I no longer know what it means to be a Christian.
While everyone, everywhere else was going to church this past Easter Sunday, I intended to stay in bed eating marshmallow Peeps, and perhaps starting work on my new screenplay idea starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Franco, and Ryan Gosling. I could have finished it that afternoon too. My pitch is the three of them standing around, dressed well, smoking cigarettes, and squinting. People will tell you to write what you yourself would read or watch. I’d watch that.
I’d heard enough Easter Sunday messages over the last twenty-some-odd years. I could afford to skip one.
Unfortunately, at the last minute, I was invited by a dear friend of mine to join the most unpretentious, stripped down, poorly organized gathering of individuals I’ve ever seen who get together on Sunday mornings and refuse to call their building the church, but rather, “The Building.” If the congregation only brewed Stumptown Coffee, I’d tell those borderline Anarchist-turned-Christian-hipsters in Portland to eat their hearts out.
If they didn’t consider the building they were gathered in an actual church, did I really go to church on Easter Sunday?
When I became a Christian my life was suddenly filled with weekly conversations between other Christians over coffee and clove cigarettes; C.S. Lewis and Kerouac novels amongst our Bibles on the table, discussing relationships, dating, sex, pornography. I spent two years doing nothing but talking, talking, talking because iron sharpens iron. A fellow writer, Dominic Laing once wrote, “…talking about ‘love and relationships’ as a Christian always came off, for some reason, as braver than talking about Moses or predestination.” Talk long enough and your iron becomes sharp enough to be a weapon wielded with the wrong intentions.
I had so many of the same conversations with the same Christian vocabulary, I nearly pierced my eardrums and gouged my eyes out with that stupid piece of iron. Everyone around me talked about sin and relationships as though they were something to be cured through classes, community, and communion.
Why are we as Christians so obsessed with nailing the perfect relationship? (Take that as a euphemism or leave it.) Every single example of a relationship we have in the Bible is totally jacked up. They all deal with infidelity, same-sex attractions, multiple sexual partners, lying, cheating, and stealing. Not to mention the very first couple in the history of couples is responsible for the fall of the human race. And we think we’re going to get it right? All I know is there is no absolute instruction manual for dating and abstaining, and what to do with your pulsating libido if you’re 40 and single. We are all going to screw it up, one way or another.
Wasn’t I supposed to be building orphanages in Africa, or choking the life out of Kony with my girlishly-soft and moisturized bare hands? Shouldn’t I have been starting underground churches in China? Or was I called to just give generously to those specifically called to start underground churches in China? If these are the things Christians are to be doing, why were we sitting around like a college study group discussing theology and dating as if it was the key to saving the human race? Because that’s also what Christians do. I played it safe within my community because the world out there was a scary place and hated me. If I could create the illusion of doing what Jesus had supposedly called me to do, and surround myself with likeminded individuals equally afraid of the world, I knew I’d be just fine.
I recently started reading the book of Genesis for the first time. I never gave it a read because I thought all the important stuff happened right at the beginning. God created the Heavens and the Earth, blah, blah, blah, made man in His image, and so on, and so on, a talking snake gave Eve an apple, and Adam, like any good man, goes down with his beloved.
Three chapters in and it’s not long before murder, envy, and adultery show their ugly faces. God says, “No, this is all wrong. I’m wiping everyone out.” Cue the great flood. But not before God puts Noah and seven others on a boat because Noah is the most righteous man alive, and is now in charge of restarting the human race with his righteousness. Noah does what any self-respecting, warm-blooded American male would do with such a responsibility: the moment he gets off that bloody boat and back onto dry land, he gets drunk, gets naked, and passes out. (More recently, if you can recall, another man’s story strikingly similar to this one of responsibility gone haywire has been in the news. The Devil has been playing the same tricks on us since Genesis.)
Then God proceeds to rain burning sulfur down on a city where every man in a fifty mile radius gathers around a house occupied by Lot, a man with two daughters who has just been visited by two male Angels — Biblical Brad Pitts, I’m certain — and the men of the town demand, “Hand over those men to us so we can have sex with them.” (Sidenote: I’m not taking fictional liberties here for entertainment value.) And Lot, he says, “You can’t have sex with these men, but you can have my two virgin daughters.” (Still no liberties taken.) The men are not pleased with this, and Lot’s daughters, after they see their mother turn to a Pillar of salt for disobeying God’s command, get their father drunk and have sex with him in a dark cave so their bloodline can be protected. But who can blame them? Traumatized somewhere between being offered up by their father as sex toys, their city burning to the ground, and watching their mother turn to a literal pillar of salt can probably have that sort of affect on people.
