It's been awhile since I last wrote. During that time, I started to wrestle again with returning to Christianity. I thought I could deal with the cognitive dissonance by taking a more progressive view of the ancient faith tradition. I read materials from leading progressive Christian thinkers which basically told me that I could maintain and practice a non-supernatural version of the faith. After previously leaving the faith behind, I could no longer believe in those miraculous events. I discovered the "Ground of All Being" God concept from progressive theologian Paul Tillich. I thought that it was abstract and obtuse enough for me to be able to hold to the "good parts" of the faith while maintaining a non-supernatural outlook.
Hence, in 2016, I tried to practice Christianity by simply trying to follow the moral teachings of the Bible. However the deeper I got into the moral teachings, the more I realized how immoral at worst or nominally moral at best these prescriptive measures presented themselves. There really were no "good parts" to speak of. In addition, when I talked to my more fundamentalist peers I knew that when we spoke about God, we definitely possessed different viewpoints on this figure. They espoused the classic views while I was all abstract with Paul Tillich ideas about God. I soon began to realize that attempting to practice Christianity without the core beliefs of the virgin birth, resurrection, heaven, hell, Satan, original sin, and the like left me with a poor man's excuse of a religion. I felt like I was drinking non-alcoholic beer; it doesn't taste good plus you won't even get a buzz from it!
I found myself rejecting the fundamentalist interpretation of many core tenants of Christianity, yet I found the progressive interpretations just as lacking. Even as I returned to the pulpit, attempting to preach with the same fire and passion from a progressive position that focuses on helping the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized has merits but it lacks staying power because people prefer other less engaging topics. The more I tried to teach lessons from the progressive side, I realized that I disagreed with both progressive and traditional views because I no longer possessed a need to follow these teaching.
I tried to justify my rationale for continuing with Christianity because as an African-American, the Black Church was traditionally the one safe space where I didn't have to worry about the racism and struggles that awaited once I walked outside those doors. However, I began to question if the Black Church really was a safe space or was I simply believing a narrative that continually repeats itself within my community. When I think of people with non-traditional views of God, poor folks, LGBTQ community members, single moms, and others, I see that the Black Church really didn't provide a SAFE space for them to grow without shame.
As I began to consider my own experiences within the Black Church, I never felt accepted. Although Christianity/Church teaches love, acceptance, and nurturing, I did not truly ever feel any of those things. What I experienced was heartache and pain over and over again. I can relate to what Charlie Brown felt every time he thought Lucy would allow him to kick the football: pain, embarrassment, and rejection. The so-called love, acceptance, and nurturing would only come when people embrace an orthodoxy(a correct belief). Those who spoke out against the local church orthodoxy were shamed or rejected to force them to leave.
I found myself rejecting the fundamentalist interpretation of many core tenants of ChristianityAfter being away for about six years, I thought that this time would be different, the big tent of Christianity is enough for me to have progressive views along with a non-literal view of scripture. Instead, I discovered that I have evolved past this old and feeble religion. This belief system no longer had power over me, yet I still tried to bring change into this faith-based institution. I found out that the voices of change in the Christian community are small in number and eventually get silenced. The traditional views win by sheer numbers and influence. Besides, the watered down progressive views do not instill the same fear or respect that the fundamentalist views do.
Hence, it made no sense for me to continue down a road where I would be fighting an uphill battle against those who value tradition over progress or stability over change. The funny thing is even as a progressive Christian, my views still stood in opposition to many of my family and friends due to their maintenance of traditional Christian ideas. In order for me to have acceptance from those in my circle, I would have to hide my opinions, just like I did when I was previously a non-theist.
It occurred to me that when people truly care, accept, and embrace you, they do it fully without conditions. These people in the Christian community never truly embraced or accepted me even when I was a fundamentalist. Why was I steadily trying to gain acceptance from people who cared more about my beliefs than who I was as a person? It was a Sisyphean task to say the least and one that I no longer wanted to labor with.
As much I thought the progressive side of Christianity would appeal to my very liberal sensibilities, I found that there was more cognitive dissonance on the left than on the right. At least on the right or fundamentalist side, all I had to do was to cut off my thinking, shut my mouth, and believe.
A progressive view of Christianity still came from the religion which stripped my distant West African ancestors of their indigenous culture and created the conditions for Jim Crow racism in the United States. No amount of anti slavery interpretations of the scriptures and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speeches can ever change the reality of Christianity.
It boils down to this: Whenever I take the time to actually think about the world and the human condition, the position of Christianity becomes harder and harder to maintain. Contrary to popular belief, the more I studied scripture, the more faith it took for me to believe in the garbled text. As a Black man, I see how Christianity, White Supremacy, militarism, and uncontrolled capitalism have created the conditions that have afflicted people in our society. I am done trying to justify why I believe in a God who endorses genocide in the Old and New Testaments all while claiming to love humanity.
After spending a great portion of 2016 dabbling again with Christianity, I end the year firmly as an atheist, never to return that way again.