What I think when you say I haven’t really met Jesus

buddy-christ

Jesus approves of this post.

So I get it. You disagree with me about whether I’m a “true” Christian. All my philosophical views and liberal theology rub you the wrong way. I haven’t checked off all the right boxes on your list (infallibility of Scripture, Creationism, so-called “traditional” marriage, etc.). Thus, because I don’t fit inside your concept of what it is to be a Christian, I must never have had a “real” encounter with Jesus. It is then your God-given duty to come down from off your lofty perch to preach the good news of Jesus to me, an apparent godless heathen in disguise.

I’m going to have to stop you right there.

First off, it’s not as though I haven’t heard the gospel a million times. I’m sure atheists in Christian communities feel much the same as I do. Do you suppose that by preaching it to me over and over, one day I’ll break down and agree with you? Why, that sounds like Nazi-esque propaganda. Conservatives must be like Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister.

Not really. I just wanted you to see how it felt.

Secondly, I actually believe in the gospel! But you keep using that word “gospel”… I don’t think it means what you think it means. The gospel means “good news.” Let me try this: good news! God loves you! He only requires that you subscribe to a questionable series of beliefs contrary to all reason and evidence, or else you’ll burn in the most painful fire imaginable for all eternity. Just have faith. Did I mention that if you don’t believe this stuff, you’ll go to Hell?

That isn’t good news.

The good news, as I understand what Jesus seems to have been teaching and what is apparent from observing the world around me, is that salvation is for all. All people can enter the Kingdom. It’s not about being the chosen people or having all the right beliefs. It’s about pursuing goodness with all your heart. It’s about loving others. There’s a lot more to it, but you can read more in other posts.

Thirdly, do you have any idea how condescending you are? Who are you to tell me which of my experiences are “real” and which aren’t? I was in every sense a bona fide evangelical Christian, even perhaps the poster boy for evangelicalism. That I no longer believe that way is not at all a detractor from whether or not my experience was genuine, so how dare you tell me I haven’t really met Jesus the way you think I should. I went through that phase, but, unlike you, I realized that it was corrupt and empty. Your arrogance is so profound that oftentimes you can’t even realize your arrogance when someone points it out to you. “I’m just preaching God’s Word,” you say confidently. Hogwash; you’re using the Bible as an excuse to mistreat me while keeping your own moral conscience clean.

What’s more, you look willfully ignorant. You take pride in not having learned more, and you bizarrely condescend to my increased knowledge which led me away from your beliefs, as though learning were somehow a bad thing. Maybe — JUST MAYBE — if learning new things is inherently destructive to your beliefs, it’s because YOUR BELIEFS ARE WRONG.

Sigh.

I’ll grant that everyone needs critics, but there are good and bad forms of criticism. Criticism which uses evidence and solid argumentation to demonstrate the problems with a particular viewpoint is great. Even if you’re a staunch literal 6-day Creationist, I will at least engage in a bit of discussion, though you and I may disagree about what we actually need to discuss in such a case. By contrast, if you come on here and just start preaching doom to me if I don’t repent, let me introduce you to CTRL-W (protip: it closes the browser tab). I don’t want to hear it, I won’t engage with it, and I will probably make fun of you like I’m doing in this post right now.

It might seem mean-spirited to be so dismissive. Well you know what, when you’ve put up with a whole lot of spiritual bullshit, and when you’ve been hurt in profound ways by people who don’t so much hold as wield their beliefs, then a bit of dismissive humor really takes the edge off the pain you feel when others say hurtful things. It’s a good coping strategy that helps me avoid internalizing all the guilt people try to throw on me. And when you’re out here discussing controversial issues as often as I am, people try to throw on a LOT of guilt. So excuse me while I cease caring about your opinion and fawning over your approval.

I know I’m writing in the second person a lot in this post, blaming “you” for this and that. Trust me, even though “you,” the reader, likely aren’t the person I’m talking about (you very well might be, though), it feels so much better to blame “you” than try to concoct strange sentences using gender neutral language which might describe in theory what’s going on. That’s because when I blame “you,” it’s personal. And if you are in that group of people I’m criticizing, I want you to feel my finger pointing out of the monitor at your face. When you insult me by trying to cast doubt on whether I’m really a Christian or whether I ever had the sort of experiences you’re describing, it’s personal, and I want you to feel that — not because I’m spiteful but because you need to feel it. You need to see that what you do hurts.

So that’s more or less how I feel when you say I need Jesus. I think you’re an arrogant jerk with no idea what you’re saying. If you want to have a discussion, please be my guest, but if you just want to condescend and tell me who I really am and what I’ve really experienced, then the door is right over there.

This is how I’ll feel if you tell me that I didn’t cite the Bible in this post and therefore have no valid point:

BrainIsFullOf

About Chris Attaway

Chris Attaway is a Christian philosopher seeking to refine the way we live through reasoning and reflection. Be sure to follow his blog, The Discerning Christian, for challenging articles which offer new perspectives on old problems.
This entry was posted in Christian Culture Issues, Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

91 Responses to What I think when you say I haven’t really met Jesus

  1. rbrtkrt says:

    Reblogged this on Second Journeys and commented:
    This isn’t my blog, but it could have been. The words resonate so profoundly with me it’s almost scary. So many good points in this one. Please read. My next post will be up shortly.

