m curious as to what your definition of ‘myth’ is in this post because my understanding of the word is that it is “a widely held but false belief or idea.” I’m all for having a faith that is stripped down but a foundational stone of Christianity is that the Bible is errantly true. For someone to be considered Christian is to believe in the Gospel, that God sent His only Son to proclaim peace on earth and eternal life. We can have eternal life by accepting what Jesus did on the cross (taking on the sin of the world, our sin included, and conquering death) as truth. And proclaiming Him as Lord. It’s fine and good to question church traditions. But for your title of Christian to be true, You have to believe in the Gospel message and submit to Jesus as Lord of your life. Otherwise, the title of Christian would be as true for you as CEO of Apple would be for me. I can claim to the CEO of Apple all I want, but unless facts back up my claim, my claim is worthless.

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    1. Rachel, thank you so much for reading and for your interesting comment. You raise some questions that might require a whole post in response, and I might work on that at a later point.

      Regarding your question about myth, I see myth as something that is not literally true, but is true in a deeper, metaphorical, fundamental sense.

      Regarding your claims about what a Christian is and is not, you lay out exactly why I am comfortable using the term “post Christian” to describe myself. If that feels better in other people’s ears, I’m ok with that. However, I also think you are just quite simply wrong about your definition of Christian and what it means to be a religious person. Religion is a subjective reality and therefore plastic. Religion is vast, complex, and hard to define. So too with Christianity. I recommend my recent post “A Few Questions you Might Have About Satanism” in which I explore the spectrum of literal vs. non literal religion. It’s a spectrum that, in my view, applies to Christianity as well.

      https://stephenbradfordlong.com/2019/01/11/a-few-questions-you-might-have-about-satanism/

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  2. I too am entering this interesting, post-Christian but only accessible through Christianity existence. I echo much of what you write, albeit not ready to use the word myth, but definitely question the legitimacy of where all “Christian’s” beliefs come from.
    “Christian’s” support claims based on past theologians and say we should believe it because that is what was believed for thousands of years.
    I like what Jesus taught ( the two greatest commandments). Not perfect at it, but try.
    Anyway. Thanks for the post. I’ll follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the follow and the comment. It’s a difficult, strange journey we are on, and I’m glad to have you have a fellow traveler. Personally, I feel like Christian beliefs and claims to legitimacy are like clouds: they look solid from a distance, but become more and more immaterial the closer we look.

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  3. It’s a long and inherently pain filled journey of the heart. I am with you fellow traveler and searching soul. I’m not sure I want to call myself a Christian but rather this year I feel called to explore the Christian mythology through a fresh set of lens that combines my new awareness with an appreciation of how the stories and message fits within a holistic naturalistic world view. I so greatly appreciate your sharing.

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  4. I can think all Christians (who cannot abandon the spirit of Christianity) should embrace something similar to this. It would prevent all the issues that arise from believing in a literal Christianity.

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    1. …and in believing in a literal Islam. Belief in the supernatural results from ignorant. frightened humans who need an explanation to what happens after death. GEOG.

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