I am a Christian, although many Christians I know would be mortified that I use that word to describe myself. I am a bit unconventional with my beliefs and I offer no apologies. I am also married to a man who studies Christian Ministries and hopes to go to seminary and become ordained someday. I am not your typical pastor's wife by any stretch of the imagination. When I disagree with a commonly held belief in the church, I'm not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. I have a foul mouth on occasion. I have a tattoo (although I wish I didn't). I don't think people of other religions are going to hell. I love the synoptic gospels, but Paul really pisses me off sometimes. I'm not an obedient wife. I think it's okay to be gay, and not in a "God forgives all sin" way--I really think it's okay. How I reconcile all of that with my faith is a blog for another day.
I am not always accepting. A friend of mine recently came out as transgender. I really had to pray about that one. Not that I was judging her (now living as him) or weirded out, but I didn't understand much about being transgender. I just cared about my friend and wasn't sure if she really knew what she was getting into and what being a good friend looked like in that situation. (FYI, when I talk about my friend before he started living as male, I use she/her and when I talk about my friend now I use he/him although I still slip up now and then and he's okay with that. I like it that my friend can also accept me as I am.) I really had to pray about this and talk with other friends. What I know now is this: 1. There is scientific evidence to support the fact that being transgender is a real condition, probably caused by exposure to certain hormones during uterine development. For some reason, that makes me feel better about all of this. 2. My support of my friend doesn't mean my friend will be less likely to change his mind if he feels differently in the future. In fact, loving acceptance from those closest to him probably empowers him to explore who he is wherever that leads him. 3. Christ showed love and acceptance to everyone, especially those who did not have a place within the conventional societal structure of the day. Being a Christian means trying to be as much like Christ as possible, so my job is to love my friend just like I did when he lived as female.
So, why am I a Christian despite the fact that the church is really effed up right now in a lot of ways? Here are some of the reasons I can think of:
1. The primary reason is Christ. Read the first 3 chapters of the New Testament and tell me that's not a guy you want to try to be like. He came on strong sometimes and challenged those around him to be their best selves and even I struggle with some of what he said (like to love strangers even above your own family and it's not good to get a divorce). But, as one theologian put it, "Christ loved wastefully." I want to love wastefully for the simple fact that if we all loved wastefully the world would be a better place. It already is thanks to that kind of love. It transforms the world in the best possible way.
2. I like undermining Empire. Christ wasn't just another cog in the machine. He lived in a time and place where the rules for living were very rigid and the penalty for living outside of that structure was severe. On top of that, the Israelites were under Roman rule. The Romans were happy to let the Jews continue to live under the Law as long as nobody stirred up too much trouble for the Empire. Jesus stirred up a lot of trouble for the rigid society structure of the Jews and for the Romans. We live in a society that on the one hand has very rigid rules such as those Christian fundamentalism imposes on us and on the other hand tells us that God does not exist and we'd all be happier if we worked a lot more and bought more stuff. Being a Christan reminds me that I can love the way Christ loved even if the loudest voices in my religion are telling me I need to shun those who are gay, liberal, or otherwise outside of their strict rule of "Law". Being a Christian also encourages me to remember that God clothes the lilies in the fields and feeds the sparrows, so I don't need to stress about how much money is in my 401k. I don't need to buy a bunch of stuff to be happy and I can give more of my resources than I'm comfortable with because it will all be okay. These days, our economy is set up to make a whole lot of money for a very few while the rest of us split what's left. I'm more than happy to participate in that as little as possible. (For full disclosure, I don't have a 401k. I have a pension. :-))
3. I love a good story. The bible is full of stories. I've written before here about how I relate to the story of Jonah. Who hasn't wandered in the wilderness, lived off manna from heaven, planted a mustard seed, followed a star? I don't worry myself too much about literal truth and metaphorical truth because I don't think they are necessarily opposed.
4. I need community. My church is my community. We have common goals. We inspire each other to be better. Obviously, community can be formed outside of church, but a large part of mine is there.
I acknowledge that the church is the cause for a lot of negativity in the world right now, but I'm not giving up on her yet. I hope that other people who don't buy into the judgment and hate will remain in the fold and become a force for transforming the church and the world.