  2. Dakota Hoskins says:

    As a budding Progressive Christian, this article is brilliant. This is absolutely (mostly) how I feel having a very “old-fashioned” pastor as a father. I love my church family and blood-family with all my heart, and I’d do anything for them, but I know they don’t approve of my beliefs. Your words of wisdom really do take the edge off of any disapproval I receive. I want my words to encourage you, as yours have encouraged me. Please, keep doing what you’re doing. I believe God smiles at your work, because it truly reflects Him. Thanks for your love, Mr. Attaway.

  3. Michele says:

    I have run away from proclaiming myself as a Christian for fear of being in any way associated with the type you are calling on the mat here. For now I am an accepting pagan who sees Jesus as a very, very wise teacher and all gods as ONE god.
    But I feel compelled to Thank you for being out here and for making me have hope that I can someday accept that I am,in fact, a Christian.
    It is great comfort to me to see that there are others who read and interpret the word of Christ as I do.

    • I don’t necessarily agree with your views, but I am so very glad that this post helps. Despite our differences, I am glad we share in the mutual appreciation of God’s universal love.

  4. Well spoken, Chris. Part of what drove me away from the Christian faith is the rabid proselytizing… giving AND receiving. God is Love. The rest is embellishment.

    • Thank you. Regarding proselytizing, you might very much enjoy my post on the recent God’s Not Dead movie. http://wp.me/p31dyu-nS — in short, the need to view every non-Christian as needing Jesus actually cripples our ability to love them.

      • Denise Howard says:

        Do you feel like people dont need Jesus? Just wondering.

      • I do think everyone should follow Jesus’ teachings, but part of that is letting go the need to incorporate everyone into the group of people we call Christians. The Good Samaritan had all the wrong beliefs, but Jesus praised him because he had genuine goodness and loved his neighbor.

        So if you mean to ask if I think everyone needs to be able to point to a specific instance in their lives where they gave their lives to Christ, then no, I don’t think that. If you mean to ask if I believe that Christ is present in the moral framework of the universe, and by subjecting ourselves to that framework, we participate in the body of Christ, then I very much agree.

  5. Nicole Wood says:

    fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. I appreciate this post very much. I’ve walked a similar journey (poster child evangelical to progressive Christian, with a fair dose of rebuke from more conservative Christians). I’ve gone through a phase of anger and desire to yell back about the abuse. Where I’m at right now is a desire to see more healing dialogue, but I still appreciate the point you make about the need for the finger-pointers to feel the pain they cause. I don’t think that’s the final solution, but maybe it is an important step in the process. There is certainly some need for disruption of the self-congratulatory I’m-in-you’re-out narrative. I will look forward to following more of your writing.

    • Thanks. I definitely agree this is not the final step in the process. Much of the rest of my blog is dedicated more to educating people on alternative perspectives that I think we should take regarding many different Christian issues. Today’s post, though, was sort of a venting of steam and a wake-up call to people who think they can get away with condescending to others without anyone calling them on it. We need people to stop doing that so that the “healing dialogue” can occur in its place.

      • Absolutely. And for the record – I think the venting is important and valid.

        I’ll look forward to checking out the other posts. I think we need more attention to the solutions part of the current problem, and I hope your voice can generate that attention, since unfortunately it seems to be more of the rhetorical slapping that gets the most media attention.

      • Yeah, if only people got as worked up over my more philosophical posts =P

  7. Abd al mustahhiq ibn-Al Mu'mineen says:

    Chris it is very interesting to monitor your spiritual pathways as an average American. I think no matter where you go or end up as long as you do so with authenticity then nobody can blame you. I can only but stop and think how these things you are experiencing from your fellow people are conditions that are very innate in America and may not reflect the rest of the world.

    • You’re spot on there. American Christianity has an enormous number of very peculiar issues that honestly I don’t know entirely why they exist. I have heard slavery actually has a lot to do with setting the stage for our current-day theological stage, at least apart from historical criticism/liberal theology in the academy, which has largely lived an independent life from the common church.

  8. Mark Courtright says:

    I am astounded at how well you captured the feeling of many Christians who are reluctant to be identified as such because of the religious fundamentalists. Thanks for a great article.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I’ll keep at it. I hope in 20 years or so (or sooner!) there will be a time when we can call ourselves Christians again and have people understand that as something genuinely respectable, even if the other person is an atheist or Wiccan.

      • J.d. Wesley says:

        You think in 20 years, or even 200 years, the world will be friendly to the Gospel? Also, do you think human nature has substantially improved since Jesus, the best that ever walked the earth, was crucified?

