This week, Morning Edition on NPR has been running a series called “Losing Our Religion,” focusing on all kinds of people who are struggling with religion in some way—some are younger people who are “spiritual but not religious,” some are trying to figure out how religion helps or hurts in times of crisis, one young woman is struggling with her Roman Catholic background that does not welcome the leadership of women, and one married couple is trying to figure out how to live with one partner an active Christian and the other an atheist.
I find myself drawn to some of these stories, but others remain mysterious and difficult for me to understand. I’m also finding myself frustrated. Especially in the case of those who have rejected religion—institutional religion in particular—or are just dangling on the edges, I hear their concerns, and I often share their concerns. Yet, I’m quite happy in my church and in my beliefs and in my faith.
I belong to a church, and lead a church (as a female), that does not subscribe to any one doctrine or dogma. I don’t believe the Bible is the literal word of God. I don’t believe that to be a Christian one must accept Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, and I certainly don’t believe that anyone who doesn’t accept Christ as personal Lord and Savior will spend eternity in a place called hell. I believe that all people are loved by God, including homosexual people, bisexual people, and transgendered people, and that they are loved just as they are and they do not need to change or adopt a celibate lifestyle. I believe that women have the right to choose abortion if they find themselves facing an unwanted pregnancy. I believe that women are just as welcome and capable of preaching and teaching in the church.
I believe all of these things and I am a Christian. Hear me roar.
I listen to those who are struggling with institutional religion, or just dangling around the edges, and I wonder why they haven’t checked out my kind of church, the United Church of Christ. Sure, some will joke that the letters of my denomination “UCC” actually stand for Unitarians Considering Christ, but I believe myself to be fully Christian. Yet, I don’t follow what has somehow become the primary Christian line of thought, at least how it is cast in the media.
I know Christians who follow what is cast as typically Christian—the personal Savior stuff; the welcome of only “celibate” homosexuals; etc. But, when did that line of belief become the absolute definition of Christianity??
I find inner peace, a faith that is both comforting and questioning, all in my Christian church, in my little piece of organized religion. I also find a place where I gather with an interesting array of people, some of whom feel and believe as I do and others that do not. Together, in respectful ways, we search for the ways of God. It may not always make life and faith easy, but it offers a fuller and richer approach to faith than what I would find if I were to observe my faith only by myself.
For those who are “losing their religion,” I would encourage you to keep searching. All churches and denominations are NOT the same. Whoever you are, and whatever your questions, or however you are choosing to live your life, you are welcome in my church—not so I can change you, but maybe, together, we can learn from each other and find, together, a little greater awareness of what God promises—love and hope and new life.