There’s an interesting conversation developing around the Internet today about what the word “Christian” means. On Salon.com, there’s an article called “Where are the normal Christians?“ A similar sentiment (“When did ‘Christian become a synonym for ‘Conservative Evangelical?‘”) is referenced at the New Republic. And in a comment thread on Facebook, I read these words from Lisa Brown. I instantly thought they deserved more attention than they would get on that particular forum. So, with Lisa’s permission (and a deep bow to Sojourner Truth), here is Lisa’s statement of poetic outrage about who gets called “Christian” today:
It gets really tedious to see the perception again and again that anyone who is a Christian is a jelly-brained amoeba.
I am Episcopalian. I believe in Darwinism and scientific theory. I believe the dinosaurs were one of the successive phases of the evolution of our world. I believe that creation as told in the bible is symbolic, reflecting the general evolution of life from primordial muck to self-aware human beings over distinct phases (those phases not being measured in days – seven days being a symbolic expression).
I am an Episcopalian because it is a very democratically governed denomination that seeks the input and approval of its laity rather than simply issuing edicts from a central authority.
I am Episcopalian because the denomination allows and accepts a diversity of belief. It’s a big umbrella under which we all fit.
I am Episcopalian because nothing I hear at church makes me feel hypocritical – I can use birth control and if divorced I would still be accepted with full grace. If I were in a homosexual relationship I would be accepted with full grace – and my partner would be welcome.
I also believe that all those truly good, spiritual and faithful people who adhere to other beliefs are eminently entitled to worship as they see fit because I believe God has many faces and that the truth of God is too big for any one of us to comprehend in it’s entirety. I believe in yoga as a spiritual practice. I believe in the holy wisdom of the Dalai Lama. I believe in the goodness and truth in Harry Potter. I believe that people who abuse children, fly planes into buildings and murder health care providers in the name of God have taken a wrong turn on their faith journey and need to turn the bus around.
And here’s the kicker: I’M NOT ALONE. There are a whole crew of thoughtful Episcopalians (and no doubt other Christian and non-Christian denominations) who are not interested in judging and faulting our neighbors, or in converting them to our particular definition of faith, but rather in making the world a better place. Help solve social injustice. Feed house and clothe the needy. Educate (not indoctrinate) and provide economic opportunity for those who have limited access to it. Preserve nature, protect the environment. All the good stuff.
If you walk in my church tomorrow, can you find some one who might be snobbish or mean or judgmental? Sure. But that’s not the doctrine we preach or who we aspire to be. And I just want to pound my head against a brick wall when I see the stereotype of a bigoted, hateful church-going hypocrite held out as the definition of a Christian. I’m not saying they don’t exist – there are plenty of people who frighteningly and sadly live up to (and probably exceed) the stereotype. But there are a lot of us who don’t.
Lisa Brown is the Director of Children’s Ministry and Communications Coordinator at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon Pennsylvania.
To her words, I add: “Amen!”