• Ellen Fiedler

Christian-ish: The Greatest of These is Love

Before coming to Elon, I had no concept of how diverse Christianity is. I grew up in a Catholic household where it was expected that my brothers and I wake up every Sunday morning, dress in something semi-presentable, and go to Mass to receive our weekly dose of repetitive prayers and tasteless wafers. Don’t get me wrong- I love the Catholic Church. While I rarely go to Mass anymore, I love walking into my home church and seeing the familiar stained glass, the large cross hanging above the altar, and the congregation greeting each other with warm smiles. It will always hold a special place in my heart for being the religion that first brought me close to Christ. But I knew, the second I got to college, that I wanted to remain separate from this institution with doctrine that I so profoundly disagree with. 

I began to search for Christian community the moment I stepped on campus. I got connected with Joel Harter, one of the Protestant chaplains who has since become my mentor and my friend, and expressed my need for a community that was as different as possible from the one I grew up in. I found a home in a Christian organization that offered beautiful worship services and kind faces. I thought that their “non-denominational” label would give me the freedom to reconcile my progressive political views with my faith, but I quickly learned that it was just another way to say “fundamentalist” when I found out about their disapproving attitude toward the LGBTQ+ community. This experience opened my eyes to the intolerant nature of some of the Christians I encounter, both in person and in my daily scroll through Facebook. 

I was already feeling lost and disheartened when, last spring, a person I hold with very high respect and appreciation told me and some others about a traumatizing experience they had with a Christian group while they were in college. Hearing the horrible things this group stood for, and pushed upon their members, sent me over the edge. I remember sitting in Joel’s office, tears down my face, saying over and over:

“I don’t want to be Christian anymore."

 I was overwhelmed that day, but sometimes the statement is still true. I don’t want to adopt an identity that lumps me with those who use the Bible to justify intolerance. I don’t want to be associated with the people who inflict physical and emotional pain on those who don’t conform to the rules of their faith, consciously or otherwise. I don’t want to be Christian.

I sound cynical, I know. And I hope you don’t think I believe that all Christians are like what I described above. I know many people who are rather conservative in their social and faith perspectives but are still extraordinarily kind to and accepting of everyone. But I think what makes me want to shed myself of this Christian identity is the fact that many have lost sight of who they’re following: Jesus. The man who hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, the poor- and He didn’t just tolerate them. He loved and accepted them for who they were, not in spite of who they were. 

I think what makes me want to shed myself of this Christian identity is the fact that many have lost sight of who they’re following: Jesus.

When we see people who we think are below us, or who we think aren’t living holy lives, we forget that Jesus gave us some pretty basic instructions in this book that we like to thump around when He spoke about the two greatest commandments: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). I could point you to every verse in the Bible that speaks against homosexuality, divorce, premarital sex...everything. I could ignore the culture and time it was written in, and the human filter it was put through, and say that everything in the Bible is God’s will and law. Still, I know that the second greatest commandment, only below loving God with all your heart, is to love others. Even the author of the letter to the Corinthians (widely believed to be Paul the Apostle), who speaks of the “sexually immoral” not going to heaven, puts love above all else: “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away...so now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:8&13). 

The greatest of these is love.

 

Graffiti on a section of the wall separating Israel and Palestine taken summer of 2019.

If modern Christianity was really based off of this crazy idea of loving and accepting everyone for who they are in Christ...now that’s something I could get behind.

I get lost in my frustration with Christianity and the negative things it’s associated with. It’s the source of nearly all my doubts about God. We’re not in a great place right now, me and God. I co-founded an open and accepting Christian group on campus called Common Ground Fellowship and I recently led a service. I gave my spiel on how God calls us to do good in the world and listened to our worship leader sing beautiful songs about Jesus and His grace. But I remember sitting there through all of this and thinking: “This is crap. I don’t believe a word I’m saying.” 

If modern Christianity was really based off of this crazy idea of loving and accepting everyone for who they are in Christ...now that’s something I could get behind.

Yikes, right? God and I have good moments and bad moments, and that was certainly a bad moment. A bad day, really. But our good moments are so good. In those moments, I see God in so many places. I see Him in the cool breeze flowing through the air that signals the beginning of autumn, in the light in the eyes of my friends when they explain something they’re passionate about, in the hearts of the people I work with at the Truitt Center. Those are me and God’s good moments. And these moments are so good that I feel guilty not wanting to be called a Christian anymore- I feel like I’m betraying God somehow. But something in my heart tells me He’ll love me anyway.

The Truitt Center - Numen Lumen Pavilion 

301 E Haggard Ave

Elon, NC 27244

(336) 278-7729

truittcenter@elon.edu

https://www.elon.edu/u/truitt-center