  9. april w says:

    You have expressed a bit of what I’ve been feeling and probably why I haven’t been able to find a church that i enjoy going to recently. I started in the Methodist church, but ended up in a fundamentalist church which turned me off to religion so much. they were a bunch of judgmental hypocrites, each of them always banning this and that and telling us all what we are doing is wrong, yet many of them on second or third marriages and having children that got pregnant or did drugs, drank underage etc. When i left that church i went to a baptist version of the same thing. they were worse and seemingly monitored my every action and always left me feeling not good enough. All of those people were “good christians” in their own minds.
    I had to leave that last church, as it felt very cult-like to me. They were so worried about such little things and wanting to control everyone’s actions. Since then, at the first sign of that soul crushing conformity pushing behavior i run. In my mind those “Christians” ruined church for me, as i have never found a church where i have felt comfortable, where everyone is accepted and we are left to follow what our hearts tell us instead of what some leader decides. I can’t be somewhere where people are not accepted, that your own convictions are what influences your actions and not “the rules’, or where I feel like i am being forced into a “we’re better than others” mentality.
    I have a neighbor that keeps inviting me to her church and I won’t go. i don’t have the guts to tell her that her actions are what keeps me from going there. She gossips about everyone in the neighborhood, she constantly remarks about people’s race and generally makes me feel like her group is the same as the others, they like to put on their sunday best to look good to the world, but behind closed doors they don’t walk the talk.
    So, i have gotten used to people assuming i am not a christian because i don’t go to church. that’s fine, they don’t know my heart, and why i don’t go. if they can find me a place that fulfills my needs, then i’d be happy to go. still searching for that though.
    thanks for your article. and please pardon my lower case typing. my shift key is broken. ;-)

    • Isaac Bonney says:

      Try the Episcopal Church

      • Susan Henry says:

        If the Episcopalians are too dogmatic or conservative, maybe a liberal Presbyterian church. (Although my liberal Presbyterian minister friend was pushed out of a pastor position at least partly for being too liberal.) I find I am most comfortable in the Unitarian Universalist Church, it accepts people of all faiths and has quite a few former fundamentalist Christians and former Catholics as members. But then, my husband finds my Unitarian church not Christian enough for him. There is a church out there that will make you feel good about yourself, when you find it, stick with it.

    • Mike DaSilva says:

      very well said. no one knows my heart but me and the God I serve, and I have my doubts about me. I also went to several churches (catholic, Baptist,etc) and because of my blindly believing people who were older and wiser, I put myself in a group of very narrow minded people. I rarely go to church now but I still pray. not a saint,so to speak, but trying to live in a manner that expresses God’s love by my words and actions.
      “let every man work out his own salvation with fear and trembling” Phil 2:12 It’s one thing to help a man on his spiritual journey, and quite another to dictate his every step and belief. I did have a very good friend who was a baptist minister, who always said at the end of his sermons” don’t take my word on this,seek the truth yourself .I’m just giving you food for thought.” I admired that comment more than anything else he ever said.
      so. i sasid all that to say this, We are all different and we need to find our own path to God. Let Him tell you how to live. not someone else whose views are tempered by their own likes,dislikes, and sin.

  10. Kelley Farrell says:

    This is (almost) word-for-word what I tell people from my evangelical past. I always knew in my heart that the preachy, thinly- veiled-under-so-called-righteousness judgmental fingerpointing was wrong so I pulled away and decided walking the talk is more important to me than any level of church recognition. I’m always encouraged to meet others like me.

  11. Laura says:

    What’s missing in the post are the people who will talk to you like you are a dumb little sheep because you don’t believe the way they do. Always have that issue with my father in law. I hear “Oh you just have to grow in Christ” “Have a closer relationship to God” all the time. Nope I think my relationship to God is great, genuine and inquisitive. God wants us to ask questions and research matters. Just like Peter and the tomb. He did not believe blindly that Jesus’ body was gone.. he had to see it with his eyes first to believe it. We do not need to blindly follow a man/church made doctrine, but have to find answers for ourselves.

  12. kb3 says:

    I bet if you met me you would put me into the YOU category without actually asking me about my specific believes and why and they are different than yours. I probably believe some of those old fashioned ideas of Christianity you seem to dislike so much. And people like you make me feel the same way the YOU in your article make you feel. HOWEVER the reality is I would never tell you were wrong or that you had learned less than me in your life or try to imply that because I believed different you were less learned. What I would tell you is that after reading my Bible and prayer it is what I believe and that I realize there is room for doubt even with study and prayer and for that reason I won’t tell you that you are wrong, just that I believe differently. Try that approach to the YOU in your article and YOU might find some of those other Christians you are spewing hate about to not be so bad. I find it hard to believe that if you are so learned you cannot see that there has to be room for doubt in your way of believing as well. You say love in the article but the text screams hate, not compassion. This does nothing to convince me you are Christian but that has nothing to do with specific beliefs and only the way you talk to other people, easily insulting them by just grouping them into YOU without concern for how your words would affect them.

