Christmas, Traditions and Faith

Hey all…welcome back to my pink room! Grab a seat, get comfortable …we might be here for a little while.

So as some of you may have noticed its been quite a bit since my last post but excited to invite you back into my pink room for a little real talk with Jamie. (Also quick disclaimer this might be just a tad bit long but its been like a month so give me break, I have got a lot to say…) Alright what are we talking about? Honestly I am not exactly sure, but sit tight and hopefully it will all come together by the end.

How shall we begin? I guess we ought to start with at least a little context to the title and oh also that picture of Christmas presents and ornaments at the top. So here is the context. I thought that well today I could kind of really share my Christian self with you all… I mean I think its always there in everything I write but I wanted to get little deep into my faith practice and thoughts and all that. I figured the holiday season just passed and with everything happening particularly in my crazy country called the US and spiking rates of the plague across the globe, the overlaps of faith and life might seem a bit more prominent. So I guess if that is a problem for you this might be the time to stop reading and close this tab because we hopefully will get a bit uncomfy with my Christian and not so much folks.

So I kind of want to talk about a few things but I also know everybody has got something to do, so we will start with this…

Is Christmas about Christ? And perhaps better said is religious practice the same as religious faith? Honestly even more so what does it mean to be religious? Can someone declare Christ, as the son of God, Messiah and Lord but also not be religious? or Christian? And I guess vice versa, does Christian mean Christ is Lord? Does religious tradition and practice mean supernatural faith or belief?

Okay so those are a lot of questions but maybe you are kind of catching what I am trying to get at here. I think Christmas brings out at least for me the sort of distinctions that maybe the questions hint at. The distinctions that seem to arise between practice and faith, tradition and intention, religion and belief. And to be honest, those questions, these distinctions have been something I have really been struggling with and meditating on for a while now. And I think the practice of Christmas especially this year, has really kind brought many of these questions to the forefront of my mind.

Think about it. Everyone everywhere knows about Christmas. Like I don’t care what religion you are or not, essentially if you exist in this world you have at least heard of the concept of Christmas. Maybe about the evergreen trees and the perfectly wrapped presents. Or the big old white man, that has a sleigh and apparently manages to fit through chimneys to bring kids presents. Or maybe the Christmas dinners where families finally get together and share some huge traditional meal. Perhaps, you are even familiar with this whole story of a pregnant virgin, a manger and a baby Jesus. Regardless, most folks have heard about Christmas. It is so popular in the US that it’s a national holiday, where you can expect that most stores will close their doors either early or for the whole day on Christmas.

And yet at the same time, Christmas is a distinctly Christian holiday. It’s like one of two big holidays that Christianity as a collective movement even tends to claim. The holiday where we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Lord we all worship. The day we celebrate God doing something the world had never seen before that is becoming in our likeness so that we might finally be in his. Christmas is like the one holiday that if you know nothing else about someone’s religious faith but they identify as Christian, it is quite reasonable to assume they will observe it in some way or another.

But of course we also know that’s not really true. Christmas is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians, religious and non-religious, theists, deists and atheists alike. In fact, one of my close friends is an atheist and her family 100% has more Christmas traditions than my supposedly Christian family does. And here is another interesting truth that seems to complicate this seemingly universal Christian holiday, some Christians reject Christmas all together as a kind of pagan holiday which has no business in the Christian practice.

This is of course because if you are like me at some point you will become curious where Christmas comes from in the first place and will find out that there is no real basis for it in the Christian holy text. It’s a holiday that found its way fossilized in Christian practice somewhere down the line in the Catholic expression of the Jesus movement. And then Americanized as the time where parents, friends and family were justified to buy folks presents, say nice things and drink a lot of milk.

This is not an inditement on Christmas by any means or even to say that it can’t be a beautiful holiday or time to reflect on the guy that the whole religion, known as Christianity centers on. I love Christmas just as much as the next gal but what I am trying to show here is that religious tradition doesn’t seem to always correspond with faith. Or more specifically sometimes being Christian means something entirely different than living as if Christ is Lord and vice versa. And I guess to some this may already seem painfully obvious, that religion and religious practice doesn’t seem to postulate divine worship or even presence.

But I guess to me this is and has always been particularly strange and even troubling. I grew up in “Christian” tradition that in many ways attempted to reject the idea that one could be “Christian” and at the same time not a follower of Christ. There was a sense that we only gained this title “Christian” from dedication to a life and more importantly a faith in and under Christ. I saw it mainly hypocritical or if I am really honest irrational that people would claim and even attempt to follow the “creeds” or rules of a religion that they didn’t really believe in. That folks would attend the same church, synagogue, or mosque and listen to the same preacher, rabbi or imam say the same things that they didn’t believe in or maybe even rejected all together.

But even in a less extreme way how folks learned to hold their personal beliefs even as they found them in contradiction with dogma in their places of worship or even their whole religious tradition. I truly believed at least for a while that ones personal beliefs should be in unison with the “dogma” of their faith. That my personal beliefs were truly aligned with the beliefs of those who I thought were the “true” Christians. And more importantly that Christianity, that is knowing the one who saw me in my pit of darkness, Christ, could keep no one from the radical transformation, that is a deep empathy for those suffering and a completion rejection of evil in this world.

