Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Dogma Ate My Faith

Tiger update: -3 for the first round (shot a 67 on a par 70). Adam Scott -7 for the day! (I looked up Scott's scorecard: he birdied 9 times... bogied twice. But come on! 9 birdies on that course? That's pretty great.)

UPDATE: UPI column Now posted.

You can't believe what's happened to my soul in the last 19 hours. And I have Sir Tom Wright to thank.

Somehow reading Simply Christian has put everything into perspective. It's more like giving birth than being born again, though. I find myself wavering between throwing up on the book before hurling it against the wall or shredding it with my fanged teeth. Either one is about the measure of how I feel during transition (I should know - been there, done it five times) and that's where I've been living spiritually for seven, yes, the biblical number SEVEN, years.

THAT'S A FREAKING LONG TIME TO BE IN TRANSITION! (Which may be why I have been eating more chocolate of late, come to think of it.)

I realized late last night as I paced the halls, that if what Wright describes is "simply Christian," then I'm "simply not."

Once I said it outloud to myself, I instantly felt like I'd given the final push. It's painful to say it outloud, but not nearly as tough as fighting over it with other people, with the history in my head, with the entire world!

So there you have it.

I'm not a Christian. The keepers of the definition (whoever they are - fight amongst yourselves) win.

Now I can get back to reading the Bible, learning about Jesus and living the Kingdom. I'd rather work on being a decent human being who follows Jesus and who makes a difference wherever she goes than waste any more time justifying a label.

16 comments:

Emily said...

I loved the article. I'm not yet ready to give up my title, but I feel the title slipping away, and it's good to know someone else has let it go and still holds on to the relationship with Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, and trying to live in a human way. Thanks for being brave.

jim said...

"Now I can get back to reading the Bible, learning about Jesus and living the Kingdom. I'd rather work on being a decent human being who follows Jesus and who makes a difference wherever she goes than waste any more time justifying a label."

If we could get more 'Christians' to do just that then the church would be in much better shape!

Peace to you Julie,
Jim

SusansPlace said...

I'll come visit you in your new apartment! Your UPI column was full of grace and hope and welcome--thank you!

Congratulations on your birth! Take care of yourself and enjoy a hard earned, well deserved rest.

Susan

SusansPlace said...

P.S. Can you summarize how Wright "simply" defines a christian or is it so complex that I need to read the book?

Susan

julieunplugged said...

Susan, I've been taking notes and will give a blow by blow on the blog going through the trigger points for me, the post-evangelical. There is one summary that he gives as a kind of "This is what Christianity really is" paragraph and I'll post it so we can discuss.

Julie

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

Labels aren't much good except to scientists and psychiatrists anyway, and even there they are very, very tricky. Defined "things" rarely stay put or fit neatly in their labeled containers. People rarely fit the labels they are given, either by others or themselves. Labels are usually black-and-white, while I world is full of shades of grey and many beautiful colors.

I confess labels often appeal to my scientifically trained mind. Blame the biologist in me. ;-) But I'm learning to think outside my well-organized boxes, too.

You can call yourself anything, or nothing, and you're still who you are. Your label, one way or another, doesn't change your true relationship to God.

I whole-hearted wish you grace, peace and joy on the journey.
Carrie

Bilbo said...

Hi Julie,

Appreciate your candor and willingness to lay it all out there for the world to see. If I understand where you are in your journey, and I think I do, we are at a similar place in life...but...I am not yet ready to give up calling myself a Christian, no matter what Wright or anyone else says or thinks. I just wanted to get that off my chest. I know justifying identity lables and fighting over them isn't where you are at and I can empathize with that but "personally" I am not yet ready to allow others to monopolize the identity discussion, not yet, anyway....but....I am totally with you regarding getting back to basics and being a decent human being who makes a difference in this world and may God help us all to become what I believe God intended Christians and all human beings to be...people who make a difference in this world....

julieunplugged said...

You know what Bill? I am glad people like you and Dave won't give up the label so easily (not that it'sbeen easy for me). I think we need you to stick up for others who call themselves Christians and don't feel compelled to justify themselves against the rubric set forth by the orthodox crowd (which is so diverse, if you think about it - I mean, Protestants who say the creeds are not the same as Catholics of EO!).

What I realized in my mini-epiphany is that I am constantly attempting (for some deeply psychological need in me, I'm sure) to be accepted as a Christian by those who do not see me that way.

And it clicked last night. I'm not one because I'm not like them. It would be so much easier to have a conversation if I could start with that bit of clarity.

It reminded me of when I quit my missionary team while still living on the mission field. I suddenly saw what it meant to live congruently with the way my head and heart were aligned.

So thank you for sticking with the label and blessing me in dumping it.

I think it will be an interesting journey we'll take together.

Julie

julieunplugged said...

Carrie, thank you for this:

You can call yourself anything, or nothing, and you're still who you are. Your label, one way or another, doesn't change your true relationship to God.

Really.

Love,
Julie

Bilbo said...

