Thursday, August 27, 2009


I do not love Jesus.

I came to this conclusion while talking to some wonderful friends last week and the topic came up, "What is a Christian?" As I am still unsure exactly what to call myself, I feel "Christian" is a comfortable fall-back, but not entirely authentic. I feel the pressure to be Christian and to love Jesus since I've been back at Union, a super-Christian saturated environment, where students dress up to be seen at church, then go back to their "other" lives.

I never thought I'd be to the point at 21 years-old that I'd be Googling "Christianity," but here I am.

"Christianity is a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the New Testament. The Christian faith is essentially faith in Jesus as the Christ (or Messiah), the Son of God, the Savior, the manifestation of God to humankind (Immanuel), and God (Yahweh or the "Lord") himself."

My life is not centered on the life and teachings of Jesus. I don't even really know him. It's an interesting story and I believe he was a great guy and said some great things. But how can I possibly be in love with a character from a book that I've never met or seen? I don't throw around that word "love" as a passing thought or emotion. "Love" means that I am committed. I am not committed to Jesus and saying I love him, well, that feels weird.

Here's my train of thought, keep up:
I don't get on my knees and pray, I write in my journal or go for a walk. I don't go to church and haven't attended regularly in two years, I learn about God through Speaking of Faith podcasts on NPR. I haven't read my Bible in about 2 years, but my bookshelf is overflowing with Christian books. I have called myself a Christian.

But an atheist could very well be doing the exact same things that I am. What makes me any different?

I know I "should" love Jesus. I mean, come on, I was born and raised a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. What's my deal? Life was simpler before I went to Cambodia. Life made more sense to me then.

Who decides if a person is Christian or non-Christian? It's all relative it seems. There is no right or wrong way to pray. Defining "prayer" depends on who you ask, right along with words like "faith," "church," and "spirituality." Is spirituality all relative? Does it just depend on who you ask?

Often I wonder if anyone is Christian anymore. Will it just be the tried and true 80+ year-olds who tend to be judgmental and rigid? While I would never want to be that kind of Christian, I wonder if we are all so far off in our belief that "everyone is okay" that that terrifying 144,000 have already been used up and we're just wasting our time. Growing up what sticks in my mind are gruesome crucifixion plays, end-of-time plays with people getting shot in the head, and feeling guilty for not being the good Christian I "should".

If there will be non-Christians in heaven, then, why the heck would I want to be labeled as one?

What do I believe?

At 6 years-old I loved Jesus because I was told to. There was no personal experience.
At 10 years-old I was Christian because that was all I knew.
At 15 I was Christian because I didn't want to die and I prayed desperately and made deals with God that my surgeries go well and not kill me.
At 19 I was Christian because it was too late to be anything else and people would get scared if I voiced what I was really feeling.
In Cambodia, I came to believe that there was no God. I didn't see how there could be. I was struggling and he wasn't doing anything, or so I thought.
After landing back in the States, I shifted my perspective to believe that maybe there was a God because I was still alive and couldn't explain why. I was still breathing, waking up day in and day out. The bigness and unexplainable is God, or whatever you want to call it.

I believe there is "something" bigger than me. That's where I am at. I feel like that's where I've been for awhile.

The story goes that four blind men where led to an elephant. The first man touching the trunk believed it to be a snake. The second man describes the large legs as tree trunks. The third man calls the tail a rope. And the fourth man encountering the elephant's side believes it is a large wall.

I can see that each of us has different views of the same thing, so big that we may all be experiencing God.

I just imagine that I must be doing something wrong. I don't look like other Christians. Who sets the standard? Why do I want one so badly?

I've grown up knowing right from wrong and that was comfortable to me. Now suddenly when there is no wrong way to be a Christian, I'm lost. I don't want a little box I have to fit into, but I don't know what I believe and that bugs me.

Friends have helped me see that I can only criticize and discredit a belief system for so long, until it will be exposed that I have no idea what I'm talking about. I need to stop looking around me and comparing myself to others. I need to stop reading Christian books and hearing everyone else's opinion. I need to stop feeling guilty about who I am and what I believe. I need actually read the Bible.

If I am going to claim that I am not a Christian and I don't love Jesus, then I better know exactly what I am claiming to not believe.

-I know with 57% certainty that there is a God.
-I know for sure that I need to read the Bible to find that out.
-I know for sure that religion isn't the only or best way to God.
-I know for sure that you don't have to go to church to believe in God, in fact some people are better off if they don't.
-I know for sure that the Bible never mentions anything about a "personal relationship with God" or "daily devotions" so I don't ever want to feel guilty for not having either of those things.

-I know for sure that I want to know what I believe, wherever that takes me.


Shanna said...

In your words from your heart and mine.

Liz Fagan said...

Heather this was so refreshing. Your honesty is inspiring, just thought I'd let you know. You're not alone, keep plugging along girl. :)

Hannah said...

Over this last year I've gone through a very similar mental process and "spiritual journey" (to borrow an over-used term).

I grew up in an Adventist home and went go through stages of convincing myself I loved God and doubting His existence altogether. I just tried to ride the lows out, and continued considering myself Christian due to comfort with familiarity, social pressure, not wanting to burn in a lake of fire, easiest choice, etc.

This past year I've really been able to face the inner-me, and figure out what I REALLY believe and who I REALLY am. I'd been too afraid to do that in high school and my first year of college.

It's taken till my third year of college, but I feel that I'm finally centered and living in truth.

By living in truth, I mean able to recognize/analyze/experience my beliefs, and convey them to the outside world. Simple sounding, but in the past my subconscious insides were not always in harmony with my outside existence--if that makes sense. It wasn't that I was living hypocritically. I was just too scared to face the fact that maybe this life I was living wasn't one I was passionate about.

Anyways, this path as led me to the realization that I am not a Christian. My journey won't end till death (probably), so I'm staying open to any future realizations/enlightenment/lessons.

For right now, though, I've found that if Buddhism and Secular Humanism had a love child, well that's where my beliefs would lie. Too bad there's no name for that (-:

You may find quizzes like this useful (or maybe a waste of time. All I know is that it helped me):

Anyway, sorry for the ramblings but I really identified with your blog posting. Let me know if you'd ever like to exchange thoughts :-)

Rande McDaniel said...

That was very touching (i wanted to use the word "refreshing" but that had already been taken ;), i've been through a lot of this myself though was much more private about it so I appreciate your openness and honesty.

Jannelle said...

Wow, I dont even know what to say. Maybe it is better that I dont say anything. But just a few comments.
What I do know is that I have met God. He (or she, in the case of "Shack") is very real in my life. So many days, He is what I cling to to keep my head above the mud I swim in. I am madly in love with the Jesus of the Bible. I wish I was more like Him. How do I deserve His love?? I dont. Some day I look forward to baraging Him with the millions of questions I have, like, "why is there human traficking?" or "why are children abused?"
One last thought, and that is this. Without my belief in Him, I would have no hope for the future, and no reason to even try in the present. He is very real to me. Maybe I am deluded, but if that is the way it is, I am none the worse off.
Keep up your questioning, Heather. I am proud of you for your questions. So many of us just swallow the hogwash we are fed. Those who search will find! Love you!