If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I’ve changed a lot. I’ve had many ups and downs in my journey since I’ve started The Spiritual Dilemma, but everything has been worth it. Every mistake, adventure, and curious thought has shaped me into the person that I am today.
If you’re new here, I’ll give you a recap of my story. I started this blog because I was interested in creating community for people who don’t know where they fit in. We all have dilemmas in our spirituality, and I recognized that spirituality itself is a dilemma in life. I was in college and my life was falling apart. Nothing made sense to me anymore. I was reading theology, preaching on Sunday mornings, and leading worship for a children’s ministry at a mega-church in my area. Ultimately, I had to give up my dream job as a pastor and left my church due to tension and conflict from my personal life and online activity. That led me down a crazy exploration of eastern philosophy, and eventually led me to take on the person that I am today: Rama Krishna Dass.
There’s a lot to life that tends to be confusing, and I’ve began seeing more each day how everything is one big puzzle that fits into each other. My entire story has purpose and meaning and I’m just as much of “Justin” as I was when I was in college to be a pastor. My ideas may have changed in some areas, but that’s not to say that I’m not the same person. In some ways, I’m not. In others, I am. Regardless of who I may see myself as or who you see myself as, it’s all just the ego creating a story like the ego does. That’s fine. That’s holy. That’s the way that life works. It’s all one big story that makes us who we are. Each story is different because each ego is different. So what does any of this have to do with me saying that I don’t call myself “Christian”?
The idea of “Christian” is just a story. It’s a label. It’s another construct that the ego tries to create in its great storytelling. The name “Christian” wasn’t what the original followers of Jesus were called. The original followers were called “followers of the way”. The name “Christian” was first given as a nickname given to the fleeing persecuted gentile church in Antioch. While I’m a gentile, I’m certainly not persecuted. It’s a rather old and outdated label that means something very different than what we see in the luxury of modern society- especially me being a white straight man in America.
What’s beyond the label? Well, there’s the strange dichotomies that we see within Christianity today and the weird polarization of politics woven into theologies. Its no secret that entire denominations encompass right-wing ideas or progressive ideas. I don’t feel like having politics involved in my religion necessarily merits anything. I used to think in a very progressive way about the Bible, but I’ve found that playing with the folly of mankind isn’t what the Bible was getting at. That’s not to say that fighting for people isn’t right, but there has to be a separation between the two. There is no right or wrong way to view the Bible. That’s what people don’t understand. The Bible has been tampered with for 1700 years, and the earliest manuscripts that we have aren’t recognized by the church. There are missing pieces, and even then that’s just giving a historically accurate representation of what a true “Christian” would have looked like. The church just isn’t open enough to see through the man made illusions.
What’s beyond the church? That’s a fun one to deconstruct. The church has been a means of power almost since it began. There was so much corruption very early on that Paul had to write letters about it. Church has many good benefits, but the most important aspect is the community. I don’t really fit in to any community all that well. Granted, I do go to a house church, but they don’t label the church as “Christian”. My community is great and the space feels perfect simply because it doesn’t sell out to any ideology and doesn’t force doctrine and creed on anyone. I think that’s what the Christian Church is missing and that’s why I don’t fit in there. Rama Krishna Dass wouldn’t be accepted smoking hemp, following his Hindu Guru, learning Buddhism, taking Islamic Sufism to heart, and having the perspectives on certain moral issues that are very controversial.
So I’m not a “Christian” because I don’t follow Jesus? That’s not a true assessment, but it’s a common one that I get. I actually really love the person of Jesus and I love the divine nature of Christ. The specifics get weird when we start talking about the theology of it all. I don’t discredit that there could have been supernatural experiences with Jesus, but I also have no proof. I think supernatural things can most certainly happen, but I think we are so far detached from what the original story was saying. Also, in all of the scriptures, I don’t see a need for salvation like what is taught. That doesn’t make me not “Christian” because that’s not an uncommon thought within Christianity. You can be “Christian” and not believe in blood atonement and an afterlife. It all comes down to living your life according to the teachings of Jesus.
Ram Dass and The Liturgists really helped me encounter an eclectic spirituality. Both offered me an open space to learn and grow while still exploring Christ like I was familiar with. Ram Dass offers an eastern perspective that’s very heart centered. His Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, would teach on Christ and on some accounts would pull out an English Bible, point to a verse, tell them to read it, and it would be very specific to some issues that his followers were facing. All that was done without him knowing any English. The Liturgists was a little different. They have a lot of talks centered around “Christ”, and just like Ram Dass, they don’t claim to be “Christian” as a podcast. Science Mike from the Liturgists helped me feel grounded in logic and science while also embracing Christ and Michael Gungor, aka Vishnu Dass, helped me explore esoteric traditions before I had even come into contact with the folks who follow Ram Dass.
So why am I not “Christian” if there are so many ideas and perspectives? I felt like I wasn’t growing under the label. Once I removed myself, I was able to heal from the pain that I felt that was caused within churches. I was able to go into the wilderness and be tempted by “satan”. I was able to crucify my God and see him resurrect. I was able to realize that I am not separate from the Christ and Christ is not separate from me. I was able to see the unity and oneness in all things and see the value in all perspectives that take place. I was able to love deeper than when my ego was creating a “Christian” story. There was no more fighting, no more depression, no more anxiety, and no more pain. I became free in Christ, indeed.