By Adam Hamilton
When I was a child my mother used to make fish sticks for supper a couple of times a month. This was seafood night at the Hamilton house. Over time I came to despise those little crunchy sticks I got it in my mind that I was not a seafood person. It wasn’t until I was 38 when I was nearly forced to try swordfish steak and salmon at the Bristol restaurant in Kansas City that my eyes (and taste buds!) were opened and I came to realize that fish sticks were just barely seafood.
On July 28 bestselling author Anne Rice announced on her Facebook page that she was quitting Christianity and would no longer be “Christian” but that she was still a follower of Christ. Anne went on to give the reasons why she was renouncing Christianity. She noted that she refuses to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti birth control, anti-Democrat, anti-secular humanist, anti-science and anti-life.
I appreciate Anne’s frustration. I believe it is shared by tens of millions of people in America, including a growing number of young adults. They could add quite a few more reasons for rejecting “Christianity” to Anne’s list. But I’d like to suggest that Anne might be rejecting seafood in the name of fish sticks. She is rejecting a particular expression of the Christian faith. Even in her own (or formerly her own) Catholic tradition, tens of millions of Christians and thousands of congregations refuse to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-science, anti…
Once, I had a parishioner write me after an encounter with a particularly obnoxious Christian saying, “Pastor Adam, from this day on I will no longer call myself a Christian. I don’t want to be associated with people like this man. I don’t want others to think I see the world like he sees it. I am a follower of Jesus, but I don’t want to be known as a Christian any more.” In response I wrote, “Please, don’t let this man define what it means to be a Christian. We desperately need to show the world that there is another way to be Christian!”
There are many churches whose members welcome and love gays and lesbians, whose congregations speak up for the rights and value of women, who see science as a form of liturgy expressing the glory of God, and where Democrats and Republicans sit side by side as followers of Christ. They are not perfect, but they are followers of Christ, living in community and seeking to change the world.
For years my friends would tell me not to reject seafood simply because I didn’t like fish sticks. It took me 30 years to figure this out. I hope it doesn’t take Anne as long.
Adam Hamilton is a United Methodist pastor and author. His latest book is entitled When Christians Get it Wrong, Abingdon Press 2010.