At beginning of this year, I was interviewed by Cass Midgley for his podcast, “Everyone’s Agnostic.” While the majority of the people he interviews have left the faith of their upbringing (often some form of Christianity) to become either atheists or agnostics, he has also interviewed several people who have kept their faith of origin, but have undergone some kind of transformation or deconstruction of that faith. I happened to be one of those. It was an opportunity I didn’t expect, but thoroughly enjoyed.
Then out of the blue just a few weeks ago, Cass and his wife, Mindi happen to be in Denver for a visit. Another couple (who had also previously been interviewed by Cass on the podcast) were hosting them while they were in town and after realizing that several others who’d been interviewed also lived in the Denver area, decided to get us all together for a BBQ in Cass and Mindi’s honor.
My wife and I were both invited and felt honored to be included as we headed across town for this shared meal. We enter the room to a group of strangers whom we’d never met. It was awkward at first as everyone tried to find something in common to talk about with people they knew nothing of, and we quickly jumped to our obvious connection: the podcast.
“What episode number were you featured on, Amber?” someone asked me in the first few moments after we’d arrived. Failing to brush up on that piece of knowledge before I came, someone else who’d done their homework announced that it was Ep. 131 and then tried to find some common ground by comparing our religious experiences.
As we began to talk and get to know one another, it was amazing how much we all had in common, even though our stories were drastically different. What was more interesting still is that everyone in the group seemed to have a background from some vein of Christianity (many of them evangelical), but because of varying circumstances, had all become either atheist or agnostic. My wife and I were the only ones that still held on to our faith of origin.
Our faith has undoubtedly been put through the fire; it’s been challenged, pulled apart, deconstructed, and is continuing to be put back together in a way that we hope is much more like the actual person of Jesus than the God we were taught to believe in as children. But neither me nor my wife can say that we don’t believe in God or in the power God has to transform our lives. It’s simply an intrinsic part of our being that we can’t deny.
What was fascinating though as we sat and talked with this group of people was how much we all had in common. We found a thread that wove through all of us that believed in equality, fought for justice for the oppressed, and longed for a more loving, peaceful world for all mankind. In essence, we were all fighting the same fight, just from different viewpoints.
These were not the atheists or agnostics that I was cautioned about as a child. My conservative, fundamental upbringing taught that atheists were pagans and devil worshippers. And yet, in my experience, atheists and agnostics are often the ones who are living out more kindness, generosity, and peacefulness than any Christian I know.
As we got ready to leave the BBQ, one of my new friends said to me, “If this is the type of Christianity you’re fighting for, I’m all for it.” And heading home, we left behind a group of people that several hours before had been complete strangers, but in the time span of just one afternoon, had quickly become dear friends.
A recent article on Hack Spirit states that the fastest growing religion today is not Christianity or Islam, but in fact, the “religious nones,” meaning those that identify as atheist or do not identify with or follow any one religious group. What is interesting though is that many of them do indeed still believe in God, but just don’t want anything to do with organized religion.
Can we blame them?
When white supremacists carry torches in Charlottesville and cost people their lives, and when our country closes its borders to those that aren’t safe in their own homelands, and when LGBTQI people are left outside the churches rather than welcomed in them, and when people refuse to proclaim that black lives matter ALL in the name of God or religion or the Bible, we have a massive and deadly religion epidemic on our hands.
In the words of Gandhi, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” No truer words could be spoken after the events in Charlottesville this past week.
I beg God for forgiveness for the years that my ignorance kept me from standing up against injustice. In deconstructing my faith and stripping away bad theology in pieces, I can only hope I become a more accurate reflection of Christ. And so can you, my friends. Our time is now.
It’s time to redefine Christianity.
It’s time to reflect the true nature of who Jesus was and is. He is the God of the weak, the oppressed, the poor, the widowed, the hungry, the homeless, the refugee, the outcast.
Right now, many of the atheists and agnostics I meet look a lot more like Christ than the Christians I know. It’s up to us to change that and begin to reflect an image of Christ that makes people want to know him.
Because Love Makes All the Difference,
P.S. Stay tuned later this week for the announcement of fall tour dates! Also, if you live in Denver, it’s time to register for the Refocusing My Family Book Release Event! Reserve your spot soon. Seating is limited!