There is a lot of talk today about leaving Christianity. Those who do so are sometimes labeled as “dones.”
I get it. There’s much within Americanized white evangelicalism that is repelling — and leads many to rejecting the identity of the larger faith it claims to represent.
Today, an overwhelming majority of people who loudly and proudly profess to be evangelical Christians have aligned themselves with political operatives who exploit fears of cultural change masked as personal threats.
Self-preservation, with strong hints of racism, has become the guiding star. And, in many cases, evangelical leaders take the lead.
Together, they espouse, empower and exhibit the lowest moral character reflected in abuse of power, mistreatment of the vulnerable, and pure disregard for justice and honesty. Power and privilege — not Jesus’ greatest commandments or the fruit of the Spirit — mark much of white Americanized Christianity.
Such anti-Christ behavior being carried out in the name of the Christian faith is so overwhelmingly obvious to the point it can’t be denied or remain unchallenged.
But what does leaving look like? And where does one go? Are there benefits to staying? Those are individual decisions.
My frustration, disappointment and disillusionment with so much of Americanized Christianity has led to moving away from a place that simply does not reflect my most basic beliefs and values. It is more a recognition of what has gradually taken place than any kind of announced departure.
Leaving the Americanized evangelical subculture — largely reshaped in recent times into a political movement of self-advancement — is not the same as leaving Jesus. In fact, for some of us, it is considered necessary in order to follow Jesus more faithfully.
So, I’ve left that once comfortable subculture. But not Jesus — and the forms of Christian community that still consider him to be more than just a ticket to heaven. And also not those who don’t put their faith in Jesus but reflect his life more clearly than many who claim they do.
In fact, the very things I hold most dear — that Jesus espoused and demonstrated — are often found outside rather than within white Americanized Christianity. Basic godly and humanitarian values like truthfulness, equality, fairness, respect, compassion and justice for all.
The priorities of a large slice of white Americanized Christianity simply do not align with what we see and hear in Jesus — and, ironically, with what we learned of him from the very subculture we have departed.
It is one thing to come up woefully short as a follower of Jesus; it’s another to claim to be Christian and not have following Jesus as one’s primary goal.
White evangelicalism walled itself off over a long period of time in which it provided its own forms of music and other entertainment; leadership structures and relationship expectations; and even an esoteric vocabulary. Yet, in all those things, it seemed expressions of contributing to the common good were at the forefront.
However, wedding evangelicalism to brass-knuckled politics — with shared vows of retaining or assuming power by any means — has revealed an ugliness in which I want no part.
That once comfortable home began to feel less cozy when the ways of Jesus seemed so often more apparent from without evangelicalism than from within.
Now the evangelical subculture is inextricably tied to a political ideology — melded with religious imagery — that gets expressed in ways that are fearful, restrictive and oriented toward the benefit of white Americanized Christians to the detriment of others.
Bye, bye. So long.
Give me a saner, safer faith in Jesus — one that counters exclusion and meanness rather than advances it.
Give me a place that calls for mystery over certainty, humility over arrogance, justice over inequality, grace over retribution, and love over condemnation.
Give me a home where political efforts actually concern others rather than myself and those like me.
Give me wider, more liberating spaces. Places where I see Jesus in people and places he claims even when they do not claim him.
For those reasons, my choice is to not leave Christianity (as I understand it to be), but to acknowledge that I have already left behind a white Americanized evangelicalism subculture that is no longer home.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.