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My Beef with America’s Christianity and its 33k Denominations

The Woman at the Well, The Message//Remix

“You hate the Bible.”

Recently someone said this to me. It was interesting…more intriguing, really, to hear these words specifically directed at me. I was only slightly curious how this person had drawn this conclusion, not because I actually hate the Bible because I don’t. But because I’ve had a theory brewing for years of how we’ve become so out of touch with one another as the children of God in our attempt to believe in God “the right way.”

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been in LOVE with God.

I knew early on I was loved and that I loved something, Someone, much bigger than myself. Raised by parents who had different Christian faith traditions but collaborated on what mattered, in their simplicity, they taught us the essentials: our relationship was between us and God/Jesus/Holy Spirit (who were One, called by 3 names); Mary and the Saints and human ministers were great but not necessary as liaisons between us and God; we are loved, therefore we love ourselves and others and we treat people the way we want to be treated; we forgive because we’ve been forgiven; and share, say “Thank You,” and be kind.

It was pretty basic, but the blessed assurance in my head and heart space was full and it worked. I knew and experienced God’s unconditional love.

Then, we met some neighbors who practiced a different Christian faith tradition and they invited us to their church, even though we went to one already. Maybe theirs was better? Goodness! We LOVED God and didn’t want to be on a wrong path.

  • CHECK: leave former community of sincere, imperfect believers for a different, more “Christian” community of real believers

Then, we learned we didn’t have the right Bibles next to our beds…at least according to their denominational requisite. Who knew? We compared the gospels, but, heck, if there’s a volume with 7 less things to have to read in order to know God perfectly, sign us up.

  • CHECK: replace Holy Bibles with study-Bibles published by Calvinists, and purchase 36 marker sets and a highlighter.

Next, we found out from more real Christians that we weren’t really Christians. Well, we were maybe Christians in the nominal sense of the word, but we weren’t going to heaven when we died, because everything was about heaven and hell and death…not life. We weren’t “saved.” I mean, how could we be? We knew about sin, even confessed it regularly, were grateful for the reminder of the love of Christ that was mapped out on the walls with the stations of the cross, but we weren’t viewing ourselves as wretched enough.

We hadn’t learned in our tradition about the “sinner’s prayer,” making Jesus “our personal Lord and Savior,” praying through “Roman’s road to salvation,” nor had we been baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, so it was easy to see how we were only kinda-sorta getting into heaven, but there was always a chance of back-sliding, so walk the aisle as often as possible…

My infant baptism didn’t count. Neither did my years of learning about the unconditional love of God in Sunday school, my identity as a child of God in Catechism, Jesus’ love for community during my First Communion, First Confession, or Confirmation of Belief.

Wow. Were we ever lost!

  • CHECK: get re-baptized, this time by full immersion because, though you’ve swum in oceans, streams, lakes, ponds, pools, and rivers since following Christ, that sacred time your parents and godparents and family and faith community gathered when you were an infant, to commit to loving you well and raising you to be a child of God, beloved of God, didn’t count. The symbolism just wasn’t wet enough.

In my 16 years of leading up to meeting “real Christians,” attending church and hearing the Good News, confessing my sins and breaking bread with community, serving the poor, loving our neighbors regardless of their faith traditions, and daily praying AND MEANING, the “Our Father,” according to our “more” Christian friends, simply wasn’t the “right way.”

And so, you better believe, because I loved God since childhood and wanted only to make sure I loved Him more and He approved of me, I made a list, checked off each thing, and dialed it in for years. I wasn’t perfect, but I was certain of my certainty and was in-tune enough to see how my “Christianity” was certainly more “Christian” than it had been before…before I saw the light of America’s Evangelical agenda.

And therein lies my beef.

There are 33k Christian denominations, and “non-denominations.” And since they’re all splitting off from the last guy’s movement, then people want to at least have one thing in common, so they decide the one thing is the Bible, the inerrant word of God. A book which incidentally says Jesus was the Word of God. Yet none of them can come to agreement on how to interpret it, so they have their different doctrinal statements so people can know whether they are welcome to their church or not if they believe what is written on their website.

And then you’ve got people like me, who love God, love scripture, love humans, and wake up one day from the daze of the machine, due to excruciating circumstances and say, “Wait. There’s just too much noise. What’s essential? You say it’s all about Jesus, but make it all about the Bible. Which version? Which printing? Which interpretation? Whose translation? Which language? Which one is it? Because Jesus said the scriptures were about him…and he was pointing us to the Father, reintroducing us to the One who loves us and made us.”

Here’s what I know: I don’t hate the Bible. I love it, actually.

But I don’t love the Bible more than the One it’s about.

– Adrienne Graves

I may have been physically born after the Council of Nicaea and the invention of the printing press, but I don’t have to let 2000 years worth of everyone and their dogs interpretations, opinions, systems, practices, piety, doctrinal statements, and filters come between me and the Savior of the world.

In Christ there is no measure of time and I have every right to believe God and follow Jesus as simply as the woman at the well got to when she talked to him face to face all those years ago.

“They said to the woman, ‘We’re no longer taking this on your say-so. We’ve heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He’s the Savior of the world!'” (John 4:42)

I was born-again, born of God, born from above, born my true self, my child-of-God self, when I believed the message of Christ, the actual Good News: that I am forgiven and am set free, through and through. (taken from John 8)

“The time is coming – it has, in fact, come – when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God…you don’t have to wait any longer or look any further…I am He.” (condensed from John 1:1-18 & 4:7-42)

Here’s what I also know: God is Good. And everything God ever created was Good. And you’re included in that truth. Period.

And that’s really, really Good News. Thank You, Jesus.

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