For months, I stopped calling myself a Christian. It wasn’t because I was ashamed of anything. The word “Christian” has become a trigger for me. Holding onto to it reminded me too much of my fundamentalist upbringing and the Sundays upon Sundays of listening to our pastor yell the gospel from his pulpit until his voice got sore. He literally screamed about how nasty homosexuals were and how they were going to hell. He screamed about how little girls were getting “raped out here” because their mommas let them wear short-shorts while playing outside. There was a lot of internalized racism. There was xenophobia, extreme sexism, and classism stuffed within our practice of faith.
The word also reminded me of a mentor I loved who couldn’t wrap her mind around the beauty of her humanness because she thought that if Jesus were good, he would never allow her to live with severe mental illness. It reminded me of the way people looked at me when I said I was queer and divorced. It reminded me of the way my male friends bristled when I said I was a feminist or when my conservative white friends bristled when I openly advocated for black lives. Overtime, I had begun to associate all of these ideals with the word “Christian” and none of them had to do with love or what I believed about the gospel.
So, I shed the term. I deconstructed my faith in good and healthy ways. I climbed out of the long dresses and restrictive doctrines that felt fear-filled and silencing. I went off to college and shed again. I found grace. I stumbled upon the love and care of God and community in news ways. I found spoken word poetry, rock music, and hip hop. I got married really young and lead worship and bible studies. Things went wrong. We divorced. I shed again. I fell in love with humanity and how textured, connected, and brave we are. I drank my first IPA. I dealt with my depression poorly, sabotaged friendships, and went to therapy. I shed again.
And again, and again.
With time, I stopped caring about needing to be seen as a Christian. This word held no eternal weight for me. I had somehow encountered the mysterious and intense love of God and come to face my humanity in the context of a shameless, endless love. The word “Christian” became nothing more than a trigger, because I felt more like someone’s well-loved daughter than the politicized identity that Evangelicalism has taken on with its history. And this was so comforting to me. The word just no longer fit my truth, even though the ideal of Christianity may have most neatly described my spiritual identity. And even in this place of radical acceptance of my spirituality, there was still so much shedding to do. There was so much pride to undo.
My need to be seen as a Christian meant more to me than human beings and whether or not they knew they were loved. My service in ministry meant more to me than my husband, my mom, and my brother. My need to be seen as a specific kind of person meant more to me than looking people in the eyes and identifying the same frailties and strength we all share in being human. I turned people into projects. I used the Bible to shame myself and others.
I stopped calling myself a Christian because I needed to detach my love for God from my performative BS and savior complex.
I did it because I love God, “theos”, the supreme divinity, more than I cared to be seen and known as a Christian. I wanted the Lord, “YHWH”, the very breath, more than I wanted to live by doctrines that left people purposefully silenced and in shame. I wanted a return to peace far more than I wanted the strivings of performative evangelicalism. I wanted to actually spend time messily and audaciously convening with the Spirit of God alongside other humans that I love, more than I wanted to spend time collecting neatly filtered prayer requests and half-forgetting about them later.
I share this for my friends who are quietly deconstructing and reconstructing their faith. It is painful and sacrificing to have our loved redefined. It’s humbling , but I see you. Holy Spirit sees you. You are not alone. There are a ton of us out here who just long to love deeper and see God and the earth well, too. Keep diving deeper and deeper. And wherever you end up, know that you are loved and your curiosities are brave.