I was raised Episcopalian (which, for those of you who don’t know, is a branch of protestant Christianity). I’ve gone to church since before I can remember, but recently, I haven’t gone to church nearly as much as I used to – and while I’m inclined to say that it’s because I’ve been busy (which is part of the reason), it’s probably more because I’m a bit disillusioned.
To be fair, I’m not disillusioned by the Episcopal church itself, because I’ve always found Episcopalians to be incredibly welcoming toward all types of people (we elected the first woman priest and the first gay priest, both of which caused quite the uproar among Catholics) and the people at my church are like my family, I’ve known them so long. So I guess I don’t go to church because I’m confused, not because anything from my own church has turned me off.
I’m disillusioned by the hatred that Christianity in general has brought to this earth. While it has brought many good things, they seem overshadowed by the anger, hate, and destruction it has caused. I am disillusioned by some Christians preaching randomly selected Bible verses as they fit their hateful needs, and I don’t particularly want to be a part of that.
It’s hard for many people to distinguish between hateful “Christians” who threaten to burn Korans and loving Christians who might not even believe in God but who love their fellow man and do good to each other in the spirit of Jesus. It’s not necessarily hard for me to distinguish between these two groups, but it’s hard for me to say that I’m a part of something so conflicting and potentially destructive. I don’t need religion to be able to make the world seem better than it is or to make my life seem like it has purpose. My life has purpose, and I see the beauty in life and love a lot better than many so-called Christians.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the best people I know are extremely religious. The dean of my church is one of the most intelligent, wonderful, thoughtful men I have ever met. But, as he said in his sermon yesterday, most of the world “endorses the notion that peace comes from the barrel of a gun, justice at the point of a sword, and that this is God’s will.”
If this is God’s will, I don’t want to be a part of it. And if it’s not, which seems more accurate, then people need to stop thinking that it is. We cannot stop violence with violence, hate with hate, destruction with more destruction.
If I’m Christian at all, I’m Christian because I believe in love and goodwill to all mankind, not because I hope I’ll get to heaven or because I think I need to save all the heathens of the world from eternal damnation. I believe in Jesus’ teachings of peace and equality, not in misconstrued beliefs of anti-gay scripture or vengeful justice-seeking. I don’t know if there’s a huge omniscient spirit in the sky, watching over me and determining my fate, and if there is I don’t think it matters much to me. What matters to me is this:
I hope for a world that will one day be free of violence in the name of God, and I hope for a day in which everyone is treated equally with love and fairness. That’s the meaning of Christmas, but I think it’s the meaning of life, too.