A lot of people leave church because they really think that in order to be a Christian they have to believe:
- Hell is real and everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going there.
- Homosexuals are going there even if they believe in Jesus.
- Women who have abortions are going there (to hell) even if they believe in Jesus.
- Evolution is ungodly and if you think there is any veracity to it you are probably on your way to hell.
When people stop believing what they think are core beliefs, the only option they can see is to opt out. Most people in our country really think that Christianity is a constricting, rule laden, and judgmental religion. Grace is available for a price: believing the unbelievable. Grace isn’t really free.
I believe that the Christian faith isn’t about believing any core beliefs; it is primarily about following Jesus. The core beliefs of Christianity, for some of us, are not the same as they were in the 19th century. For example, a core belief of 19th century Christianity was that women should not teach “mixed groups”, men and women together. Women should not preach, etc. Clearly, I don’t believe that because I do both. Core beliefs can and probably should change over time.
Each of those bullet points above deserves some alternative response:
- Along with many other Christians, I do not believe in hell. I believe in universal salvation. I trust God enough with everyone’s eternity to figure it all out. I do not need to sit in the judgment seat. (see a future article “The Problem Created by not having Hell”)
- Along with many other Christians, I do not believe homosexuality is a sin. If you want to know why, then be willing to come to a class I’ve taught and hope to teach again on Sexual Ethics and the Bible.
- Along with many other Christians, I believe a woman needs to have the right of choice over what happens to her own body. Misogyny is still alive and well in our country; so is the double standard. I experience it all the time.
- Both my children are studying biology which includes the serious study of evolution AND they both go to church. Young adults, away from home who go to church make up a small percentage of the population in case you didn’t know. Don’t anyone DARE tell them they aren’t Christian or you will have me to contend with. One cannot believe or not believe in evolution. Evolution is NOT a faith; it is a science. Yes, it is theory, but for it to be a scientific theory requires heaping amounts of evidence. The earth does not need to be 6,000 years old for God to be real to me. I happen to think we are descended NOT from apes, but from fish. (See “My Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion year History of the Human Body”, by Neil Shubin) Gives a whole new meaning to the story of the loaves and fishes. (See Mark 6:30-44)
It saddens me that so many people have been convinced by experience and observation that Christianity is a rigid religion void of grace, intelligence and compassion. The Christian life has opened doors of grace, afforded me the gift of engaging my intellect and grown in me deeper compassion. This is the faith worth sharing. If you are a Christian who follows Jesus, what is the faith worth sharing with people turned off and turned away from what they’ve been taught the Christian faith is?