On my Twitter profile, I use the word “believer,” even though what I mean, in part, is what people mean when they say “Christian.” But I don’t want the associations – both good and bad – that come with that word. I don’t want them laid upon me before people read even 140 characters of what I say. I don’t want people to read Christian and think – “she thinks the same way I do because we share a faith.” – or to read – “she doesn’t share any of my worldview because she’s a Christian, and I’m not.” This word is so divisive, so I eschew it.
I am a Christian if what we mean by that term is that I believe in Jesus, a human man, who died to carry the brokenness of humanity and rose from the dead to reconcile us to a loving God. I believe God is love, and that is the central tenet of my faith.
Beyond that, I don’t have much in the way of beliefs that much of American culture perceives as “Christian.” I support the legalization of abortion. I support the right of LGBQT people to openly love whomever they want and to marry whomever they want. I believe in evolution. I think men and women are truly equal. Of course, many, many Christians share my thoughts on these things, and many don’t and still live in the world in a very loving way. But sadly, much of what people see are these things and the hateful way some Christians talk about them.
I would rather not be associated with that, not because it hurts me to be thought of this way – although it does – but because the way that our culture often perceives Christian attitudes on these topics is the antithesis of loving. And if something is the antithesis of loving, it’s the antithesis of God.
As a writer, though, my wish to distance myself from the Christian label is equally strong. I’m not a Christian writer; I don’t write books about Christianity or even from an overt Christian worldview. My hope in writing is not to convert people to my faith, nor is it to explain my faith to other people. So in that sense, I am not a Christian writer because I don’t write about Christianity exclusively.
Plus, I just don’t like labels where we define people by one element of their lives – Christian writers, gay writers, black writers, woman writers. Those labels can work for books but never for people.
Yet, sadly, there’s another reason I don’t want to be identified as a Christian writer: it’s because the writing itself is often very bad. That’s just the truth of it. Many Christian books (and Christian art in general) is banal, artless, and pedantic. These characteristics are found in all kinds of writing, of course, but fairly or unfairly, Christian art is identified with these qualities more often than it is not. I just don’t want my writing to be the Thomas Kincaid of literature.
In fact, I want my writing to speak the opposite of that. I want my writing to be complex and full of the shadows and bright meadows that make up life. I want my sentences to languish and zip and speak the lisps and machine-gun laughter of humanity. I want it to be filled with story – as my favorite elements of the Bible are – because story is truth, even if it’s not fact.
My writing shows only what I believe. I don’t speak for the church or Christians. I don’t speak for women or southerners. I speak for Andi, and only for the Andi of today, not the Andi who used to think gay marriage was wrong, abortion should be illegal, and women shouldn’t wear bikinis.
I don’t want to be labeled as a Christian writer because to me – and I think to many other people – to say we are Christian is to say we are “right” and “defined” and “solid.” I’m a big fan of “I may be wrong” and “change” and “fluid.” I’m also a big fan of God and Jesus, but also of Siddhartha and Ganesh because they teach me about the world, who I am, and how to love.
My favorite writers are people who model this openness and who, often, write about faith in some way but don’t label themselves as Christian or Buddhist or Jewish either: Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Thomas Merton, Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison, Natalie Goldberg, Chaim Potok.
My writing is, of course, informed by my faith, just as my life is. But it will never be Christian writing just as I will never a be a Christian writer. I’m a writer. Pure and simple. Like God’s love.
What about you? What labels to take on or push away about yourself or your writing?
A couple of months ago, I remember reading a couple of really great blog posts about this topic, maybe from Patheos. But right now, I’m having trouble finding them. Can you help me out? If so, please post the links in the comments below. Thanks.