I was on the way to speak at a church on the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion and Christianity. During my two hour drive, I thought about my faith and my recent struggles with the label, Christian. You see, I am probably one of the most “Christian” people you will ever meet. I work as an administrator at a church, I attend another church across town, and I lead a program for teenagers at a third church. I am close to finishing my Masters in Theology. Yet, I am also one of the least stereotypical Christians you will ever meet. I drink. I don’t believe in hell. I don’t have a problem with other religions, not even Satanism. I have friends and family who are atheists and we get along just fine. I am engaged to a Jewish woman.
I grew up in a conservative, Evangelical Christian Church. It was not the best place. While I gained some good things during that time, I also gained a whole lot of spiritual trauma and abuse. Still, I stuck with Christianity. I deconstructed the version of faith I was handed as a child and built something new that better fit who I am and what I believe. Lately though, I have wondered if I even fit in the Christian category anymore. I love studying religions and their beliefs. It fascinates me. I also know all of the right Christian answers. I can give you the whole spectrum of what different Christians and churches believe about all sorts of topics. But, I don’t know if those answers are working for me anymore. Honestly, I don’t know if they ever really worked, at least, not like Christians told me they would.
So on my drive back from my speaking engagement, I decided to live for a week as though God didn’t exist. Trying to think of myself and the world without God (or Jesus) was freeing in those first few hours. I felt a peace and joy. I felt free from shame and worry, not just from the judgment of the divine, but from the judgement of other people, too. As a people pleaser, I was liking this f-ing freedom of being my own boss and determining my own destiny.
Then, I started to think practically. What would I do this week (since God doesn’t exist)? Would I take up some self-destructive habit? Would I go buck wild? As I thought, though, nothing came to mind. I would live my life about the same way. I guess I wouldn’t go to church on Sunday, but I don’t go every week anyway.
The whole no God experiment was a little difficult when it came time to plan and teach the lesson for the youth on Wednesday night. In some ways I suspended the experiment to teach and lead a lesson about Jesus. When I led a prayer (to God), it was with the assumption that God does exist. Yet, I realized that even in my leading the youth group I spoke much more about what Christians believe than about what I believe. I did not claim to have all of these special divine truths that I could impart to the teenagers. Rather, we just had a discussion about Jesus, read some verses from the Bible, and talked about what stood out to us. Youth group was not really that different with or without God.
Today is Thursday, day five without God, and I don’t feel much different than I did last Thursday, or the Thursday before that. My biggest revelation from this week is that religion and spirituality are about more than God or the divine. They are about connection. I go to my church on (some) Sunday mornings because I like the people. I want to get to know them better. Many of them are also LGBTQ+ and even those who are not are very welcoming. The church is involved in a lot of social justice work and I enjoy being with like-minded people who care about more than just themselves. The pastor gives interesting sermons that make me think about how I can be a better person. The rituals are familiar to me and bring me a sense of comfort.
Who knows if there is a God? I don’t, but for now, I’ll keep doing the Christian thing. I will do it in my own way and on my own terms. Maybe next week I’ll believe in God or maybe I’ll keep the experiment going. Either way, I’ll keep seeking out connection with the people and the world around me.
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