Easter Reflections from a Heathen, a Heretic, or Some Other “H” Word

This is a bit different from most of my writing here or in other public forums, as it’s more of a basic journal entry than a review or reflection on media. While I generally write about film or music in my publicly shared pieces, I have written a great deal more in my journal over the past few months than I have in years. In full disclosure, this is because I’ve decided it’s a good way to work through my thoughts and issues – and, my counselor agrees. An Easter morning in church prompted me to share my inner thoughts in a more outward way today, as a few tweets I posted earlier today seemed to resonate with some of my friends and followers on that site.

I began my thread with the above observation, as I stepped out of the church sanctuary to use the restroom and found myself struggling to walk back into the doors of the main auditorium. Lately, I struggle more and more to “go to church” but my faith struggles are generally focused on the body, not the Creator or Christ. I am a Believer – most accurately, I could probably describe myself as a believer in God and Jesus that has a healthy amount of agnosticism in my belief, but still generally and genuinely values my faith and relationship with God. However, I completely moved away from using the word “Christian” in describing myself several years back and I have a strong distaste for the American Evangelical movement. I typically only attend church 3-5 times per year and that’s out of some weird sense of obligation and a desire to appease certain family members.

This background info is just to set a stage and help you understand exactly where it is I’m coming from when I explain that church buildings are not only a place where I don’t feel a desire to go, but have actually become a place where I actively feel less connected to God and my faith than in most other places I visit. The above tweet was followed up with a few more… I continued my thoughts in a series of short tweets as follows:

At this point, I know far fewer people that haven’t been harmed or traumatized by the Church than I know folks who haven’t. Evangelicalism is a disease and it makes it hard to sit in a church without feeling the weight of it all.

Outside of my family who have been there for me my whole life, nearly every supportive person in my circle is someone who identifies as something other than Christian. Wiccans, Atheists, and non-affiliated agnostics are my people. They have been far more Christlike in my life.

Nowhere does this feel more plain and evident to me than in a church sanctuary on Easter morning.

As I returned home from the service – which included a message I mostly appreciated and did not include any teachings or ideas I specifically took any issue with – I found myself thinking deeply on all of this and decided it was important enough to write about in hopes of connecting to others and helping folks who share my point of view and feelings to sort out where they stand while also knowing they aren’t alone. Perhaps even more than that, this is serving for me to sort out where I stand as an outsider/insider of the faith and where I go from here.

It’s Easter Sunday and the message of this holy day is that God is all powerful – so much so, in fact, that he literally conquered death. I love this message, whether literal of figurative. The idea that faith in God can overcome all boundaries and all tribulations is an awesome one. And, while the exact way that looks can be be debated, I buy it. I believe that we can overcome even death, even if that’s not something that necessarily looks like a literal and actual resurrection. While I am certain many of my beliefs and assertions are heretical, I don’t care whether or not folks believe in a literal resurrection or believe that this part of Jesus’s life was some type of allegory – I believe either view can teach a lot to those who study it and ruminate on it. Perhaps it’s my literary schooling as a former English major or my love of genre film that is often rooted in a fantasy world, but I care less abotu what is literal and actual than I do about the truth and power that’s in a story. Thus, the Easter story is one that I believe has a ton of truth and power within it.

Yet, the world we live in feels like one that is literally harmed and worsened by the agendas and actions of the American Evangelical church on a daily basis. I watch so-called “Christians” propping up the character and actions of Donald Trump on TV and in real life on a nearly daily basis. I see “Christian” people in my own community scoffing at my Black Lives Matter and Trans-Rights shirts – the former printed by the great Camden Printworks and the latter purchased from amazing musical artist Ryan Cassata. It makes the idea of supporting a church – much less, the Church – a difficult proposition. There are great faith-based organizations helping people all over the place, but there are even more faith based lobby groups out there fighting against LGBTQ+ rights, funding conversion camps, and even still doing things like speaking against interracial marriages. Many of the groups doing this are mainstream organizations, making them more dangerous and “credible”.

My circle of friends and the people I care most about include some great Christian folks, but most of them are related to me by blood or marriage. When it comes to the people in my circle who aren’t obligated to me in any legal or tangible way, the ones who truly show me Christlike love and care are almost exclusively non-Christian. I am grateful to have these people in my life, but it’s hard not to notice that the “Christians” I interact with each day do not demonstrate the love and care that these folks do… and not just because they are my friends. I see them treat others with care and love all of the time, with the exceptions typically being those who have hurt the people they care about. It’s these people who I see fighting against injustice and standing alongside the oppressed – things that Jesus literally called his followers to do in the red words of the Bible that the Evangelical church seem to ignore. What’s even more is that the injustices these people are fighting are often imposed by “Christians”.

Maybe one day, I’ll be once again able to go into a church without struggling with being there. However, right now I have far more desire to help and fellowship with the “least of these” out there than fellowship with the Church. I’m not always entirely sure where I fit in, but I do know that my chosen family or weirdos that identify as virtually everything besides “Christian” are a family of people I love and who love me. The other Believers in that circle are fellow outsiders and generally push back against the hypocrisy in the Church, as well – birds of a feather, I guess.

I am genuinely curious as the the thoughts of others and where people reading this stand, as well. So feel free to comment below or find me on social media to keep the conversation going. For now, I simply thank you all for reading and hope that somehow my sharing of a little piece of my heart on this Easter Sunday is helpful to you and yours. Happy Easter!

Justin has been running websites since his first Geocities site in 1994, but only did he ever start covering anything of substance years later. After he stopped regularly running local concerts in Northern NJ and the greater Philly area, he knew he needed to step up his writing game if he expected to continue to get free music to listen to. He writes regularly here and at Cinapse, as well as contributing to a few other sites on occasion. He likes music, film, the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers, talking about Criminal Justice, reading Intelligence Report, and his family... not in that order. His beautiful wife is far more talented than he is and his kids far more adorable... and crazy.
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