    • Anthony says:

      I got a similar feel from this post. It seemed pretty vengeful and unloving for one who is simultaneously demanding love from those same people. Like you said, I don’t think that makes this person any less of a Christian (we are all sinners obviously, me being the worst), but it just makes it hard to take the post seriously. I agree that ALL christians have trouble with being judgmental, both progressive and traditional and everything in between, but the article does seem accusatory without any compassion.
      To the author of the article: Again, I am not saying this to accuse you of being an awful person, or for being a hateful, vengeful guy. I mean, you are a sinner, like myself, but I am not trying to condemn you, especially if Christ has set you free from condemnation, like you claim He has. I do have some questions about how you reconcile some of your beliefs with the Word and the gospel, and some questions about what you believe the Gospel actually is, but only questions, not accusations.
      Anyways, I’m going to wrap up this comment. I’m just rambling at this point.
      Thank God we’re all saved by Christ, though, right? That’s all that matters to me in the end anyways.

      • caddiemurray says:

        Yep, this is what I felt after reading this, too. I understand the anger, but it seems like the blogger is just doing exactly what he accuses the “YOU” of doing. Doesn’t work.

      • How so? I take care to address specific issues and behaviors rather than dismiss people outright. If I did something wrong in this post, I apologize, but I stand by the anger which I used to write this post as justified in the face of using holy things like religious beliefs in order to shame and belittle others.

      • Christine Davies says:

        I have to admit that I don’t sense hate or vengefullness in Chris’s post. He is pretty careful to say this is how he feels when certain things happen to him, and why those things make him feel that way, and how he chooses to respond. He is also clear that he is always open for honest discussion with those who are similarly open. And finally, he makes it clear that there has been suffering as a result of some of the things he experienced during his “evangelical years.” When a person suffers it can often cause certain triggers that may make one feel ways that might not make sense to other people. I think Chris was pretty careful to explain his feelings and not just act like an angry guy.

      • sarahvligda says:

        I think this entry served multiple purposes, and if it was written for a platform other than a personal blog, Chris might have written it with a different tone. In addition to explaining his overall experiences and interactions with people of more conservative ideologies that condemn his beliefs, it seems like he also is expressing the frustration and anger at being belittled and patronized (of which I can closely relate). I see it as articulating his emotional response, which is appropriate and healthy – Jesus got pissed off too. I don’t doubt that Chris could write a very similar entry with the tone of increasing vulnerability and creating a safe space for an open discussion with people of different viewpoints if that was the goal – but discharging his frustrations probably wouldn’t be one of the main purposes of that alternate entry.

      • This response is spot on with my son’s and motivations. A recent incident just really touched a nerve, so I wrote this to explain my feelings.

      • Denise Howard says:

        Totally agree Anthony. Nobody is perfect. And that is why we need a Saviour.

    • Alex Recalde says:

      I agree. the concern for many of the people in the YOU catagory, is that they do not want to see someone fall out of Christian norms because that person is tired of running the race and have built up excuses for themselves and started allowing improper practice. I COMPLETLY agree there are waaaaay to many jerks who call themselves Christians and act the way portrayed in the article, but that does not mean that you should simply disgard the warnings that some of the genuine christians try to issue. Sin is insidious in nature and will do anything to separate you from your Beloved. Don’t be so quick to freak out.

      • Well see, you’re kind of doing the thing I criticize right here: you’re justifying why some of us stopped believing and practicing as you do. We must be “tired of running the race” and just trying to excuse ourselves. In fact, the reason I left my former way of belief is because I saw that it was corrupt. You can scroll back through my posts and read a bit more about why I believe as I believe. My current beliefs are hardly excuses.

    • Denise Howard says:

      Agreed. Totally agree.

    • I only have a serious issue with you if you mistreat people by doing some of the behaviors mentioned in this article. If you and I disagree on a particular issue, we may have some tension, but I’m not going to be dismissive on the same way as I am here. Belief is related to the issue at hand only by way of how it often is a primary contributing factor to the behaviors which are damaging to me and many others.

    • I would love to have those sorts of more-conservative Christians in my life. I have yet to meet them but it gives me hope that they may exist. I don’t read hate in this blog, I read hurt and frustration and genuine sorrow at being cut off from those in the body of our faith that we simply don’t agree with on every little detail. I can also say that “after reading my Bible and prayer it is what I believe” and time and again, I get the response that I am just not reading it right, that I am “questioning” God, etc. I would only ask that you would encourage others like you to allow the space that you seem to give to people like me.

    • The best man whom I selected for my wedding is a very conservative Christian, but I have immense respect for him. It is when people begin to condescend to me and try to cast doubt on whether my experiences were real that I have the complaints outlined in the article.

  13. Sarah says:

    This post makes my heart happy. I have been thirsting lately, not to ‘disprove’ what I was taught growing up (in an amazingly open-minded, United Methodist, Midwestern family) but understand WHY I was taught it. Christ taught us to LOVE. Pretty simple. All the rest is ‘religion’ which I’m striving to separate myself from. Thank you for voicing this matter!! Liberal Christ Followers UNITE! ❤️

    • I’m very encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response to this article! I hope to continue writing well on into the future, in no small part because people like you let me know that this is something worth doing.

  14. I know that feel bro….
    I go through cycles where I just troll Christian right folks, because they seem to love trolling me and my views. Because they equate their every action as sanctioned by God, and no matter how hateful, call it love. And when you call them on it they cry persecution. I avoided the church for decades because of that mentality.

