Geoff is the Pastor of Ministries at Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Since the election Newsweek has resorted to running more and more sensationalistic headlines each week. A few weeks ago the cover screamed "WE ARE ALL SOCIALISTS NOW" followed by "STRESS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE"; the editors have obviously decided the only way to survive the digital onslaught is to follow as closely as possible behind The National Enquirer. I'm sure "ANGELINA JOLIE GIVES BIRTH TO 72 YEAR OLD MAN!" is not far behind. So when I got this week's issue I was reluctant to read the cover story, The Decline and Fall of Christian America. Since Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything, has recently become a regular contributor I knew that Newsweek would take great delight in the latest statistics showing that religion in America is sliding into the abyss. What I did not expect was to be heartened by the article.
You see, I am one of the many Americans who would no longer describe themselves as a professing Christian. I cannot in good faith associate any more with what the label Christian has come to represent in America. Christianity is now a set of political views, a way to distinguish different groups of people (Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus), a movement to impose a certain view of morality on others regardless the condition of their hearts.
In order to be a faithful Christian I can only vote for politicians who say they hold the party line on the right issues. It does not matter if I agree with their economic views, their foreign relations policies or their theory on education; if they pass the Christian litmus test they are my candidates. The fact that voting for these Christians again and again has produced little change, in fact we see abortion more acceptable and gay marriage legalized at a faster pace, can't be factored into the equation. As a member of the Christian party I have to toe the line.
Christianity in America seems to be led by self-appointed spokesmen who attack others without charity, seek places of prominence wherever they go and live outrageously extravagant lifestyles. They are so important that they can't possibly be expected to fly with commoners on commercial airlines. One leader needs a jet that costs $3000 an hour to operate so they can get from one Christian event to another and be home in time to record their Christian television show. But it is my duty to defend them because they are on my team. Jesus' commands to serve, to do acts of kindness in private and to prove your discipleship by pure love for others seem to be secondary for Christian leaders in America.
The main goal of Christianity in America is to build a Christian society where Christian values are taught in the schools, Christian morals are enforced in the workplace and Christian laws are followed in the courtrooms. And if Christians can't force non-Christians to act like Christians, we'll just build our own separate society. We'll shop in Christian stores, buy from Christian salesmen and live in Christian neighborhoods. And if we need to we'll buy guns and defend our Christian values to the death.
I am flawed in my faith and every day I make mistakes that I am ashamed of. But I love Jesus more and more the older I get, and I love the church with all my heart; I just can't buy into the Christian thing anymore. So I quit. I am resigning from the Christian party, the Christian club, the Christian religion. I am going to devote the rest of my life to loving God with all my heart and loving my neighbor as myself. I am going to spend all of my energy learning more about Jesus so I can follow him as closely as I can. Every day I am going to pick up my cross and follow Jesus; I am going to try be a light in my community and salt in a desperate world. I'm just not going to be a Christian anymore. Are you with me?