Some days I feel spiritually promiscuous: I can’t decide which faith is the right one. It’s akin to being in love with two different men, and not knowing which one to marry.
Most days I’m convinced it’s Christianity that’s true, but Jewish culture is just so much better. More history. Less cheese (I much prefer the flavor of expressions like “kvetching” and “Oy vey!” as opposed to, “The Lord laid it on my heart this morning…”)
Since starting and quitting seminary, I don’t think my theology has changed much; the Gospel message never changes. But my view of church has. More specifically, my view of Christian culture has done a complete 180. It went from being cool and glamorous (I never had a plethora of T-shirts, bumper stickers, and flashy key chains to choose from in Judaism) to tedious, exclusive, and sometimes even shallow.
Maybe I’m using the wrong words. I don’t know if “Christian culture” is what I should be criticizing, or rather, Christian stereotypes. Can one truly embrace a religion without its culture? The real issue may be that Christian culture is fine as it is; the flaws I find within it are a result of comparing it to the Jewish culture I grew up with, and miss dearly sometimes (I’ve been able to let go of my desire to be seen as “one of the club” by donning a matching T-shirt).
I keep forgetting that belief in the Gospel is what makes one a Christian. Nothing else. But the Christian culture thing is problematic: something I find myself rebelling against, because I realize how much pretending is involved on my part. I’m not and never have been the happy-clappy, hand-holding, Christian-ese speaking kind of Christian. I’ve endured awkwardness many times in church settings, telling myself it will get better as time goes on. It never occurred to me until recently that it may not be a sin after all to speak up and be honest, but polite, about things I’m not comfortable doing. Things like praying out loud that contradict my personality and the ways I relate to God. Doesn’t the beauty of community include diverse worship practices?
I hope the answer is yes. If not, I have wondered if Church Culture and I need to go our separate ways, because I have not been growing. I have not been learning. Instead, I have sat in bible studies pretending to be just as moved as everyone else, but inside I’m wondering what is wrong with me. I can’t pretend to be something I’m not, simply because it’s what others expect. That’s not authenticity. That’s wasting my time. Furthermore, it doesn’t allow anyone else the chance of really getting to know me. It’s a disservice to the community of Christ, where every member is uniquely gifted.
I don’t know what the ideal solution to this dilemma should be. But, while everyone else is standing and holding up their arms as the worship band is playing, doing what comes naturally to them, I’m doing what comes naturally to me: sitting, and writing in my prayer journal. Because worship goes beyond the bounds of Christian culture stereotypes. Worship is authentic, or nothing.
I am either an authentic Christian, or no Christian at all.
I must learn to make some kind of peace with my heritage, like a divorced parent having to see her ex on weekends to drop off the kids.
I don’t claim to be a scholar or an expert in anything. I’m only a pilgrim looking to marry my past to my present in a peaceful way so they don’t bicker; a sojourner searching for middle ground between two profoundly different—and profoundly similar—faiths, without ending up so infuriated by the followers of both that I toss them both out.