I’ve been thinking about what those four words mean since I heard Anne Rice’s statement that she is leaving Christianity–although not leaving Christ.
While I do understand and sympathize with her frustration, I am sorry to hear her decision. If those of us who believe that Christianity is something different from what is so often presented, then we are conceding the defining of Christianity to those who (in my opinion) twist and pervert what following Christ really means.
I have come to believe that Christ did not come to start a church. He seemed much more focused on relationships–relationships between God and humanity, between human beings…
His followers did that–with all good intentions, I believe. They needed a way to strengthen and support each other…to remind themselves of what Jesus said, what he called them to do… But at some point, the structure became more important than the relationships, and it’s been problematic since then.
As human beings, we seem to love to find ways to separate ourselves from each other…to claim “my” superiority over you…to want power.
But that’s not what Jesus said.
There were lots of rituals and beliefs that his followers grew up with–that they were expected to obey. And yet, when someone asked Jesus what was most important, did he respond with any of those? No…. He told the questioner that was was expected was to love God with all of one’s being and to love neighbor as we love self. We often stop there, but I think the next statement is probably the most important–that all of the Law and Prophets hung on those two commandments.
That’s what I believe being a Christian means. Not that we’re all going to have the same understandings and experiences. But that we’re willing to come together in community to learn–and yes, to struggle with–what it means to live in love of God and each other.
I can’t be a Christian by myself. There are aspects of following Christ that I can do by myself–but for me, being a Christian requires me to be in community, as imperfect as the community may be.