I have been a Christian since high school. In high school I went to an Assembly of G0d youth group and had a wild, Pentecostal conversion. I raised hands. I spoke in tongues. I told kids they couldn’t be Christian because of the music they listened to. It was a rough time in my life.
In short, I was an asshole.
I was taught that there was one way to interpret the bible, and it was “TRUTH” and that my pastor knew the truth. I even went to bible college to learn more about this truth. And there I found out something that shocked me: Other christians, use the same bible, in the same way, and come to VERY different results as me. Even within the conservative streams of thought. There was so much vibrant debate and discussion. It really opened my eyes to the ass I was being. I started to re-think what I believed about all of this. It was hard. It was powerful. And it changed me. I read a lot of philosophy at the time. I learned a lot about how modernism shaped theology. I learned a lot about the history of christian thought, and how much of it is ignored by hyper conservative christians.
I eventually started a house church, where we embraced anyone, wherever they are, as long as they were open to discussion. As long as you didn’t silence others with your beliefs or ideas, you were welcome to dine and discuss with us. It was messy, but beautiful.
Then I moved to Portland. And I started a YouTube channel. And I got pretty quiet about my faith. I was worried about being associated with that old point of view I once had. I was worried that my friends would think of me as a close minded bigot if that title was associated with me. I didn’t want the baggage. And I didn’t want to bother my friends who didn’t believe. But something weird happened.
Every time I did speak up about my beliefs, it wasn’t non-believers who got upset. It was Christians. Christians who thought that I was wrong. Who needed to tell me how wrong I am. And I am used to this. And it got to me. I would come in to a conversation and say, in nicer terms “Hey, lets not be shitty…” and I would be attacked and banned from the conversation. And I started to think…Is being a christian actually = being shitty? Because maybe I need to finally let go of this. But there was something meaningful there to me. There was a belief I held very true. A belief in love and radical acceptance. A belief in a G-d who pulls humanity towards progress. I knew logically that there was a deep and wide tradition of belief that was in line with what I believed, but the narrow minded theology of conservative evangelicals made it hard to emotionally accept that.
Then I met The united methodist church. Who showed me that there are other christians, who have existed for a long time, who believe in a G-d of love. Who believe in radical acceptance. Who believe in grace. Who shuddered at the thought that people actually believed some of the things that came from my tradition.
And so now, I just feel like I need to say this. Christianity has existed for a long while. We have had 2000+ years of thought, and most of what is represented these days factors in about 80-100 years of that timeline. It is fundamentalist in nature, it is exclusive in nature, and I want NOTHING to do with it.
I say this for two reasons…if you once saw something in this guy named Jesus, but have a hard time with all the bullshit that comes along with it…I feel you. There are other people out there like you. We don’t need to take it anymore.
Secondly, if you have never had any connection to this group…I write this as both an apology and a way of saying “I promise you, we are not all assholes.” So here are some things I believe.
I believe there is an objective reality to our universe, but all we can see is our subjective interpretation of that reality. We can only understand what we ourselves interpret through our sense, intuition, and knowledge. This lens, no matter how hard you try, distorts reality. Some things we can get close to fully understanding. What an orange is. The purpose of a chair. Other things can be more influenced by our upbringing, culture, and past. All people deserve the same rights. Black lives matter. Transgender people are people. And then you have the deeper thoughts. Meditating on a reality that is both beyond your comprehension, and made itself personal and human. G-d. Truth. Heaven. These are so hard to wrap our minds around, it is crucial that we realize that we, never as humans, are speaking of Truth, but rather our interpretation of it. I believe we must equally forsake and embrace our understanding of these things because they are woefully inadequate and also all we have to tap into a divine reality I believe wholeheartedly to be true. The point being, when someone says “I believe in Truth because it comes from the Word” to me this is a whole other language and culture. There is so much built into this statement that cant be deconstructed simply, that I have to walk way.
I believe that theology that doesn’t bring progress and love into the world is useless. If your beliefs don’t manifest in you being a more loving, caring, compassionate person…you should probably rethink your beliefs. In the words of Michael Gungor:
“If it brings violence more than peace, Lord let religion cease”.
I believe that the good news of grace is for all and I believe that it is not founded in shame or fear. I believe that radical acceptance and standing for the oppressed is essential to the ministry and mission of Jesus. I believe that the kingdom here and now is those ideas of radical acceptance and fighting for the oppressed being worked out in and through the Church, and when the church fights against marriage equality, or belittles transgender people, or tells someone they are not allowed in their doors unless they look or sound correct, they are in direct opposition of the gospel.
I believe in love. And that means I have a hard time when I get caught up in pointless conversations with people who only want to attack and belittle my beliefs. I get on the defensive, and then act in unloving ways. I am trying to work on it. Its hard.
Because I genuinely believe that there is a lot of damage being done in the name of G-d, and it makes me angry. It angers me that my tribe has come to represent close mindedness. It bothers me that the word christian carries with it the ideas of ignorance and anti-science and bigotry. This goes directly against everything I believe about the divine.
I want nothing to do with the G-d who sends millions of people to hell forever, because they didnt believe the right things.
I want nothing to do with a G-d who wants you to vote for Trump because “he doesnt believe in gay rights”.
Finally (for now) I believe that bible is a powerful and important collection of poetry, history, song, story, and myth, all meant to convey deep truths. Truths that are not multiple choice. Truths that are found in answers that are actually more questions. Truths you have to interpret and think and debate upon. It is a book that has been used for a lot of harm, because people misuse it, but I also see the deep beauty and truth of it. I think it is meant to be wrestled with. Its meant to be talked through. Its meant to be discussed and chewed on. Reflected on. I did a lot of biblical study in college, and I find so much of what many do with the bible these days to be antithetical to its purpose. Its not a metaphysical textbook. Its not a rule book. Its not a “how to get into the club” book.
Anyways, if you read this and go:
“Man, Ace sure is a heretic! I should leave him a comment with 10,000 bible verses and convert him back to truth!”
Please don’t. I don’t want anything to do with that god. I don’t want the paradise promised by a madman. If that god turns out to be true, have fun in your mostly empty heaven. I will be standing beside my fellow sinners, suffering beside them, loving them, just as my savior did.