Sunday, September 12, 2010

Universalism and Christianity: My Perspective

I grew up in a Christian family. I have attended many Christian churches (although most considered themselves Southern Baptist). I celebrate Christian holidays. It is the religious tradition I am most knowledgeable about and the tradition I am closest too. I knew little about any other tradition until high school, and it was not until I was in college that I extensively studied another religious tradition.

Despite this, Christianity is the religion I feel the most isolated from. I know that many universalists practice this belief through the eyes of Christianity, believing that all people will be saved through Jesus Christ. While I take no issue with this, I do not. My early experiences with Christianity were extraordinarily negative. It was in a Christian church I was taught to hate myself and to fear God. Even with my conversion to universalism, those ideas still haunt me at times. I am not free of the damage that has been done.

But it is not only past events influencing this feeling of isolation. Almost everyday I see Christians who claim they love everyone isolate and condemn those whom they feel do not fit into their tiny little box of what they believe constitutes a "good person". Two of my best friends are homosexual. Neither of them would ever hurt another person, yet they are told what they do is evil. One of them is about to marry her partner of 3 years and she is told that her love is sinful. I have seen Muslim and Buddhist friends threatened with damnation because they do not follow Jesus Christ. I have seen how much this hurts them. Because of this, Christianity continues to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

However, I am not blinded by hate. I know this view of Christianity is not fair. I know most Christians are not so hateful and work tirelessly to practice the love that they preach. I know there are Christian churches which are inclusive and accepting of all people.

I also know this view is not fair to Jesus. Although I have not decided for myself exactly what he was (whether Son of God, a prophet inspired by God, or just a normal human), I do believe his ideas are immensely valuable to humanity as a whole, as well as individuals, regardless of the religious tradition they follow. It is because of this that I do not equate Jesus with Christianity since Christianity does not, and cannot, claim monopoly over him. Muslims consider him a prophet and people from every walk of life have been inspired by his teachings, including myself.

Even with this knowledge, however, I cannot bring myself back to Christianity, even a Christianity framed with universalist ideals. I still have much bitterness and anger towards Christianity that I must work through. How long this will take is anyone's guess. I might not ever be able to return to the tradition of my childhood. Even if I am able to work through the negativity Christianity has left me with, that is no guarantee I will want to return. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. I also have my personality working against me. I am an independent person, and prefer to study and worship God on my own terms. I am not criticizing those who prefer to do those things in a community setting. I just feel differently.

Overall, I do believe Christianity is a positive force in the world. But until I can heal from the wounds inflicted on me from one sect of Christianity, I do not feel comfortable claiming myself to be a Christian in any way.

1 comment:

  1. That's really understandable considering what you've been through. I sometimes wonder if I can self-identify as a Christian anymore, either, since I've grown so far from what is considered "orthodox." But I truly think that what "Christianity" has become today is something that Jesus never intended.