    • Christine Davies says:

      John, I would encourage you to seek out a progressive church where you feel warmth and understanding, and quit trolling the right-sites. Sounds to me like you are getting a lot of negative feedback from the very imperfect body of Christ. You might find more happiness getting positive feedback from others who have made the journey to open acceptance of different viewpoints. I prefer to let light into my life, not darkness.

    • I’m with you on the frustrations. I don’t know if trolling people in Internet comments is healthy for you, though.

  15. Andrew Milligan says:

    16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

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  17. Mark Snyder says:

    I typically enjoy your posts, and I definitely know that feeling, but please don’t be guilty of the same behavior in return. I find that many of my “Progressive” Christian friends tend to also take on a superior “holier than thou” attitude towards those of a more evangelical bent. Ya’ might check your missive for that too. Bearding the Lion is not the same thing as walking the talk.

    • Not trying to be holier than thou. I’m just very angry from time to time when something like this happens, so this article exists to vent my frustration and call out damaging behavior.

  18. BrittAny says:

    Reblogged this on If I'm being honest….

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  20. What I love about you Chris is not
    Only that I agree with you but you speak with such passion! You don’t preach you talk with a passion and I enjoy your blog! Thank you for making feel like I am not alone with how I feel :)
    Andrea

  21. Christine Davies says:

    I want to thank you for your sound words. I grew up in a progressive home with a Methodist minister father, so I don’t have the same experiences as many who move away from Christianity because of the damage caused by Evangelicals. However, I did my time with a very Evangelical college group (not all bad by any means – some dear and very loved friends from that era). My veiws have always been much on the fringe of what my friends would accept as acceptable, but they were kind-hearted people who didn’t judge me. Over the years my views have solidified and moved further from the traditional Christian teachings you described in your opening paragraphs. Even in my mainstream Protestant upbringing, there was the central understanding that to receive eternal life one had to “accept Jesus into your life” and all others were destined to hell, even if it wasn’t really shoved down our throats. I am very confident in my faith, but there are times that I wonder if I am not actually taking the easy “humanist” road that so many Evangelicals accuse progressive Christians of taking. I love your blog and several others that daily encourage me not to doubt what is in my heart. I guess it takes a long time to shake off the gentle remnants of what I was taught in Sunday School, maybe more so since I have never felt that I needed to violently overthrow any sort of negative thinking and upbringing. Thanks for speaking up.

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  23. Karen W says:

    My husband and I are both ordained ministers in a very liberal church. That said the congregation we have attended are just what you described. Very very judge mental, self serving and almost inscestuous. If you’re not “in the family” you are totally left out. No visits, no invitation. No nothing! We started a foundation with a loaves and fishes free lunch program for “all” no judgment! If you van afford a donation that is great, but we don’t check. We want to give our guest the feeling they are meeting Jesus in us. We are looking to for name “church” but not call it that. Most of our guests have been there too, we want a place where all can cone and share their testimony not be preached to. Thank you so much for this blog. We need more of us showing what Jesus is, not talked about. We, and it seems like you, walk the walk! Keep up the good work!!

  24. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James’ Ramblings.

  25. Denise Howard says:

    Wow, if readers can’t see hatefulness in this article, I don’t know what to say. And I have been through these experiences. I was raised in a very legalistic fundamental home. Ok, I don’t agree with how my parents raised us, nor do I agree with some of the fear tactics our denomination had. But I respect their hearts and their motives. I still believe in the same God that they worshipped and I have changed some of my ways but never sacrificed my integrity to complain or make someone else feel bad.

    • It’s not hate; it’s anger, and there is an important difference. If I hate you, I want the worst for you. I want to see you destroyed. If I am angry with you but I love you, I want the best for you, but that doesn’t mean I am going to give you a free pass to do or say whatever you want. There is a fine line whenever wanting the best for someone also requires destroying something to build something else, but I attempt to walk that line, seeking the destruction of abusive viewpoints so that people may be able to love each other genuinely.

      • Good article, Chris! And good clarification just above, and in other places in response to various comments. I completely get your distinction re. hate and anger. I happen to read the article as expressing anger and frustration but I don’t hear hate. I think those who do are either defining it differently than you are, or else may be projecting that attitude into what you say. And, btw, I WOULD say that hate is an attitude, and thus something at least partially chosen… not entirely “automatic”. Anger is more pure feeling (technically secondary to the root feelings of hurt and fear)… as expressed in the passage “be angry yet do not sin…”
        No pure feeling, nor the non-violent, non-condemning, non-insulting (etc.) expression of it, is “sin”. However, anger CAN very quickly turn to an attitude or posture of hatred or to various improper behaviors…. It takes insight and skills that not many people possess to be able to express anger in a “Golden rule” or “righteous” kind of way, and I feel you were able to accomplish it pretty well here.

  26. robbie says:

    What? You ALWAYS need Jesus. Im a Christian God Bless

  27. Greg says:

    I’m athiest. I won’t get into the why’s and what’s about it, but I’ll say this: I respect your beliefs. Nobody has the right to tell you how to live your life or what/who to believe in. In my heretic athiest way of life, I have one commandment; treat people properly.

