I haven’t always welcomed other beliefs, but it was my husband who, in his own season of doubt and unbelief, inspired me to ask hard questions and dig deeper. Who’s to say that the God I believe in isn’t the same God as the one somebody else prays to by a different name? Who’s to say that I wouldn’t believe something entirely different if it weren’t for my upbringing or the country I was born in? Would the God of grace and love send any one of his children to hell for eternity?
It’s what led me to mention in an Instagram post, not too long ago, that I would love to hear from atheists and people of other religions. I never expected to receive an email from a longtime reader who confessed her faith had dissolved and how she came to be an atheist. One line from her email felt like a huge slap to my face, but I know that she was just being honest and I can respect that. (Also, she prefaced with “no offense” which means I knew I had it comin’.)
“If you are so weak that you have to believe in an age-old fairy tale in order to be a good person, fine, worship your brains out.*”
*Quote restructured for clarity and confidentiality.
My friends know that I have a short fuse, so I’m sure they can imagine my jaw-drop upon reading those words. I was ticked. I read through her entire email a second time and felt the anger subside as devastation set in. My heart sank. I think I read through that email more than ten times before I even attempted a response.
I didn’t know where to begin and I still don’t, but I’m going to take a stab at it nonetheless.
First of all, I am weak.
This is something I had a lengthy talk with E about. Maybe it stems from childhood events or maybe it’s hardwired in my DNA, but I am weak. I am not a naturally selfless human. I am not a naturally faithful human. I am not naturally a patient or gentle or “turn the other cheek” human. Let me be totally real for a second here: I suck a whole lot less because of my relationship with Christ. Only with Him can I be strong.
Next, my faith does not make me a good person.
Proclaiming that I believe in God doesn’t make me a good person. Trust me, I’ve been there. For years I wore the Christian label while making decisions that hurt myself and those around me. I was not a good (or nice) person. Faking faith is real and I did that for too long. (Big chunk on that in my book. Release date TBD.)
Not to mention, there’s a variety of definitions for what makes a person good. I’ve met people who think that recycling and paying their bills makes them “good.” I’ve heard people say that feeding the hungry and inviting the lonely are what “good” people do.
For me, living in the rhythms of grace and the constant communication with Jesus helps me love better which probably seems like a “good” person thing to do.
I think it’s a big deal that God gave every person a conscience.
The Holy Spirit is with us whether we acknowledge it or not. Even if someone doesn’t attribute their “goodness” to God or faith whatsoever, I believe that when they use their conscience they are in communion with God subconsciously.
No matter who they choose to give the credit to, I see God at work in the lives of my believing and non-believing friends alike.
Finally, (thank you) I will worship my brains out.
Even if it all ends up being some age-old fairy tale, I won’t regret a life devoted to Christ. Sure, I think I’d feel pretty silly, but I’d be glad I lived the way that I’m living.
Which leads me to another thought…
I don’t want to waste my life arguing over petty things. I don’t want to get too caught up in taking sides. I’m tired of hearing Christians speculate and tweet about how gay marriage is right or wrong. WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE? I have a few LGBT friends and acquaintances and they are incredible people. I’m so happy they are living freely and loving who they love.
Go ahead and put me in whichever camp you’d like. It’s not Rob Bell, Jen Hatmaker, and Glennon Doyle against Jennie Allen, Beth Moore, and Tim Keller. It’s not liberal vs. conservative. These are people loving God, loving people, and sharing their heart and interpretation of the Bible. I really enjoy reading and listening to all six of them even when my views don’t align.
Three words near the closing of her email stood out to me, “You aren’t exclusive.”
That’s the type of person I want to be. Label me a Christian, or don’t label me at all. I want to be inclusive. I want to listen. I want to love. I want to keep an open mind and a soft heart. I’m not interested in a black and white faith anymore. I’ll be straddling gray. I think that’s OK.