Would I hand this book over to someone who didn’t believe in God? “Welcome to Christianity. When you get to the daughter-father rape scene in the cave, just keep reading, it gets better. I promise.”
Truth is, it does get better. The Bible is a dark and twisted story full of murder, rape, and incest. Surprise. We’ve been rebellious, lustful, gay, prideful, and stark-raving idiots since the dawn of time. There’s nothing new under the sun. Or something like that. Which makes Christ’s crucifixion all the more incredible. Why would he do that for us? We were (and still are) so far gone. We definitely didn’t deserve it.
I know people coming back form the dead is the stuff of George A. Romero, but if you ask me why I’ve chosen to believe in the Resurrection, I would ask you the following in return: If the stories in the Bible are not real, why would anyone creating this false religion kill all the good guys? Jesus aside, all of his disciples are murdered too. Some say this is simply to glorify these men, but really it does just the opposite. It makes me think they are fools. In every other religion, the good guys win. Christianity is the only religion where its leader promises, “If you follow me, people will hate you, you will be persecuted, and chances are good you will die.”
Not exactly a Presidential campaign speech, is it? Who in their right mind would join this movement? Even the men closest to Jesus didn’t believe in his resurrection until they saw him with their own eyes. One of these knuckleheads even sold Jesus out for a couple extra bucks. Jesus knew he was going to do it, and still! let this guy roll with him and his crew. Think about that, my brothers and sisters, next time your sin causes your church, your friends, your family to cast you aside. These are the men who wrote half the Bible. This speaks volumes about us, yet we never seem to speak about it.
Remember a few years back the story of the man at a Gay Pride Parade in Chicago named Nathan who simply held up a sign which read, “I’m Sorry.”? A gay man named Tristan in the parade wearing only his underwear approached the perplexing sign-holder and said, “Why are you sorry? It’s Pride!” The back of Nathan’s sign read, “I used to be a Bible-Banging Homophobe, and I’m sorry.” Tristan jumped off his float, hugged Nathan, and thanked him through tears.
How many of you can recall this story? Or when you think of Gay Pride do you simply think of churches like Westboro Baptist and all those Christians holding signs declaring, “God Hates Fags,” and, “Homosexuals will burn in Hell.”
Who made Christians the authorities on judgement? If the Bible is anything to go by, we don’t know jack shit.
If you’re a part of the gay community and you’re reading this, I want you to know I am sorry too. I’m beginning to suspect Christians everywhere have it wrong. There’s something wrong with all of us, but you don’t need “fixed.” You are loved just the way you are. We claim your sins are the worst, but my friends, God sees all sin as equal. The moment you and I were born, gay or straight, we entered this world as sinners. Christ himself says, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” I am just as ugly on the inside as you are. Believe it or not, we are in this together.
This letter is me setting down my stone in the dirt.
If you’ve ever been ostracized from the church because of your sexuality or told that you can be fixed, I am sorry. If you’ve ever been asked to step down as a leader or criticized because of your addiction to and desire for pornography, I am sorry. If you’ve ever been told that sexual sin is the worst sin and you’ve been condemned with shame and guilt, I am sorry. If you’ve ever felt unwelcome because of the way you dress, I am sorry. And if you’ve ever been told grace and forgiveness requires work or that you must earn the forgiveness of Christ, I am sorry. For grace is the most magnificent force on the planet, and it is not to be reckoned with. It is intangible, yet smothering. It is the only thing which must first drown us before it can rescue us.
Dear Atheists, homosexuals, transexuals, lesbians, Christians, Catholics and Muslims. Dear widows and orphans and slaves. Dear homeless man living in the garage beneath my apartment. Dear terrorists, anarchists, and marxists. Dear Mr. President and North Korea. Dear every woman I ever dated, and every porn star I ever saw naked. Dear Comic-Con fanatics, artists, and anyone who still owns a Dell. Dear home-schooled children, bullies, nerds, jocks, heads, geeks, squares, popular kids, and unpopular kids everywhere. Dear Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Franco, and Ryan Gosling.
You are imperfect and judgmental. You are self-addicted and lustful. You are full of hate and sin, pride and secrets. Yet God sees you through the lens of Christ’s Crucifixion: forgiven and without scars, perfect and fulfilled, destined with a purpose the way He intended you to be.
Now put down your stones and go be.
Just another sinner.
Copyright April 2012, Max Andrew Dubinsky || Make It MAD
I write fiction too. Read the Dislocated Experience.