    Anyways, I enjoyed reading this article. I can tell you put a lot of time into it and you have my respect for that. :)

  28. J R says:

    I believe everyone has a personal experience with Jesus when they put their fairh in Him. I don’t beleieve everyone’s experience is not the same either.

    God operates differently and interacts differently with everybody.

    Jesus defined Himself as the Way The Truth and The Life. He has given us His Spirit that leads us into all truth…

    God has clearly defined Who He is in His Word. But I believe the parameters of how He operates with everyone is wide open.

    Your article is so negative. However, it only emphasizes the point LOUDLY we need Jesus! All of us are mere broken reflections of Him. I hope you don’t lose sight God works in everyone! He uses the most broken people to the most put together of us…

    • The negativity is there for a reason, though, and while you haven’t been overtly condescending, I am not sure you’re aware of the broader conversation which is the source of my frustration here. I am a liberal Christian in the sense that I believe the Bible is a human book, that we should interpret it at least heavily through historical criticism, and that we can discern morals through reasoning and empiricism, not just through revelation.

      When I tell that to people, they sometimes want to say I haven’t really experienced Jesus the way they think I should, but the fact is that I did: I was an evangelical, I “gave my life to Christ,” and said, did, and believed all the right things. I now reject that time of my life, and it’s no one’s place to tell me that my experience wasn’t genuine. I have very strong reasons for rejecting that belief system, and it is incredibly insulting and hurtful when people write off my experiences and the changes in my beliefs.

      If you want to get more acquainted with my beliefs and the reasons I have which support those beliefs, I would recommend flipping back through my prior posts.

      • Chris, I completely get your point and have journeyed a very similar path, with some of the same experiences you’re referring to. Not a lot of them directly “toward” me because of various circumstances, but I’ve certainly heard the things you refer to expressed plenty through the years I spent as an Evangelical (about 27 adult years).
        Also, having studied the Bible and theology heavily, as both an Evangelical and a Progressive, it fits in the Evangelical system (and similarly in other conservative ones, Catholic and Protestant) that one will tend to come to question his/her own experiences of God or those of others when beliefs are no longer lining up with especially the “central” or “fundamental” ones such as the deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement, physical resurrection, etc. Along with that is questioning or denial of being “Christian”… again, either oneself or others.
        Like you, and a growing number of former Evangelicals, I still seek to better understand and follow Jesus, but have left the Evangelical fold due to now understanding its “Gospel” as a humanly-constructed theological system which does not cohere and is largely patchwork, from strains of biblical thought that cannot always be consistently combined or harmonized. How the theology was developed CAN largely be traced and “deconstructed” (though a complex and never-complete task), and I do some of that on my own blog at http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com.
        But neither you nor I nor many others stop at deconstructing…. We are intent on REconstructing what is more true-to-God-and-reality, with the Bible being one key resource in doing that. We realize, for ourselves, and for those we interact with, that we need and can properly have deep trust in the graciousness of God; and that communities of faith for expression, exploration and support are vital for most people.

  29. twelden says:

    God bless you…..you took the words right outta my mouth.

  30. Gavin says:

    Well put. I have heaps of friends who have given up their faith because of what you talked about. I still like to see myself as a born again Christian despite having a mixture of Marxist, Anarchist and new age mystical philosophy. I was brought up in a fundamentalist family who belonged to the “British Israel Society” which believes that Adam and Eve were the first white people and God had already created the black people (“beasts of the earth”) and the Asians (“beasts of the field”) so God told us white people to “have dominion over them”!! I have recovered from that spiritual abuse (mostly). Thus I was a Creationist before I was born again, but the I was filled with the spirit and became a Darwinism. {as opposed to a Social Darwinism like those bigots I escaped from!} I believe that Jesus was really God in disguise challenging us to let go of any legalism and self righteousness and have the humility that reconciliation with God does not come from being good people or belonging to any particular group but in accepting His supremely radical grace. And that this universe emanates from Him/Her through Jesus the cosmic word of life – the alpha and omega – through whom we are all saved if we have the humility to accept the “simplicity that confounds the wise”.

  31. john Eckhart says:

    This is spot on, brother. I cannot say that I loved it because truthfully I hate this conflict. I have suffered in this for most of my life. I was a born again Christian at 13 years old and I was homeless living on my own at 15. Jesus, was my constant companion, my *savior* in the truest sense of the word. You would not have known that by the way I was treated by most of the “Christians” that I knew, they treated me like I was something they’d scraped off of their shoe. I tried to do what they said and even for a time I became like them but they would never let me in. I was always on the outside of whatever side I was on.
    For a long time I stopped calling myself a Christian and referred to myself as a “believer” to try and distance myself from the contempt that I felt. Jesus lead me to do relief work in Africa with the orphan children there. the first time I heard them sing praises, it was like coming-out of a cold dark night and warming up by a fire. their praise was joyful and jubilant, they even danced. those Orphan children praised Jesus with all their might. the worship in the U.S. is very different. it is for the most part pensive. Since then , I have given myself to working for the less fortunate, to being Christ-like. I am back to wearing the name Christian although now I find a great deal of contempt coming from the rest of the world. in this world of political correct-ness, it is perfectly ok to slam Christians, but the poor behavior of some is not indicative of the whole.
    The problem that you are addressing here has gone on since biblical times. Romans chapter two: 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Now I find myself caught between the contempt of those who drove me from the church and the contempt of those out side of it who are completely sick of the hateful way these people behave.
    We have our modern day Pharisees. they love to take scriptures out of context and wield them like a weapon, passages like those found in the first chapter of Romans, yet ignoring Pauls point, “therefore you are without excuse whoever you are who judge”
    So what is the answer here? the question that has been hanging in the air is “who is a real Christian?” Matthew 12:49And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50″For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

