… I have a hard time saying that lately, because I know what you’re probably thinking about me the moment I do. Many of you watch the news and you see what’s happening in America, and you have an image in your mind of Christians which I fear you probably automatically lump me into by default.
I understand why. I know that the loudest voices often carry the greatest weight, and right now those voices speaking for my faith tradition are heavy on acrimony and painfully short on compassion. Those voices reek of bigotry and entitlement and manufactured martyrdom. They speak with cruelty and malice and malevolence—but they do not speak for me.
I absolutely don’t believe they speak for Jesus either. These voices are the false prophets and teachers we were warned about so long ago.
I need you to know that what you witnessed outside the courthouse in Kentucky several years ago now, and at that “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and everything that has recently paved a path of hate here in America, does not represent me or millions of people like me. I need you to know that Mike Huckabee and Kim Davis and Fox News, and Betsy DeVos and Mitch McConnell and Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson and those anonymous people espousing white power and killing trans people and yes, and Donald Trump do not speak for us or for the Christianity we have devoted our lives to. They do not reflect our hearts for all people, or many of the things we aspire to do and be in this world.
I really miss my Kid Christianity.
I was raised on the stories of Jesus. They were the sweet milk of my childhood. Long before I ever knew what a political party was, before I ever heard the words Conservative or Liberal; long before I knew what denominations or media bias or culture wars were, I had this Jesus:
He was the one who was born into barren smallness, amidst the smell of damp straw and animal dung.
The one who called people to leave security and home and livelihood behind, in order to model the truly blessed life together.
The one who lived in homeless humility, living off the generosity of those whose thankful hearts gave a home to his words.
The one who defied rules of decorum and purity and tradition in order to bring healing and comfort and hope.
The one who spoke of relentless forgiveness for wrongdoing, of praying earnestly for enemies, of lavishly loving the least, of radically showing mercy.
The one who fed thousands of strangers on a hillside, not because they were deserving or morally fit, but because they were hungry.
The one who preached about the Kingdom of God; a way of being rooted in selflessness and sacrifice; one in direct, defiant opposition to the greed and power and inequality of the day.
The one who spoke unflinchingly into injustice and corruption and religious hypocrisy, and into the hearts and the systems that created and nurtured them.
The one who regularly ate with the priests and the prostitutes, treating both with equal dignity.
The one who endured wrongful imprisonment, brutal violence, and excruciating execution to show the world what love looks like when it pours itself out completely for others.
This is the Jesus that first spoke to me and inspired me and gripped my spirit, and the one that still compels me today even as I struggle to find my place in the faith tradition of my childhood.
It is this Jesus that I cling desperately to when hope in my people and our religion is failing.
It is this Jesus I fear you’re no longer able to see in so much of the faith that bears his name.
Yet I am still fiercely burdened to show you this Jesus; to remind you that there are people just like me still out there, who believe that faith is never meant to broker power or position, to exclude or exploit.
I want you to know that there are people who believe that defending equality in all forms is a non-negotiable for someone who claims Christ.
I want you to know that there are still people who believe that the Bible is a tool to help us personally encounter God, not to publicly bulldoze those we disagree with or fear.
I want you to know that there people out there who believe that the sacred way is to take the lowest place and to give to those who have less and to rescue those held captive.
I also know that part of this is my fault; for being complacent and passive and silent; for being complicit in this gradual hijacking of Jesus by allowing it—but I won’t make that mistake any more.
I am going to be much louder with this love, until it shouts out the angry taunts and insults and war rhetoric of those who have commandeered Christianity and turned it into something far less beautiful, far less hope-giving, far less deserving of Jesus’ name.
This is my hope and prayer.
Yes, Dear World, I am a Christian.