I went to church recently for the first time in a long time. It’s been at least three years, and walking in I felt deeply uncomfortable.
But it was only temporary. Because I belong.
Because I’m a Christian.
That’s a fact I don’t share with a lot of people, and I’ll be honest: it’s out of cowardice. Because I don’t want to try to explain or defend my beliefs, knowing that it’s extremely difficult to make people understand that how Christianity is represented and often practiced in our society is utterly divorced from the true core of our beliefs. Because the first thing people assume if you tell them you’re a Christian is that you’re a prude, judgmental, hypocrite who votes Republican, hates gay people, and believes women belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant–and for those who know me, none of those things are true.
Nevertheless, my core beliefs are Christian.
I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins. I believe that there is a God in Heaven who created the world (through evolution btw) and that we should live as Christ taught: with love and compassion for our brothers and sisters, especially those who are young, old, sick, weak, or poor.
It does not mean alcohol, drugs, sex, or profanity are right or wrong, nor does it mean there’s anything wrong with being gay, trans, or just fucking different. Indeed, if one reads the bible–especially the New Testament, which is by definition, Christianity–I defy anyone to find a verse where any of the above are strictly forbidden or called out specifically.
And yes, my beliefs are based on faith and faith alone. I can’t prove they’re right, nor will I attempt to–it is simply what I believe to be the truth. And I don’t judge those who believe otherwise or reject my beliefs entirely (I recall there being a commandment about that one). Every human being on the planet has to decide what it is they believe and why, and it’s my contention that we give each other the space to do so without quibbling too much about it.
But the truth is I don’t think I’d be alive to write this if God hadn’t saved me.
The other night–just before Christmas–I was run off the road by a drunk driver. They were coming straight on and I swerved to avoid him, but ended up running off the road and hitting a tree on the driver’s side, glass raining down as the side windows shattered and the car came to a stop.
If and when you read Say Yes (my newest novel–and yes it’s coming soon!), you’ll see the synergy there and why it struck me so deeply. And I’m sure many people would count themselves unlucky to have something like this happen in the first place, but if I’d gone off the road almost anywhere else, I’d have careened into a tree filled ravine and would probably be severely injured or dead–as it was, I happened to find the only place on that side of the road where there was a shoulder and I hit a tree preventing the car from plummeting to the depths below. In any case, I count myself lucky.
I know, I know–why me? What makes me think I’m so special? Why doesn’t God save everyone?
I don’t know. But something comes to mind here: we so often look at the world from this egalitarian perspective that every human being is equal and everything should be fair–or at least, that God would view us all as equals and deserving of fairness…
But why? The concept of fairness–of equality–is a human invention. Nature isn’t equal, nor fair. Actually it’s ruthlessly cutthroat. I agree that fairness and equality are good ideas, and that governments should treat their citizens with those ideals in mind, but the contributions of individual human beings to their society’s–indeed to humanity–aren’t equal, nor is their reward.
In any case, if God did save me, I don’t know why–maybe someday I’ll get to ask Him or Her or It.
But what I do know is that I have something to say and my work is as yet, unfinished. And since that’s all I have to go on, I intend to do what I can to finish it.
I bring this up not to preach, but to explain. Because at church today the pastor, Michelle Jones at Imago Dei, delivered a sermon that brought me to tears. It was about how we must be relentlessly present, about how we must be unafraid to walk our truth in the world, and most of all, what it takes to harness the courage to confront the injustice we see in the world or challenge the the conventions of a mindless, corporate society.
Before today I was living my faith in the darkness–not that I altered my actions or beliefs or am any different today than I was yesterday.
It’s simply that I was afraid to claim them.
And my contention is that no matter how uncomfortable it is, if you believe in what it is you’re doing, you just have to keep going–and what I realized that day in church is that you may as well own it, and for me, that includes my faith.