There is much praise and celebration of honesty, yet it is rarely practiced. And perhaps, in a case in which one does execute honesty, how often is it out of vanity? How often is this expression part of a larger attempt identify ourselves as a type of person? I’ve decided to do just that, I’ll be honest, but I assure that I will not risk too much vulnerability. I won’t sacrifice much, I won’t lose anything.
Although, there is still a possibility that something valuable could come along as well…that is always the hope right? We want just a little something to make all of our decisions worth while, other wise it is a “waste of time.”
I have not read Bertrand Russel’s book “Why I Am Not A Christian,” although, I would like to write a book of the same title, but it won’t be, as in Russel’s case, an egoistic claim of my own autonomy, rather, it would be an admittance of failure.
So I’ll say it–I am not a Christian. I say it without irony. I say it with no intention of coming around from the opposite side only to surrender and say that I am not a Christian without God’s love. I say it with no hint of intentional or poetic ambiguity. The emergent church has developed this great way of making Christianity culturally sensational, and I assure that I am not trying to fool anyone.
Further more, it should be understood that I am not departing from Christianity as a result of the church’s failing to live up to any standards I, or any other self-righteous opportunist, have placed upon the it. The church does not have to defend itself to me, I am in no position to demand such an apology or justification.
So let it be clear, I am not being subversive, tricky, ironic, etc.
Why have I come to this conclusion? Well, it’s in the spirit of honesty! Surely, questions regarding the definition of “Christian” can give the most brilliant apologist hours and hours of material in which he or she cleverly navigates us to a point of undeniable rationality AND faith, oh how wonderful! The artist can manipulate us into a fervor of conviction, stimulate our pathos, and lead us to sing his (our) praises through new ways which are careful not to uproot orthodoxy, yet radical enough to make it our own generations call to the world. “A rebellion cut to fit.”
No no no, at the bottom of it, it is something very simple…the decision to believe. I can no longer feign “the struggle of wanting so desperately to believe,” as a significant and worthy road block. To be a Christian one must believe, and I simply do not. Do I believe in the possibility? Yes, and it drives me to self-absorbed madness. Although to simply believe, without qualification, without the aid of art, without the requirement of any justification, without the insulation of a community…I do not believe. Faith must be unconditional, and my faith is anything but. My faith is conditional on my own parameters of what is right or wrong. My faith is conditional on my own rationalization of biblical text. I do not love my family less than I love Jesus. Do I need to go any further than that? I know that if I break one law, I break them all. I do not evict friends from my life if they are bad influence on my behavior or spirituality, unless of course my fiancé thinks it is best, then by all means, I make adjustments. Do I seek to forgive those who wrong me or others close to me? It depends. Do I pray often? No, although I do on occasion. Am I excited about the word of God, no, I it causes great stress in my life. Do I yearn to spread the gospel? No, I prefer to keep it to myself and make sense of it (Indeed, an attempt to make “sense” of it is misguided). Do I love unconditionally? No. I show favoritism and by that act alone I am guilty of sin. Do I seek to help others? Yes, when it is convenient. Would I chose to give my possessions away at the request of God, surely! But not for any other reason. So you see, this has not emerged after lengthy reflection. It is all too easy to observe.
Perhaps the grace of God has saved me, but it has certainly not done away with me, which is what is necessary.
Am I making this too hard? No, it is hard all on its own.
I have been told that it is only belief that matters, and indeed no Christian is perfect. Of course, we are all sinners! But I myself seem to be a repetitive sinner, the same sins over and over again, under my own volition, and I have read that, “if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice is left.” I wonder if my paltry appeals at forgiveness are now ignored, by any standard other than the divine itself, they surely ought to be. Belief is more than something one can rely upon in the same way one relies upon his height, it something that must manifest itself in deliberate action. I believe that my parents love me, and my behavior reflects that belief. I have entered into a relationship with my fiancé on faith that we love each other, and my behavior reflects that commitment even when she is not present. I betray God on a daily basis regarding the most seemingly futile thoughts, and the most consequential actions, and I am told He is always present. So, how on earth can I proclaim to love Him?
The point here, the unavoidable conclusion is that, even under the most basic understanding of admiration, imitation, and love, I can not with a clear conscious, call myself a Christian. I am under that disturbing assumption that I am not alone. This is not a theological fracture, it is a simple fact that can be objectively displayed. This is not to say that I am rejecting Christianity based on a principle of some pathetic principle of humanity or justice. Like I said before, this is an admittance of failure.
I am writing this in the spirit of honesty, to clear the air. There are brilliant creative exercises that seek to justify belief in God to those who don’t believe in God. There are exhaustive exercises that seek to give one a sense of comfort in why they believe, in qualifications which lead to the only reasonable outcome–faith. It is Pascal’s wager dressed up in a creative brilliance that disguises, it mediates.. or directs our gaze to the distraction rather than the crux.
There is a simplicity to Godly devotion that we do our best to confuse in order to nurture a safe distance. Honesty is key, and is an undisputed requirement of a loving relationship–between man and man, and assuredly between man and God.
“We have Christ’s word for it that there is an eternal life; and that settles the matter. There is no question here of racking one’s brain or philosophizing, but simply that Christ said it, not as a profound thinker, but with a divine authority.”-Soren Kierkegaard, Of The Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle