Why am I still a Christian?
I frequently ask myself that question because I have often wondered if I should give it up. After all, Christianity has a history of hatred toward women. In the West, it helped justify the enslavement and continued oppression of people of color. It has fostered hatred and violence against those in the LGBTQ+ community. It has often sided with greed and blamed the poor for their poverty. It has promoted the idea that loyalty to tradition or scripture is more important than justice and compassion. Parts of Christianity have promoted the anti-intellectual climate we inhabit because they have opposed scientific advancement. The list is long.
Christianity’s fundamentalist version is particularly toxic. That is where I come from. As I moved away from fundamentalism, I switched to atheism, which offered escape from this terrible history. Over time, though, it came to feel like the other side of the same coin. Like fundamentalism, atheism focuses on the question of whether or not there is a God.
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I am still a Christian, at least as of this writing, not because I am somehow convinced of God’s existence or because I want to save people from some eternal punishment that I no longer believe in. I am a Christian because a life of faith has called to me at pivot points in my life and offered a path which leads to growth of character.
Although Christianity is rarely portrayed in popular culture as providing an example of how to be a good person, that is in fact how it has played out in my life. I am a better person with it than I would be without it. I am a Christian because it moves me to be more than I am. It asks me to be more loving where I might put up walls of separation. It calls me to be more courageous when I might want to hide away and keep my single voice safe from taking a risk and being heard. My faith keeps me connected to that which is greater than me, something that demands that I grow as a person, even it if is often against my will. I can’t say that I exemplify the values of love, inclusion, kindness, wisdom, and courage all the time but neither can I leave those values behind and pretend that they do not matter. They do matter, and for me, they matter because of my Christian past and the power Jesus still has in my life. A life of faith is a life of growth. That is why I am a Christian.
I do not want to give the impression that I think Christianity is the only path toward growth. I know that people in other religious communities also grow and also have to overcome some of the pitfalls their own religious traditions put in their way. I also know that there are people who no longer identify with any religious tradition and that this has also been part of their growth as human beings. The truth of the matter is that for me, I want to grow and transcend the worst parts of my humanity. Sometimes that has meant overcoming Christianity in order to be a good Christian. We all have things to overcome. Whatever our path, it is my hope that we all become more courageous and compassionate people.