I love Christianity. I love the symbolism, the myth, the ritual. I love Augustine, and Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis, and T.S. Eliot, and Thomas Aquinas, and the Saints, and the story of the cosmic Christ who came to earth to save us all. To my very core, I love it. But I feel it’s time to let go of the label Christian altogether, primarily because I’m exceedingly tired.
If you define “Christian” as adhering to the central creeds: believing in the literal, physical virgin birth, resurrection of Christ, the existence of the trinity, and so on, I certainly can’t affirm any of that. While I have utmost respect of people who can affirm the creeds, I now personally experience the truth claims of Christianity as intellectually insulting, and little more than untenable superstition. (Do you want to fight me on that? I don’t have the patience. Take your fight elsewhere.) And yet I find the symbol, story, liturgy, and tradition of Christianity significant enough for me personally to not walk out of the church. Because of this, I think I personally qualify as at least *some* sort of Christian.
I’ve long argued that nontheism is a valid form of religion, and my hope is that we can cultivate a path of validating nontheism while holding on to the the religions that people cherish. Atheism vs. religion is an unnecessary and painful false binary.
However, my insistence that nontheistic Christianity is a thing is proving more and more difficult within Christian circles, even progressive ones. As Wesley Hill wrote in his article After Boomer Religion for Commonweal Magazine:
In a 2016 survey of then-current LGBT students enrolled at Episcopal seminaries, Ian Markham and Paul Moberly Mazariegos found that virtually all (92 percent) of the respondents agreed with the claim that the “creeds teach that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, which has traditionally meant that the tomb was empty.” One might lament that the figure isn’t 100 percent, but set against the backdrop of previous generations’ drift, it remains an encouraging sign. As Markham and Moberly Mazariegos put it, “A voting block is arriving that wants to affirm the authority of Scripture, and uphold the historic Incarnational and Trinitarian faith of the Church.” And it’s a block comprised not only of LGBT folks. During the Episcopal Church’s last General Convention, for instance, a diverse group of clergy and lay people—many of them emerging leaders in the denomination—drafted a memorial urging the Convention to “continue in the apostles’ teaching” by hewing closely to Scripture and the church’s creedal heritage. If Bishop John Shelby Spong’s doctrinal revisionism was the face of a significant strand of Boomer religion, the new face of mainline Protestantism may well be someone in a clerical collar who marches for gun control and says “I believe in the resurrection of the body” without crossing her fingers.
I understand that for Wesley and many others, this trend towards creedal faith is a positive. I don’t begrudge people their religious beliefs, but I also hope we can cultivate a religious tradition that allows for nontheism. I hope for this, because this might be the only way for the “nones” — now the largest religious group in America — to retain the religious identities that are beloved to some.
But, I’m getting tired of the fight.
I’m tired of fighting the faithful over my participation in their religion — a religion which is my tradition, heritage, and central guiding story. I’m tired of trying to stake my claim in Christianity, even though I still speak the liturgies, attend the rites, dream the symbols, and revere Christ.
But whatever. Too many of the faithful insist that I’m not in their club, and I’m tired of fighting them. To make the bickering stop, I’m shedding the term Christian, and adopting “Post-Christian” as a more accurate description: I can no longer affirm the central creeds of Christianity, but I am in a place accessible only by way of Christianity. I don’t think I will ever leave the church fully, but I will partake not as a Christian, but a Post-Christian. That seems like a compromise which makes everyone’s life (especially mine) easier.
I believe in embracing contradictions and paradoxes. I believe in being the godless mystic, the devout follower of Christ who adores Satan. I’m a materialist magician, an atheist who has dreams and visions, and a Luciferian who speaks to God. “Those who self-righteously value their own contradictions are mighty on this Earth,” writes occultist Peter J. Carroll. I embrace my multi-faith, heretical nature, and I’m not leaving the church.
To quote Rorschach from Watchmen: I’m not trapped in here with you, you’re trapped in here with me.
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