The journey inward is illuminating.
Bilbo said in the comments on the post below:
I continue to call myself a christian because, I think I am, and I refuse to allow myself to be defined by others.
This is the line I've taken for the last seven years of deconstruction. I appreciate what he means here. It is frustrating to feel that others can define you and that you must justify your self-definition against theirs. In that sense, I do still feel Christian (not so much a Christian). In other words, how can I escape the powerful influence of 25 years of faith and community derived from Christianity? The values, stories, ideas, images, and hopes all created the person I am today and won't stop exerting influence just because I changed my name.
Reminds me of a friend. His given name was Christy. He's a guy. His entire life, he has received junk mail for women, was assumed to be a female student in all of his classes, was addressed as a woman in phone interviews, wasn't taken seriously when people asked his name and he told them honestly... people thought he was joking.
Why did his parents name him Christy? Because someone they admired had that name and they wanted to honor that man's memory in their child's name.
But by his thirties, "Christy" was sick of it. He felt like his name required one long explanation about what it really was, why he was named it, whether or not it bothered him, followed by discussions of whether or not his parents realized what a mistake that name would be!
So at 35 years old, he changed it... to Josiah. (Okay, I wouldn't have picked Josiah either...)
Now he could begin relationships based on who he was, not what his name meant.
I feel a bit like that. Whenever someone asks me if I'm a Christian, I've felt like I'm only revealing a half-truth. I know what they mean. I know what that question implies. So when I say "yes," I'm now creating an idea in their imaginations that is not congruent with what I know to be true about me. That means that I'm now required to tread even more carefully around these friends or online acquaintances because they think they know me. If I act or behave or speak in a way that violates that image, they are now puzzled at minimum or they feel betrayed at worst.
So this is what I imagine now:
"Are you a Christian?"
"No, but I'm very interested in Christianity. I've spent most of my life studying it, living it, and continue to be inspired by it. In fact, I love it."
"Really? And you aren't a Christian? What do you mean?"
Now I have the chance to say... something.
And that's what I feel like working on now. What is it about Christianity that keeps me interested, that keeps me related to it? That seems like a much better starting point for conversation and reflection than attempting to justify why my version of faith belongs in the same category as the rest of the Christians in my life.