This year is the first year that I haven’t been all “Yay, Christmas!” and the main reason is because I’ve finally come to terms with the realization that I no longer identify as a Christian. (Nevermind that the whole concept of Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus anyway, and has basically become an economic driver for America and one of our biggest displays of materialism and waste.)
This is not, however, a sudden decision. For about two years, under the “Religious Views” section of my Facebook profile, I’ve simply had the following phrase:
Love is my religion.
It was partly in reference to the Ziggy Marley song of the same name, but it was mostly letting people know that I wasn’t really committed to any specific denomination and to express my openness to having friends of all religious beliefs.
But for the most part, I was still opted-in to the basic ideals of Christianity, mainly John 3:16, the scripture that undergirds the entire religion. Over time, though, that became problematic since I had a really hard time committing to the idea that anyone who did not believe that Jesus is the Messiah would be doomed to hell. What about my Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, etc. friends who were beautiful, generous, loving people living extraordinary lives and helping others along the way?
So, I have to take it back a little to figure out how I began to lose my zeal for Christianity and the fellowship I had been a part of since I was a small child. I’ve always loved the music and the pomp and circumstance of the black church experience. I was the kid who didn’t have to be dragged to Sunday school by my mom and grandmother. I loved going and I loved learning about how I could become a better person through worship and acts of kindness.
But then I grew up. I went to college and studied philosophy and religious studies and literary theory and in the process, read the entire Bible front to back at least three times. As an adult, I was shocked by how completely I had blindly believed every word in this text that was highly contradictory, violent and derogatory toward women.
Although I continued to enjoy the worship experience for the most part, I also began to see how manipulative and judgmental many of the church leaders and parishioners could be. The entire service seemed designed to bring you down and then raise you back up again. To tell you how effed up your life was, how disobedient and sinful you were and how the only way you could redeem yourself was to repent and give the church 10% of your money. It was often very critical of other religions as well as the gay community and to me, that was the total opposite of the whole “God is love” thing.
At some point I discovered that I was truly “on the fence” about being a Christian. I was picking and choosing parts of the Bible that made sense to me and rejecting the parts that didn’t.
Which meant that I didn’t really believe in it at all.
Needless to say, Christianity just doesn’t serve my spiritual needs anymore. And now that I’ve removed that particular belief from my life, I actually feel closer to people I meet because there’s one less barrier where I’m wondering if they’re saved or going to hell because they don’t believe the same thing I do. I feel incredibly free and more aware of my own self-worth and purpose on this earth.
But just because I don’t identify as a Christian doesn’t mean I’m an atheist. Far from it. I’m not even Agnostic. I still believe in God. Truly, madly, deeply. And I don’t knock anyone else for being a Christian. I’m just saying it doesn’t work for me anymore. I’ve finally been able to define who God is for myself and I feel more spiritually connected to the world now more than ever.
What I’ve come to in my own spiritual journey is that God is simply another word for unconditional love. And that love resides in all of us. I believe our goal in life is to seek that love and to share it as fiercely as we can with the world, every day of our lives.
It’s hard to put into words, but this is really as close as I’ve come (so far) to a statement that reflects my current beliefs:
I honor you. I honor the place within you where the entire universe resides. I honor the place within you of love and light, of peace and truth. I honor the place within you where, when you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us. Namaste.
I came across this saying sometime about a year ago and it has stuck with me ever since. I think it comes from yoga philosophy. And although I’m not a yogi, it sums up how I intend to operate in the world. This is exactly what I want my life to be about, and I’ve finally realized that I don’t need Christmas or any of the other tenets of Christianity to believe in God.
All I need is love.
P.S. I know that I have a lot of Christian readers, so please don’t take this as an indictment of your religious beliefs. Hear me when I say that this post is totally based upon my own lifestyle experimentation and personal experiences with alternative routes to spiritual fulfillment. I deeply honor the place in you where there is love and light and peace and truth because I believe that is where we can all connect.