As crazy as it might sound to some of you I really thought to be Christian in essence required one to “progressive” or “liberal”. For Christ gave dignity to all human life, seeing even the despised in his society as worthy of true life. To be Christian meant to reject all forms of oppression, to see hierarchical power in our world as anything but natural and rather direct evidence of sin and a tragic fall. To be truly Christian meant to live a life of intention rather than just out of tradition. To see all traditions as worthy of careful interrogation and contemplation so as to keep one from hypocrisy or lukewarm faith.

And then this summer happened.

And not really just the summer even, but my life really or at least my life with less and less blurry vision. I began to have these weird moments. Sitting in church on Sunday. Chatting with my Christian folk any other day. I began to notice things. Things that kind of made me uncomfortable. Like when it hit me, sitting in church one day that I had never really seen women participate in the service outside of singing a few pretty songs. Or when I was chatting with someone about all the cute new dating couples from church and I realized with a weird clarity that all the couples we were talking about were white.

It was brief moments like these, where I guess I didn’t really think that much about it but it kind made me feel a little funky or out of place. And it would typically be in these same moments, that I would begin to also wonder if anyone else was noticing what I was, felt the way I did. But these moments of displacement often tended to disappear or at least get buried beneath my conscious mind with a little time.

And then this summer happened. And really the whole year 2020 happened. And I learned things I never knew before. I learned that everyone knew at least in the US that Christian meant Republican. I learned that Christian meant tradition over intention or at least over discomfort. And most painfully, I learned that everyone knew at least in the US that a “traditional Christian family” was code for my family is deeply invested in white supremacy, patriarchy and heterosexism (which turns out is likely most families in the US) but also if my same family was white then this likely also meant that were just explicitly racist, sexist and homophobic. Maybe this too is painfully obvious to you. Or maybe you were like me who is or was genuinely shocked and even betrayed by this truth.

Regardless it is hard to ignore when it is from Christianity that white supremacists claim their stance, violent men claim their domestic dominance or homophobic people find inspiration for their signs. But I think the tragedy for me wasn’t really the Klu Klux Klan member claiming my God as their leader, or the abusive husband justifying his violence as the will of God or even the screaming homophobic with signs and words of fire and brimstone but rather the silent approval, acceptance of these forces of oppression namely white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism and of course even classism as true or even natural by folks in my congregation.

It was the silence and desperate narcissism to “not be racist” by white folks in my congregation in the face of public and legalized Black murders. It was the acceptance that women didn’t really have a place in the wisdom tradition of God. It was the loud indifference of broken and hurting Christians leaving behind eternal life because they were told their identity was too crooked to be included in the kingdom of God.

And I began to wonder if I was even worshiping the same God. If I was reading the same text. If I had declared the same Lord. And it was then and I guess still now, I began to realize with a burdensome clarity that my beliefs, my faith and even my desire to be like and follow Christ came at direct contradiction with the dogma of my own place of worship and perhaps even my religion.

And so I guess that brings me back to those questions, remember the ones that we started with. The ones that ask is Christmas really about Christ, is religion really about faith, is being Christian the same as imitating Christ.

I truly believe that Yahweh, the name whom my God has declared for himself, met me in my darkness when my life made a mockery of the lordship of his son Jesus. He saw me as broken. As needing more in this life than the meaningless cycle of never ending performance that I had been living before he met me. And since meeting him at 16 years old, my life is nothing like it should have been. I am known. I am loved in a way that I still can’t really understand. I have and know what is to experience true life. I have truth, to ward against the lies that have attempt to deform an image of the divine into a purposeless beast. And I don’t want to give up life and my soul to become Christian as it seems many know it to be.

I really wish I had the right thing to say to soften the tension that I bear in my spirit. A tension between being Christian and thus a member of community of people whose values seem to be spoiled by hate, hostility and violent indifference or ignorance which I desire no part of while simultaneously desperately desiring and yearning to know Yahweh and to live out the project of walking like Christ with the family of God here on earth. But sadly, I am caught right in the middle of it.

All I can say is I am deeply hurt and even betrayed by a people I thought cared about my dignity and the dignity of others as much I did. I thought that loving Christ meant refusing to both live in his kingdom and continue to give honor to the things already honored in the world. So for right now my answer to all those questions we started with is just I don’t know. But what I do know in this very moment is that its hard for me to love or even want to be a Christian but my desire to know God, to find intimacy with my Lord Christ has not wavered. I am not sure if that really is a cope out or maybe something deeply profound.

I guess I will have to wait and see…

Alrighty. Thanks for joining me for the ride… if it was your first time in the pink room please do come back and make sure to sign up to get all my latest posts right in your inboxes. Also to any invested parties the next installment of our schooling and roots series is in process so hopefully we can get back to investigating real soon.

Well that’s all I got thanks for joining me in the pink room and hope to see you soon.

Till then!

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