“Stop calling yourself a Christian.”
That was the advice from one commenter on a recent article I wrote, concerning my doubts about a literal hell. In it, I argued that when the message of Christianity is summed up as, “Do as I say and nobody gets hurt,” the figure of Jesus becomes no better than a terrorist.
After reading my article, the commenter had this advice:
[S]top preaching the gospel of Satan, which is no good news at all. Unless you are more spiritually advanced than Jesus Christ, you should take his words and the words of his Apostles seriously.
Funny, I thought I was taking Jesus’ words seriously, but it’s nothing new for people to tell me that I should give up the notion that I am a Christian. Usually, I’m told that I can’t call myself a Christian because I am also a lesbian. The most astonishing thing I’ve heard is that gay or lesbian Christians don’t actually exist. I’m thinking of telling the IRS and perhaps the mortgage company that I don’t truly exist, but I have a feeling that won’t go over well, so obviously, I do exist as both, and more, of course.
I’ve also been kicked out of the Christian club for not believing in other orthodox doctrines and dogma including the Trinity, a literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus and the notion that Jesus died for my sins.
The latest insult to my self-claimed Christianity came in the form of a website that lists LGBT-friendly churches around the US I had submitted my congregation, Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., to be listed in the database, since I consider us an LGBT-friendly Christian congregation.
Imagine my surprise, however, when one of the site’s owners wrote to question my Christian credentials. One of the boxes you have to check when you submit the information is one swearing that your church is actually a “Christian” church. Well, since we are followers of that Jesus guy, I checked ‘Yes.’
However, after perusing our site, the guy at the LGBT church site questioned our true dedication to the faith. Since we didn’t seem to meet the requirements of the Nicene Creed, we don’t appear to be a “Trinitarian” church. So I was asked to prove that we were a “real” Christian church.
I replied: “We’re not creedal in the sense that we recite creeds or require others to recite them or affirm what are contained in them. We don’t really do a doctrinal ‘sniff test’ on people. Instead, we ask that they affirm the only creed Jesus ever affirmed, which is one of love for self and others and a dedication to service in the world.”
Well, suffice to say, I was informed that following Jesus’ teachings of love and service were not, indeed, enough to be considered a “real” Christian church.
This infuriates me. As a member of a group of people who have been excluded, denied membership and generally shunned by Christian churches around the globe, to be summarily dismissed by a website that is supposedly set up to help LGBT people find accepting places to worship shows just how far the LGBT community has strayed from our own commitment to welcome everyone.
Apparently, we cannot even make room at the table for everyone in our own community if their doctrines don’t smell right.
I understand the argument put forth by the owner of the site itself, that they do have a right to add or exclude churches at their discretion. I could always build a site that includes every faith group from Christian to Wiccan congregations welcoming LGBT people (and somebody should!)—I get that.
What is infuriating is that even within our community, we’re still separating who the “real” Christians are from the “false” ones. Isn’t this what we’ve been fighting against in the mainstream church—for the right to be considered “real” Christians as LGBT people? To begin dividing up our own community with these limited, and limiting, definitions seems to go against the justice we’ve been fighting for all these years!
I also object to the lines of demarcation being drawn between “real” and “false” Christians within the LGBT community itself. My community was rejected by this particular website because we are not “Trinitarian” and do not recite or seem to require assent to creeds such as the Nicene Creed.
Such creeds were written by men (the Church Fathers) hundreds of years after Jesus’ death, but apparently, to be a genuine Christian, one must accept them wholesale—even when they emphasize beliefs about Jesus over actually doing what Jesus says we should do to qualify as one of his followers.
So, the formula to discern real Christians from false ones now seems to be this:
Following creeds =”real” Christian.
Following the teachings of that guy named Jesus, but not (necessarily) the creeds = “false” Christian.
I guess it’s a testament to the progress that LGBT Christians have made in acceptance in faith communities that they now feel free to begin discriminating against one other on the grounds of doctrinal purity. However, such behavior perpetuates the popular myth that assenting to a specific set of beliefs about Jesus makes you more of a “real” Christian than those who doubt the doctrines but still seek to follow Jesus by loving God, self, others, and seeking to serve the world.
Honestly, I don’t think Jesus would recognize the religion that has sprung up around his name, if not his teachings. I’ve always maintained it’s easier to argue about Jesus and whether he was fully human, fully divine, both or some mixture thereof, instead of doing the dirty work of feeding the poor, clothing the naked and visiting the sick and imprisoned.
That’s not quite as entertaining as creating creeds and persecuting the “heretics” who disagree with you.
We’ve piled up so much theological doublespeak and gobbledy-gook on Jesus that, honestly, most of the people in the pews don’t even know what the creeds they blandly recite every week really mean, or how many people were excommunicated or killed for daring to disagree with the enshrined party line about Jesus.
An old theology joke makes the point.
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked.
They replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the Ground of Being, the incarnation of the divine Logos in whom we find our ultimate meaning and raison d’etre over against the Angst and alienation caused by the existential predicaments and uncertainties that plague human life.”
To which Jesus goes, “Huh?”
This is what creeds do for us, they obscure the real message of Jesus, which was, “Go, and do likewise,” not, “Believe and rest on the assurance of your personal salvation.” But, that is what so-called real Christianity has become—even within the realm of LGBT Christianity.
We are now so assured of our own salvation as LGBT Christians, we feel we can become true defenders of the faith and judge others by their correct or incorrect doctrine.
What a sad state of affairs for LGBT people of faith.
Since we’re all so gaga over creeds then, may I propose a new one? How about this one, from Paul Alan Laughlin:
We believe in the reign of God, and in the love, equality, justice, and peace for which it stands; and in Jesus, who proclaimed, and enacted, and embodied its spirit, and taught us all to live as God’s children, and to help the poor and helpless and hopeless; and who died because the world was not ready for his message.