Letting Go of The Idea of “True” Christianity – Lenee H.
“‘Cause the fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!”
This is the main message from one of the most universally known children’s songs among Christian circles, probably only surpassed by Jesus Loves Me. It captures most everything that is drilled into our heads in Sunday School. I could honestly write a whole other article about how a lot of the things we’re taught as young children at church actually just boiled down to ways to tell us we need to be meek and obedient towards authority figures. Programming of absolute blind faith in parents and anyone put in positions over us. These lessons are aimed at children and are forgotten by nasty adults. But that would be a whole other topic and it’s not what I’m here to write about today.
No, today is a reflection on myself and my relationship with Christianity. It’s something I have been considering for a while, but have struggled to find accurate words to describe. I’m still struggling. But I want to write this. I feel like I need to, to fully process it. You see, if you go back and read those lyrics with sincerity, considering the gravity and impact of it to someone who genuinely wanted to live by them you’ll understand who I was for the majority of my life.
That’s what Christianity was to me. That’s what I was being taught and it is what I held on to so fervently. It’s what I believed and was the basis of my own faith.
Those who meet me now might not believe my intersectional feminist, swearing, lesbian ass used to be an extremely dedicated, highly religious, conservative Baptist Christian. But I was (and a preacher’s kid at that). And the thing is, I wouldn’t go back and change any of it because my faith is what got me through life. It’s what helped me when my brother died in a car accident and my mom was diagnosed with cancer two months later. It helped me make peace with my past when I realized the things that same brother did to me was sexual abuse. It was there when my dad suffered personality-altering head trauma and amnesia. When my sister learned she had a brain tumor. When I watched my grandmother slowly die from cancer. As my mom’s cancer continued to come back and spread. As my own health deteriorated and I faced depression and anxiety. When cancer finally won and my mom died right in front of me…
The thing is my faith brought me joy. Studying my Bible and praying filled me with comfort and hope. It gave me a sense a purpose and meaning to everything in my life. Because to me it was about all those things in that song: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. It was about being a kind person with a soft heart. It was about loving everyone equally as best you can and being understanding. To me it was about being good to people, not just other Christians but to everyone. Every damn person no matter how different they were from me. That’s what I thought Christianity was and I believed it must have been that way for everyone else.
So, when I met LGBTQ+ people I knew what I was taught, but they were people and I loved them anyway. I made sure I knew what pronouns to use with my first nonbinary friend and I didn’t forget them. I read and listened to Black Lives Matter. I wrote a paper about protecting transgender individuals. I tried to understand other people’s religions. I lived out what I believed Christianity was supposed to be. And not without fault. I don’t say this to be self righteous because all of these are the bare minimum of how humans should treat each other. I still had that unknowingly hurtful need to say “well, I don’t agree but…” to my LGBTQ+ friends. I still overstepped and used a lot of the same language that has hurt people. The biggest one would be “that’s not real Christianity” whenever anyone voiced their issues and trauma with my religion. As “progressive” as I might have seemed to the conservatives around me, I was still very much blind.
That blindness wasn’t something I begin to shed until I questioned my beliefs about the LGBTQ+ community and eventually realized I was part of it. A lot of non-religious people would make comments about me not acting like a lot of Christians. I always shrugged it off. I always thought it was just because the people they came in contact with must not have showed them the “heart of TRUE Christianity.” But the thing is, the idea of “true” Christianity is absolutely meaningless when all anyone ever experiences is the bigoted, suppressive traditions and weaponized beliefs Christianity is and has been for a long time. Who am I to proclaim what “true Christianity” is? How I feel does not erase the truth.
Christianity is not the teaching of Jesus about love that I so staunchly held on to and preached. Christianity is the organization which has suppressed women and queer people. Christianity is the organization which has hurt those with neurodivergence and mental illness. Christianity is the organization which has fostered white supremacy and racism. Christianity has the sins of colonialism to answer for. Christianity has the blood of LGBTQ+, women, and people of color on its hands.
So many times I would look at cruel people who called themselves Christians and would feel confused. I would say “how can anyone know Christ, and have so much hate in their heart?” I was so close to getting the point. But I always missed it with my blind trust in Christianity. Christianity has not been about Jesus or those fruits of the spirit for an extremely long time. It’s about power. A tool in the hand of white people. A tool in the hands of men. A tool to make anyone feel superior and excuse their bigotry and hatred on the grounds of false morality.
It has taken me over a year to fully come to terms with this.
I tend to think of myself as spiritual more than religious these days. I still believe there is a God out there, that comfort and hope I felt during my darkest times still means something to me. But I no longer feel comfortable with the title of “Christian.” Not with all it stands for anymore. Not when Christianity as an organized religion has hurt, and continues to hurt, so many people. It took me a long time to realize the things I believe and stand for are not a reflection of some “true Christianity.”
Even for someone who believed in it, Christianity has hurt me. There are many ways I am still healing from it. My personal faith and spirituality saved me. But Christianity almost destroyed me. Learning that distinction has taken an overwhelming amount of work and time.
And I’m not saying all Christians are horrid, bigoted people who are only in it for power and a feeling of superiority. But I think when it comes to this, saying “not all Christians” is about the same as saying “not all men” or “not all white people.” It’s enough of a problem within the whole it’s irrelevant and not the point to waste time excusing the few. There’s a responsibility everyone within the system needs to take in recognizing the oppression it’s been built upon.
Maybe this post is me doing my best to do my part. As I’ve distanced myself from Christianity I still feel a sense of responsibility.
I still believe in this idea of love, of earnestly seeking to be good to people, to take care of people. I want to be the things I read about Jesus instructing that inspired so much as a teen. But I don’t believe Christianity is the be all to end all. I know it isn’t the one true religious teaching for being kind and good. I’m still figuring out what I believe, in all honesty.
Letting go of my obligation and blindness towards Christianity is a first step into freedom.