#24PropheticWords• Reclaiming My Christian Identity
We welcome Regina Heater, @reckshow, a self-avowed and practicing ecumenist who loves to talk about God with people, and thinks it’s particularly awesome when diverse people find connection and commonality in our God experiences. Since January 2017, she’s been writing almost-daily prayers and sharing them with the hashtag #PrayersForDaysThatEndInY. Find her on Twitter & Instagram @reckshow and on Facebook at facebook.com/LivingMysteria.
Sometimes the false prophets aren’t the external demons promising riches in exchange for a faith investment in a personality. Sometimes the false prophets are inhabiting our soul, whispering lies that limit our participation in the Kin-dom of God.
Here is a falsehood I have told myself for far too long: that I’m a person of faith, not a Christian. That I’m a Christ-follower, not a Christian. That I’m spiritual, but not religious.
I’m not sure when I started slipping in these substitutions for my identity, but I became aware of it this past Spring, at church, when the praise band started up and I realized I was really, really uncomfortable. Here I was, in a Lutheran church in Central Pennsylvania, a place I knew was a safe space for a Queer church-goer like myself, and I started to worry. How on earth were they going to pull off Praise music, that musically delightful, sometimes theologically dubious confection foisted upon us by Hillsong & Chris Tomlin? It was easy to start singing, less easy to shake my concern for theological dubiosity. And then, of course, magic happened. Magic in the form of the Holy Spirit. One can, in fact, sing praise music that is not theologically dubious. It does exist. But more importantly, some of that music is well and truly powerful and transformative and worthy of my time and attention. Sometimes that uncomfortable feeling I got wasn’t from dubious theology; it was from realizing the truth — that I really did like praise music. That I really liked praising God. That I found great reassurance & support in listening to “Break Every Chain” by Jesus Culture, because yes, indeed, Jesus CAN break every chain. Isn’t that the point? Grace and the freedom that comes with repentance and going forth and living a life no longer weighed down by the sin of our old ways. We’re free to be… Christians.
Somewhere along the way, I lost that. Perhaps it was when, as a Queer Catholic woman in a committed relationship, I walked away from the church I loved; perhaps it was when the United Methodist Church refused to confirm the grace-filled and God-breathed callings of LGBT+ people in their midst to ordained ministry or into marriage. Again. Somewhere in there, I forgot that I had been forged in postmodernity, where we are not either/or but both/and. Somewhere I had decided that, given the absurdly narrow definition of “a Christian” provided by the Evangelical Megahoods, I could not also carry that label. I did not want others to think I was one of *those* Christians. I didn’t want someone to get the wrong impression about me.
I had forgotten that I am a person of faith who IS a Christian. That I am a Christ-follower who IS a Christian. That I am spiritual AND religious. These things are integrated into me, this whole person, one who subs out “kin-dom” & “debts” in public prayer, one who will always love singing How Great Thou Art in her uncle’s old church where the only thing I’m welcome to is repentance. One who has playlist after playlist of songs that formed me when I the only identity that mattered to me was Christian. This Advent, I’m all about reclaiming my Christian identity away from the false prophets who tell me I must be one or the other, that I cannot be a Queer Christian pastor in my own way. In Advent, we wait for the Newborn King, born unto us that we might follow Him and create his Kin-dom with him. This Christmas, I’ll be ready.