  32. I was once told by an Episcopal deacon who supported gay folke that she feared being thrown out of her church(this is before the Episcopalians got guts on the issues) and I told her to rejoice if they do becuase they threw Jesus out a long long time ago and she would be in very good company! Evil uses the appearance of righteousness very effectively so when these folkes condemn you be confirmed in your faith!

    • While I agree with you here, you have to be really careful with this sort of reasoning! Sometimes when people kick you out, it’s because you’re actually a jerk, not because you’re being persecuted for your beliefs. Definitely don’t think that about the Episcopal deacon, but still, you get my point, I hope.

      Thanks for the encouraging words =)

  33. humanistfox says:

    Reblogged this on Humanist Fox and commented:
    As someone who transitioned from fundamentalist Christianity to liberal Christianity to humanism, I can relate. It’s infuriating when someone insists that your entire history–and your sincerity–should be completely disregarded.

  34. Stella says:

    I too was exposed to much abuse and scare tactics in fundamental churches growing up. The damage they caused took an incredible toll. At the ripe age of 41, I finally walked away from fundamental Christianity. It is more than okay to call out abuse and abusive tactics and let people who use them know they no longer can. It’s called ending an abusive cycle and it’s okay to express anger over something that has caused lasting damage in our precious lives. It’s not okay on any level to throw shame grenades in the face of those that Jesus loves and basically tell them he sent it in love, so they would repent. That is so sick and twisted! Thank you for voicing this with such courage. Bless you!

  35. Erik C. Bach says:

    Thanks for sharing. I enjoy discussions about faith, apologetics, theology. It is challenging and part of seeking God’s truth. I understand and respect if not agree with those different perspectives.
    But this blog isn’t about any of that. Modestly subtitled “The Thoughts and Reflections of Chris Attaway” It is all about him. Instead of respecting different perspectives, he tells how those perspectives have “hurt” him before descending into name calling, including calling others Nazis, “…beliefs contrary to all reason and evidence.” Really!?! Chris, you are miss-educated or uneducated my man. Try spending some time with the thoughts and reflections of G. K. Chesterton, John Calvin, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, or even Benedict XVI and the Bible itself.
    Mr. Attaway seems one of those “don’t label me” people who seems to be seeking to make language meaningless: example: “I AM a Yankees fan. But I don’t care if the Red Sox beat the Yankees or if NY ever wins another game let alone another championship. But DON’T YOU DARE say I am not a good enough Yankees fan!” Well, yeah Chris. I will say that. Labels are words and words mean things. I would like to ask him, since he says he is a Christian, what is it that attracts him to Christ and on what evidence does he base that belief?
    Did I hurt you feelings, Chris? O poor baby! Grow up. One could describe this guy as a self-pitying narcissist or a Unitarian, but I nominate him for B.D.I.U.

    • Let me suggest a few things.

      First of all, read for comprehension. I think it is fairly obvious that I am not actually comparing conservatives to Nazis, given by the “Not really. I just wanted you to see how it felt.” which comes immediately after my (facetious) comparison. You will also notice that I link to an article which uses the same comparison in a non-facetious manner, only it is about liberals.

      Second, I get that labels have meanings, but you are not the only one who gets to say what those words mean. I do not subscribe to the very narrow view of Christianity which seems to characterize your views, though honestly I don’t know what exactly you believe. Given your assorted list of choice reading, my best guess would be either part of the neo-Reformed movement or maybe a conservative American Catholic.

      Christianity for me means inclusivism and acceptance of diverse opinions. Go back a few posts and read my contemporary rendering of the Good Samaritan, because it is right on point with the original story. If the story makes you upset, the original story would also have made people similarly upset, because Samaritans were outcasts with the wrong beliefs. For the Samaritan to be a child of God would be horrendously offensive to the people of Jesus’ time.

      The one opinion which I cannot accept and will not share on my blog, however, is exclusivism, because it is anathema to what I see Christ teaching about how we should love one another. It is simply impossible to be tolerant of exclusivism as an inclusivist, as it would lead to a nonsensical contradiction; it’s like asking God to make a hot dog so hot that he can’t eat it.

      If I could recommend any reading to you, it would be Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Alisdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, and, if you want a bizarre read, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. Those three books are enormously influential on what I write, with the Bible as an obvious fourth influence. A smattering of other philosophical texts, both Christian and non-Christian, are also good.

