I'm a Christian

Here’s one fact that never fails to bring shock, surprise, confusion, or mild disdain into my conversations: I’m an active congregant of a Christian fellowship, and I do my best to follow Jesus. What’s more, I’m actually on the church board. I suppose the emotions this fact elicits stem from the understanding people have of me as a queer person of color who seems, at least to some degree, level-headed.

How did you become a Christian?

As an infant, I was baptized in the Dutch Catholic Church. At home, there was little interest in dogma, but I would say I grew up culturally Catholic: Church on Christmas and maybe Easter, children’s prayers before bed, general lean towards feelings of guilt, on occasion a traumatized uncle would let rip on his time as an orphan living with the friars. The usual stuff.

What kind of a Christian are you?

Today, I would refer to myself using the following labels:

  • Non-literal and non-dogmatic: I take the Bible too seriously to take it literally, and instead apply different reading techniques to find something new in it, again and again
  • Orthoprax and profoundly subversive: I find great inspiration in the work of Robin Meyers, who reminds me in all sorts of ways to walk the talk
  • In the world and of the world: I’m not a Christian because I believe this world is not my final resting place; instead I try to root in my spiritual practice the knowledge that how I practice my faith is most important for the here and now

But what about…

I’m fortunate to be in a church that looks Christianity straight in the ugly face. I think it’s important to practice hurt acknowledgement1. I acknowledge the major harm the Christian tradition has caused. I’m comfortable saying Christianity is one of the worst developments in human history from at least the reign of Constantine the Great onwards.

The spiritual, socio-geographical, psychological, physical, sexual, political and other forms of violent acts committed in the name of Jesus span centuries, generations, continents. A part of Christianity’s skillset is to discriminate, reject, destroy, exclude, minimize, abuse. People of color everywhere, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Jews, children, and countless others know this all too well.

Some people tell me that, because I have familiarity with much of this, I should outright reject the Church. But here I am. I believe very strongly that I, too, can own the stories of Jesus. They don’t belong to the people who seek to continue to benefit from that skillset. I think the Church can be a place where people heal from the very atrocities committed in the name of Jesus. I believe they can heal with the stories and memory of Jesus, not despite him.

How I practice

As I mentioned above, praxis is the most important thing in my faith life. That doesn’t mean I dutifully adhere to the 613 commandments introduced in the Tanakh. Instead, I constantly seek ways to be subversive for the cause of love of God and neighbor. Here are some things that help me with this:

  • I’m interested in Ignatian discernment, which I see as a way of understand what does contribute to that cause in any circumstance. It involves becoming very still, and learning to listen intently.
  • To remind myself of what I find important, I try to show up for prayer and reading every day. One of our priests likes to say she “prays her way into the day”, and I like that, too. Showing up for the text is a humbling experience that takes me out of the day-to-day stresses of life for a bit.

Footnotes


  1. I borrow this term from the concept of land acknowledgement↩︎

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