For many years, I was led to believe that there was only one way of being Christian. This way would focus on specific issues like abortion, who is allowed to get married, who isn’t allowed to have sex, and who will be granted eternity in heaven.
As time went on, I realized I never really identified with this flavor of Christianity. It was too bitter: condemning anyone who didn’t fit into their moral code. It reflected a sour that first appears as sweet. People invited you to their church which held certain strong perspectives – some bragging about being baptized or born again. All wanting you to join and change the way you are living.
Very little of the greatest commandment was discussed in these churches. Sure, there was a lot of implicit “love God” as they spoke of their devotion to Jesus. But loving neighbor was the null. It was hidden from their theology. In some cases, it had been discretely removed from the church altogether. Needless to say, hypocrisy was a dominant force in turning me away from the Church during my twenties.
For me, I needed to worship in a place who would accept my views – even if people didn’t have the same perspectives. I needed a church which valued my individuality and, at the same time, encouraged us to be in covenant with one another even in our differences.
Hypocrisy and negativity may have challenged me to switch churches and even denominations in my early 30’s. I could no longer fit my square self into the round hole my church had become. While shame raged within me, I walked away from the congregation – moving towards something new. For me, that was being part of the United Church of Christ.
Yet as part of my call to ministry, I knew I had to talk louder than the voices of condemnation and hypocrisy and present another side: one of grace and love. For many years now, I feel called to present Christianity in even more unconventional and heretical ways. I believe this is to witness to a more loving and more grace-filled faith.
A few days before the US General Election of 2016, I became a member of a (not so) secret online society called Pantsuit Nation. Some of the threads presented in the group include wrestle with their progressive Christian faith. They feel like they are an island as progressive Christians. They wonder if they can reconcile themselves and their political perspectives while still having a relationship with God.
My answer: Yes, we can. We can be liberal in our views of politics and faith. And God still has a place for us here on earth and here in heaven. There is a community of faith somewhere for you, and through this community, you will be able to realize that you are not alone in your faith journey.
There are so many of us online, in faith communities and in your neighborhoods. You are not alone in your perspectives. And your perspective matters.
Now is the time for us, progressive Christian friends, to speak aloud of what it means to be a progressive person of faith. Now is the time for us to talk of our struggles to find churches that align with our way of thinking. Now is the time for us to speak of our justice work, how being pro-choice does not mean you are pro-abortion, how all marital statuses should be respected and how marriage equality does reflect the love of Christ. Now is the time for us to speak to how our faith leads us to affirm black lives matter, women’s bodies matter, Muslim religious freedom matters, the dignity of people who are disabled matters, the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people matters, immigrants well-being matters.
When we are able to affirm the lives and livelihoods of our sisters and brothers who may find themselves in the margins, people are able to see the Christ in our midst with more clarity.
People are looking for us and our churches. Are we brave enough to shout the good news of God’s love and acceptance to all people, even in the face of hate?