      I would close by suggesting that maybe the problem I’m having here is about more than a disagreement over ideas. It’s about real harm done to me and to others in real life. And when someone like you tells me to “grow up” because words hurt me, then I will suggest that you endure month after month of people denigrating you, sending you hateful messages, having you sit down for condescending discussions, and so forth. See how you feel when your friends and loved ones walk away because of a disagreement over ideas. “Grow up” you say — I suggest that, instead, you grow up and realize that people hurt. The large swathe of sympathetic, hurting people in the comments above testify to your childish ignorance and total lack of empathy to our pain.

      I approve your comment hesitantly. If you wish to discuss issues, then that’s fine. Another condescending comment like this, and I will not approve further comments. But I do hope you will return and that we can have good, perhaps hard, conversation. I very much enjoy that.

      • Chris, I’m glad you let the comment from Erik through… serves to illustrate some of your points well. And it prompted you to make the point that I have been making myself periodically, which seems to somehow escape people who complain about “intolerance” toward intolerance. You are completely right (extrapolating from your exact terminology) that it is the one thing a tolerant position cannot incorporate, lest it negate itself… The logic is actually tighter and more to the point as you put it, using “exclusivism” and “inclusivism”: “… It is simply impossible to be tolerant of exclusivism as an inclusivist, as it would lead to a nonsensical contradiction; it’s like asking God to make a hot dog so hot that he can’t eat it.”

      • Mike DaSilva says:

        Chris, I don’t think your reply was actually meant for me. I do agree with you on many points because christianity is supposed to be all inclusive. I understand the story of the good samaritan quite well and have been put into the situation to help those in need, who held a view I didn’t share. I did help them and will continue to do so.As to my beliefs, I no longer put a label on them. tthough raised catholic, I left that behind about 40 years ago, went to a couple of baptist churchs and became quite involved in charitable work. I no longer attend a church for a variety of reasons including the hypocracy. I prefer to identify myself only as a follower of the principles that Jesus taught,mainly to love one another as He has loved us.
        Your comments/blog are very much appreciated. please keep up this good work to educate or enlighten those who have been disillusioned by narrow minded church members. “Love them all, and let God sort it out later. thanks again. Mike

  36. Carl the Correct Christian says:

    But, But … you’re going to hell !!

    You simply can’t argue with that. It’s not MY belief, it’s just GOD.

    • “You’re going to hell !!”

      Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarl, that kills people!

      • Carl the Correct Christian says:

        But Holy God directed the killing of all kinds of people in the OT. You question God? And just look at Revelation — all those people into the fire. I’m so glad I have the correct belief system and sound theology so I can live forever in heaven, finally separated from the evil God-haters who are headed straight into the eternal fires of HELL.

  37. Peter says:

    A FB acquaintance pointed to this post and asked for an opinion. This is the only post (with its comments) that I have read this morning – and I’m commenting before reading Chris’s follow up.
    I’m a 78 year old Brit who walked away from a traditional Anglican church (after being treasurer for 8 years) more than 40 years ago and later spent some 20 years as a member of a Sabbath-keeping church before being forced to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught.
    It was in 2003 that I really became involved with the emergent /emerging / house church movements both in America and the UK. Instead of writing book I have been developing my blog (that started as a web site 14 years ago).
    I can relate to almost everything that Chris has been saying here. I consider myself to be an uneducated believer who has had no formal education after the age of 17 but who started questioning the Christian RELIGION when I rejected the teaching of the trinity when I was 13 – 65 years ago.

  38. Pingback: Thank you for not burning me at the stake | The Discerning Christian

  39. DogTags says:

    This comment’s content has been removed by the moderator for failing to meet the comment policy (unsubstantiated claims).

    • Just wanted to inform you that I have removed your post per the comment policy. Pure assertion does not deserve counter-argumentation.

    • DogTags says:

      Just exactly what claim was “unsubstantiated?” That you were using shame to make people feel bad that they were saying you weren’t a Christian or that you are opposed to shame? My point was 1) to show you that it is incongruous to tell people that using shame is bad, yet use shame to tell people that they are bad. It was a constructive criticism, to help you, perhaps, revise your argument. You can make your point in this article without pointing your finger through the monitor. 2) that salvation is not found in pursuing goodness or in loving people. Pursuing goodness and loving people come after receiving salvation. Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone. There is no other name by which men can be saved.

      Please ignore my other knee-jerk reaction post, as I cannot delete it or edit it. Thanks.

      • I deleted your other post per your request.

        It’s hard to say what was unsubstantiated since the content is gone; however, I do believe that you had a long section on what salvation really means, but you had nothing to back up your claims. Things like that tend to eat up large amounts of time, because there is no basis for discussion; there is only one person’s assertions against another’s.

        So I half-agree that “salvation is by Jesus Christ alone.” I disagree on what that means. The view you have taken is that salvation through Christ means propositional assent to some of the major tenets of Christian belief, perhaps coupled with a “giving your life to Christ” moment.

        I take the view that Christ means a lot more than being a Christian. In fact, if you look at my posts like the one about the Good Samaritan, you will find that I believe that salvation extends well beyond the walls of Christian belief.

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