You’re a Churchgoer, Not a Christian

A BuzzFeed contributor named Katharine Myers wrote a piece recently entitled, “Dating While Christian.” In it, she chronicles her difficult time she had coming out as a Christian among the primarily atheist and agnostic liberal community she runs in. She’s a regular churchgoer at a Presbyterian church and makes it clear she’s not one of “those” conservative Christians. She paints a picture of immature ignorance among these liberal community about Christianity where the assumption is that they’re uneducated yokels. As an environmental engineer with a Masters in Chemical Engineering married to another Master of Chemical Engineering who are both devout Evangelical Christians – I can say with clarity that education does not prevent one from becoming a Christian. That said, there’s a different problem with her story, in my opinion. She’s not really a Christian, she’s a church goer.

Why do I say this? Some will call me rude for saying so, but there are signs throughout the article which make it clear she is not a believer in Christ, but merely a churchgoer.

First, let’s mention the fact that for a long while – she hid her faith and, in essence, denied Christ. Christ warns against this in His word (Matthew 10:33). Those who are unwilling to stand with Him, who deny Him, He will deny before His Father in Heaven. Now, she’s stopped doing this – and has become more open with others about her faith. She stopped the overt hiding of her church attendance and letting others assume she’s late on Sundays because she had a booty call. That’s for the best.

But why do I call her a churchgoer and not a Christian? Is not the fact that she associates with Christianity enough to make her a Christian? Some 70% of Americans claim to be Christians, but when you look at what they believe – it’s not Christianity and they’re not Christians.

My views on her faith come from her comments near the end of the article. Let me point out that this was after a long discussion about her current state with her seemingly lovely Jewish boyfriend who she’s been able to be very open about her faith with. After her boyfriend attends Easter service with her, he says that the church is really all about Jesus. She replies to that sentiment saying…it kind of is. Here’s the text:

Well, yes and no. For me it’s a meditation on the bigger picture within a welcoming community upholding lovely traditions. Just like Judaism is for him.

Nothing compares, in my opinion, to the sunbeams of positivity and outreached arms of Christianity — the knowledge that, no matter what you do or who you are, God has your back. Judaism feels more exclusive, and more focused on accounting for your own life rather than handing it off to someone else. But in the ways I cherish and rely on most, they are divinely similar. The rituals, traditions, and the emphasis on family, love, reflection, and support give Judaism all the comforts of faith without the negative social and political connotations.

Bobby and I talk a lot about conversion now. His rabbi and I have discussed whether it’s harder to give up lifelong family religious traditions or to give up something you’ve discovered and nurtured entirely for yourself. The more I learn about Judaism, the more it feels like another home I’m building around myself.

I do think it’s easier to go from faith to faith than start shul shopping with someone who thinks All Religion Is Bullsh*t — and it’s definitely easier to explain conversion to my godless friends. I already drink the Kool Aid, I tell them. It tastes a lot like Manischewitz.

There’s a lot to take in there, so let’s break it down.

First, she says her faith is not all about Jesus. That’s actually the first thing she says in this passage. Meaning? Her faith isn’t Christian. If Christ isn’t at the center, it isn’t Christian faith. Period. Christianity is defined by the divinity of Christ. If you believe He is Lord, believe He is a member of the trinitarian Godhead, then you are within the more orthodox Christian tradition. Jesus is at the center. He needs to be. Christianity is not merely a social club, it is a community of believers. Treating it like a social club is a disservice to the other members, and to yourself.

Christ is ready to embrace you where you are in life. He’s ready to take you and mold you into the better you which you need to be. It is about handing off your burdens onto Him, so in that regard she is correct. But, then comes the part where she once more is rejecting Christ, only in a more blatant fashion. What do I mean? She’s leaving the faith.

If you are willing to convert to a different faith, then you are not a Christian. Either you believe in a trinitarian Godhead, believe in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, or you don’t. You can’t be both. You can’t be both a devout Jew and a devout Christian, just as you can’t be simultaneously a devout Muslim and devout Hindu. Judaism is not Christianity. If you are joining the Jewish faith, you are actively choosing to deny Christ. She isn’t talking about becoming a member of a Messianic Jewish community, but a traditional Jewish community. Once again, that is not Christianity and therefore, if she’s willing to leave the faith for a faith which is non-Christian, she is not a Christian.

We have the same situation we see with a lot of people. If you do not believe the only way to the Father is through the Son, you are not a Christian. If you do not believe in the divinity of Christ, you are not a Christian. If you are willing to leave the church for a different faith which denies Christ as Messiah, Lord, and God – you are not a Christian. There are lot of people who believe in heretical thoughts, but claim Christ. Jesus spoke about them too saying He will reject those who claim His name, but are not truly believing in Him (Matthew 7:22-23).

She may be a lovely person and may truly have a hard time explaining that she attends church to her liberal, atheist friends – but she’s not a Christian. She appears to be a generic theist, which is quite frankly the faith of many Americans.

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Image of a pew via Church Volunteers Central

About the Author

Matthew Newman
Matthew Newman is an environmental engineer (Professionally licensed in Maryland). He’s also a husband, beard aficionado, Dad of four beautiful children, blogger, and all around geeky guy from Baltimore County. When he’s not chasing his kids or working, he’s probably asleep.

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