Hi Julie,

I continue to call myself a christian because, I think I am, and I refuse to allow myself to be defined by others. For much of my life I bought into allowing others to define me and realized I cared too much about what people thought of me. It's still a struggle, but after a some soul searching and a bit of time "on the couch" I have gradually became self aware of the black hole of seeing ourselves through the eyes of others and caring too much about what people think of us. Personally, I don't care what you call yourself Julie as the decision is yours and I will support you no matter what you want to call yourself...Sometimes I like to trivialize the whole label name game by making up labels for myself, like Neo-Christian anarchist/post-evangelical/Christian Agnostic....It just sounds like a right fit and puts the whole thing in perspective for me....

You wrote:
What I realized in my mini-epiphany is that I am constantly attempting (for some deeply psychological need in me, I'm sure) to be accepted as a Christian by those who do not see me that way.

Bill: I know the feeling but after I crashed and burned with the last church I attended and felt abandoned by many people who I thought were my friends I have gradually cared less and less about accceptance by them and now only care, for the most part, about the people who stuck with me through some tough times.....By the way, why don't you borrow a page from Mclaren and just call yourself "A New Kind of Christian"?

brian said...

Julie,

I loved the article. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

I'm not quite where you are, completely ready to drop the label Christian. I guess I'm still trying to redeem it. But, it's difficult. Ty thinks I'm being influenced by the books I'm reading and the people I'm hanging out with. But, it just occurred to me that it's the other way around. Because I've never fit in with this crowd, I'm reading the books I'm reading and hanging out with the people I'm hanging out with.

I think I know how you feel. It's sometimes such a struggle to stay on the inside. I feel like I just want to give up and say "OK, I'm out.'' Maybe someday I will.

Peace,
Brian

Dave said...

Julie, this is quite a remarkable disclosure and like many others who've commented, I'm both impressed and grateful for your willingness to lay it out there for us to reflect on and apply to our own lives. It is very interesting to see how this discipline of having to encapsulate your current theological whereabouts in the form of a weekly column has clarified and influenced your thinking on these matters.

I think it's hard to ever escape the socio-political implications of how we (publicly or privately) identify ourselves, especially with such a loaded term as "Christian" which carries such inordinate baggage and means so many different things to different people. Your description of giving rather than receiving a "new birth" is worthy of extended reflection, especially for us guys who can only imagine what that process is like. Perhaps its just a fair turnabout for all the "force-feeding" of male-perspective-based spiritual metaphors that women have had to endure over the centuries of monotheism's prevalence in our culture. :o)

As to the relevance/value/significance of whether we retain the label "Christian" (or not) as a self-identifier, of course there are big implications to that. People will react in a lot of ways, but in any case, I don't think your
decision is essentially "neutral." Do you agree with that or disagree? Is publicly saying "I'm simply not a Christian" a form of side-stepping or is it a repudiation (the latter choice IMO being more dramatic or conclusive)?

Another question... Is there some other "label" that is worth adopting? The admittedly clunky-sounding "Jesus follower" (or variations thereof) is where some people are going. My own self-disclosure is that I'm content to remain known as a Christian with the caveat that I remain free to stay involved with my on-going PoMoXian project which in many ways enthusiastically endorses the "cafeteria" approach that many publicly identified Christian leaders vigorously condemn.

I don't necessarily expect an answer here or anywhere, I'm just tossing it your way for you to ponder even as you send so much thought-provoking material to the rest of us!

Kansas Bob said...

I LOVE THIS ...

"Now I can get back to reading the Bible, learning about Jesus and living the Kingdom. I'd rather work on being a decent human being who follows Jesus and who makes a difference wherever she goes than waste any more time justifying a label."

... if you need a label just call me a Jesus follower!

Dave said...

Kansas Bob said:

... if you need a label just call me a Jesus follower!

See what I mean?!? ;D

Chuck said...

Julie,

What a wonderful post. Welcome to your new place of peace, grace, and chocolate.

A couple of points really resonated with me. First of all (and this point is in response to your first response to comments...), I've realized in the past few months how much internal and external dialog about faith and dogma is targeted at trying to get other "Christians" to accept less dogmatic folks as also being able to wear the label. It's kind of like courtship with someone you really don't want to live with in the first place, but someone whos acceptance you desire. I've conciously had to restrain my brain from such shenanigans over the past few years. For myself, I'm still OK with using Christian, but it certainly means something drastically different than others who wear the label.

The second point - when you said:

"It took living as a Christian to recognize my self-centeredness, my narrow-mindedness, my indifference and my vast capacity for denial of reality.

you really nailed the important distinction between modern, liberal Christianity and a post-modern approach to life and ultimate questions (whether you intended to or not...). Classic "Liberal Christianity" seemed to often walk hand-in-hand with a more optimistic humanism than I have been willing to embrace. Grace and justice are partners that must always be mindful of one another.

Looking forward to hearing more about it all over something chocolate...

Chuck

Musing said...

>>It's painful to say it outloud

I know that pain and sympathize with you. It's gotten easier over time.

There will always be some deep part of me that identifies with Christianity. It's in my spiritual bones, I guess. But, it's not the best description of who I am anymore.

Sending much love your way.