This past week - following the end of my series, 31 Ways I've Changed My Mind - was a bit of a timewarp. Between face-to-face discussions and emails, Facebook messages, and texts all requesting some form of virtual or phone meeting - with Christians in different seasons of faith, in and out of church or ministry - it was easy to drop back into my former role of pastor's wife.
Just because I don't go to church, doesn't mean I don't have a ministry.
In every face-to-face interaction, Jen Hatmaker's name snuck into our conversation as a whisper, "Did you read the article about Jen Hatmaker and what she said?!" I hadn't. I'm not intimately tied to Christian leaders and authors anymore, except maybe Richard Rohr. But after being repeatedly asked about Jen, I did my due diligence and read hers and her husband's Facebook posts.
"Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change."
I continue to change my mind about Christianity.
I applaud and admire Jen Hatmaker for using her platform to share her truth and generate discussion. It was bold and brave, and incredibly vulnerable considering her position in the Christian community. And it further solidifies my own position of separating myself from the label of Christian. The reaction to Jen's admission and support to and for a widely misunderstood and unloved group of people (LGBTQ) is proof that Christianity is a divided community too distracted with what's "right".
I couldn't get through many of the comments in response to the Hatmaker's Facebook posts. Some people thanked them but more cried heresy and outlined all the ways she and her husband are "wrong". Unfortunately, I wasn't surprised by the arguments about scripture amongst the Christians commenting, but my stomach reeled with the, "I love them, just not their lifestyle" rebuttals - the "love the sinner, hate the sin" - because that used to be me. As a Christian, saying, "I love you, but I don't love your sin," I felt as if I was being supportive while proving my commitment to the bible like a good Christian should, yet the "sinner" certainly didn't feel the love because there was always an underlying qualifier that I believed something about them was wrong and needed to change.
It'd be like me telling my Christian friends I love them but not their lifestyle. That's not love. It's an assumption that I am right in my own lifestyle - that mine is better than theirs. It's not. It's just different. Love is Letting Others Voluntarily Evolve; on their own time, in their own way, while living their own lifestyle. I don't need my Christian friends to stop being Christian for me to truly love them. And my Christian friends who have stuck with me as I've separated myself from the label - and from religion - love me, support me, and would show up for me regardless of my lifestyle choices.
In most Christian circles, I've found I'm still technically "safe". My presence can be rationalized because of my past, having been raised in Christianity, my current choices shrugged off as "just a phase". If Christianity was a religion taught to be an experience and not a way of life with rules of "right" and "wrong", maybe I'd continue to seek interaction with Christians in a church environment. But I can't go to church because, at some point, Christians will want to change me.
There are no more secrets to keep about my beliefs.
Now, as just a person who is spiritual and seeks understanding of the divine - God and The Universe - thru experience, I can confidently state my beliefs without fear they don't line up with a really old, always misunderstood text. I can support humanity in whatever way my heart leads without worrying I'm "doing it wrong".
So, if you're wondering - to be clear - this means, like Jen Hatmaker, I support gay marriage. Unlike Jen Hatmaker, I don't care what the bible says because I've changed my mind about the bible. I don't need to justify myself with scripture. I no longer associate myself as Christian, and I'm not going to argue because I don't believe I need to defend my beliefs.
I think it's okay to believe in absolute truth; what's not okay is imposing that truth on others with the requirement of conformity and acceptance of your definition of "right" and "wrong". The truth is, as a Christian, I supported gay marriage. I just didn't feel like I could admit it because my absolute truth does not align with the majority of the Christians I know.
This means I may no longer be "safe" in Christian circles - a former pastor's wife, once on church staff standing in support of the LGBTQ community - but I don't care. Being a human being feels really good. Love feels really good.
Thank you, Jen Hatmaker, for being honest with the process of your seeking - and for your commitment to being yourself openly. I believe that's all God wants from us, to be ourselves, and I believe God doesn't love you, Jen, me, those in the LGBTQ community any less for what we believe, or our lifestyles. The God I believe in is inclusive and driven solely by love.
And you don't even need to agree with me.