In Which I Talk About Christianity

In a move that may be at least somewhat born from spite, I like to consider myself a Christian. It’s a sore subject with one particular Acquaintance of mine, who likes to occasionally bring me dead-bird facts like “you know, there’s little evidence that there was a historical Jesus” or “the Gospels are based on Gilgamesh.” Yes, yes, you got me there. I suspect an early run-in with evangelicals soured him on the religion in general.

It’s hard to say why I feel so strongly that I want to call myself a Christian. I don’t go to church; I pray sporadically; I don’t feel compelled one way or the other about the existence of a historical Jesus. I think I’m drawn to the idea that God was angry at mankind, and decided to corporealize to teach us how to live, and then after having lived, reflected that maybe He had been a little harsh. I also really enjoy entering into dialogue with more traditional Christians as a Christian. I’ve only done it a small handful of times over the years, but it’s always satisfying to speak earnestly about how your interpretation of the Pauline Letters is historical, not prescriptive. This may be dishonest.

My conversions to Christianity have been many and short-lived. Once was when father got appendicitis and I instantly flipped from Wiccan to Christian as a literal Hail Mary. Another time, I got broken up with at summer camp and converted to impress an attractive friend of mine, who gave me her copy of The Teen Devotional Bible for my troubles. And of course I was a Christian while attending Baptist preschool, when Christianity meant mostly that I learned songs about Jesus and ate snacks. I remember around that age talking earnestly to a man at a facepainting booth about whether Jesus had been sentenced to the cross or had gone willingly: “I think he could have stopped them, if he really wanted to” was my somewhat milquetoast compromise on this issue.

But I think I call myself Christian now for more serious reasons. I think that God considers us His favored fuckups, a role I’ve always relished as a badly-behaved child of parents with high standards.

My interpretation goes something like: God made the angels first, who were perfect, high-strung Honors students who sang praise with robotic precision. God realized that angels were amoral, because they had no will. God made humans to have will, and then was crushed when we were willful. This relationship was fraught for many years, through our species’ adolescence, but we are now on slightly better terms. God would like to understand finitude, and we want to know eternity. We have something to offer one another, and we will both grow together. Christ, then, is interesting mostly as a model for how we should behave: making big blowout mistakes, conversing with the Devil, doing miracles when we can, getting into weird arguments with our mothers, telling God we’re going to try our best and perhaps asking more of Him as well.

And of course, all of this “then/now” is reductive because God is a four-dimensional being minimum, and so we are constantly in a state of having this same argument, and arriving at the reconciliation, on an individual and collective basis, which is why life continues to be hard but hopeful, and when we eventually step outside of the time stream at the end of our lives we will get a little perspective and understand our parent creature a little better, and perhaps have a drink together as adults, and He will say, “ah yes, that was a difficult time in My life, too, when I had arms and legs and lungs and sweat that dripped in my eyes. You handled it alright, considering.” Or maybe not; I’m not willing to give up my agnostic card entirely here.

I think Christianity feels liberatory to me, rather than confining, when I strip away the dogma and think about it like that: as a religion that asks us to assume that we are going to make mistakes, but that this is inevitable and in fact a good thing, a key part of redemption. That the process of schism and reconciliation is itself a worthwhile pursuit, that it would not be better if we were perfect, but that not being perfect is not an excuse to not be better.