I recently received a thought-provoking reply to my blog, “Real Love”, from a person who seemed to think that Christianity was a life choice best avoided. My blog, addressing some of the unhelpful comments made by Christians toward the childless, seemed to prompt a reaction from this reader.
This person’s response was along the lines of “Phew, I’m relieved to not be a Christian. Dodged a bullet there.”
Her comment got me thinking. Perhaps this is how society at large views Christianity, as a religion fraught with problems, so it is best to avoid it altogether. I wonder if this is how we tend to approach problems in general. Just avoid them.
I wonder if this is how we tend to approach problems in general. Just avoid them.
Beyond my initial reactions to this person’s comment, which included a knee-jerk desire to protect the church, I pondered the deeper implication. If I have had my share bad experiences in the church – and I have – then why do I still go? Why should I even bother?
It boils down to a question of what church is and what is the point of the church’s existence. Most of you probably realise that church is not a building, it is the people. Wherever Christians gather, in the supermarket, at cafes, in their homes, in nature, in buildings of any description, that is the church.
The church Jesus had in mind was always more than a religion, more than a crowd. We are more than a gathering of people; we are family. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are all adoptive children of God. That makes us brothers and sisters.
And, like any family, you can have good relationships with your family or bad ones.
You can have good relationships with your family or bad ones.
You can cut off ties with your family. You can have nothing to do with them. You can form your own justifications and beliefs about them. But the one thing you cannot do is stop being part of the family. There is no ‘opt out’ option.
If I no longer attended church because of insensitive comments or elitist attitudes or exclusionary behaviour, I would still be part of the family. I would not cease to have relationships with my family. I would just get to choose whether to continue to have good relationships with my family – or not.
Sure, family do not always get along. Sometimes we get on each others’ nerves. Sometimes there is conflict. Sometimes we need to be selective and wise about how close we get to our family members. But they will always be family.
For those of you bracing yourselves for a mushy family-idolising ending to this blog, do not worry. I am not going to get all sentimental about the beauty and value of family. (Even if it is true.) I will simply finish by saying this: Anyone who thinks that leaving church and Christianity will solve their problems with church and Christianity is dead wrong.
There is no ‘opt out’ option.
We don’t solve family problems by opting out. We solve them by opting in, staying present, chipping away at the misconceptions of childlessness and other issues. We solve them by being countercultural and resisting the urge to run away and admitting when we get it wrong too. We solve them by taking the courage to be true to ourselves, regardless of whether others accept us or not.
We solve problems in the church by being bravely and authentically ourselves.
Have you had interesting reactions to your faith? Have you been tempted to leave church or Christianity – and why did you stay? Where do you need to be brave and authentic at the moment? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.