It’s no secret that I have some beef with Christianity. So, why do I even bother with it? (Like it or not, we’ve already established that I am a Christian.) I’ve noticed some passive-aggressive comments about why anyone would choose Christianity. So, I’m going to passive-aggressively respond (hey, at least I’m self-aware). I can’t speak for every other Christian in the world, but I can at least answer for myself.
I Don’t Know Any Better
Right. Because I’ve never met anyone who didn’t believe in God and I’ve never read anything that was critical of Christianity.
Hell, I’m critical of Christianity.
I spent over a decade outside of Christian circles. I know what my options are.
I Just Want to Fit In
I’m subversive by nature (it can be a problem). It’s part of why I sometimes have issues with other Christians.
Sometimes I do things just to irritate everyone who’s jumping on a bandwagon. Associating myself with a popular religion isn’t something I’m very comfortable with.
It Brings Me Comfort and the Promise of Healing
Are you freaking kidding me?
This is probably the most ridiculous of them all. Christians aren’t promised comfort and good health. I can’t pray away my health problems. (Don’t try to start a prooftexted Bible verse fight with me on this one. You’ll lose.)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’Matthew 16:24 (NIV)
Follow Jesus. That’s so sweet. Where was Jesus going? Oh, you know, just off to be tortured and executed.
Taking up your cross doesn’t mean dealing with a mild inconvenience (as so many Christians wrongly believe). It means death and suffering. For some Christians, it has literally meant death. One good thing about growing up Mennonite is you have a good grasp on just how costly being a Christian can be. (Martyr’s Mirror, anyone?) I probably won’t be killed for my beliefs, but Christians are still supposed to die a symbolic death. We’re supposed to set aside our own desires and obey Jesus. That’s not easy or fun.
But, it’s not just the cross. Like Paul, some of us have a thorn.
…I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
I have a few thorns. The symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome are thorns. My distrust of Christians is a thorn. My sensitivity to people who believe women aren’t as intelligent or spiritually capable as men is a thorn.
Jesus doesn’t say, “Come, take up the cross and I’ll pull out your thorns.”
Oh, hell no.
Jesus says, “Come, thorns and all, and take up the cross.”
What does that mean? Well, that means that I have to be obedient to Christ no matter what. Even when I’m exhausted and in pain. Even when other people are being assholes. When someone says something blatantly ignorant, I don’t get to swoop in and mop the floor with them (and you have no idea how badly I want to sometimes). I have to be gentle and patient with them. When someone wrongs me, I have to turn the other cheek. But, when someone wrongs anyone else, I don’t get to stand on the sidelines and ignore the problem. I have to step in and help “the least of these”.
Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
How has this played out for me? Sometimes I’m in so much pain I can’t see straight, but I don’t use that as an excuse to be hostile and hurtful to others. Sometimes I’ve made seemingly foolish career choices because I was standing up for other people or refused to take advantage of someone else. Some people think I’m stupid because I bite a hole in my tongue rather than risk hurting them. A lot of what I do makes me appear foolish from the outside because other people don’t understand why I do what I do.
And you know what? I really hate looking stupid. And I know I look stupid. I’m perceptive if nothing else. I know how I come across. But, I deal with the condescension (except for the rare occasion I snap…which is wrong) and keep trudging forward with that cross.
Comfort in the Afterlife
If I was just worried about the afterlife, I’d pull one of those death bed deals (I am pragmatic, after all.)
I don’t know what’s in store after I die. I hope for the resurrection, but there’s no way to really know what that will be like. I’m not a patient person. At all. Like I would really spend so much time and effort lugging around a cross because of some vague promises about Earth 2.0 (no, we’re not supposed to just float around in the clouds for eternity… that would be super depressing.)
I don’t believe the focus of Christianity should be on what happens after we die. I don’t believe we’re supposed to sit around and wait for heaven on Earth. I believe we’re supposed to be building the Kingdom of God right now. Massive, long-term building projects aren’t exactly comfortable. They’re messy and loud and chaotic.
So, why then?
I don’t follow Christianity because it makes anything easier for me. In any tangible way I can think of, it actually makes things quite a bit harder for me.
I follow it because I believe Jesus.
You’re not going to find Christian apologetic arguments here. I think those are pretty pointless and don’t prove anything. I can’t tell someone else why they should or shouldn’t be a Christian. All I can say is that after a very long time, after deconstructing everything I thought I knew, after doing way more reading and ruminating than I should have had to do, I believe in Jesus.
People can dismiss that belief if they want (chalk it up to how stupid and naive I am, right?), but that’s my answer. I’m not a Christian because I’m reaping some kind of benefit out of the deal or because I just don’t know any better. I’m a Christian because I can’t not follow Jesus if I believe he is who he claimed to be.