I have been called many things in my life, some of which are not repeatable in a family newspaper. Recently, I earned a new title, "apostate" — bestowed upon me, and others, in the fundraising letter of a political organization that hides behind religious rhetoric. An apostate is one who rejects the given norms and principles of a religion. Given that Christianity often is associated with division, derision, and dissension and I am a Christian, I may well be an apostate.
I reject the idea that we can fully understand the nature of God. A Divine Being whose self-definition is a continued outpouring of love is beyond my full comprehension. I am not a particularly stupid individual, but there are limits to what the human mind can understand. Since Christian theology, with our older sibling Judaism and our younger sibling Islam, stands in awe of the Creator of All Things as the source and ground of our very being, there is a certain amount of mystery with which the person of faith lives. That mystery is the breathing space of grace in my life.
In that grace, I reject that God disdains any part of creation. God gives glory and skill in all vocations, from janitors and septic tank pumpers to surgeons and scientists. We are blessed to live in age of continuing revelation of the intricacies of biology and biological chemistry. The realities of sexual orientation (attraction) and gender identity (biological self-determination) are not as clear-cut as we once thought, but are as myriad and complex as the realities of space, the deep sea, or other animal relationships.
Due to that divinely created complexity, I reject disdain and hatred for any part of creation. Most of us are overcome by the presence of pain and evil in the world at this present moment. We cry out to God, wondering how long these things go on. We do not stop to listen to God crying back to us, asking how long we will persist in racial discrimination, white supremacy, LGBTQ+ exclusion, making of war, class division and lies about meritocracy.
If the rejection of these things makes me an apostate, then I am guilty. In as much as the Church — Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, nondenominational or free — has perpetuated any of these things, we are all apostates — not from the tradition and history of the church, but from the character and nature of the God whose life gives life to all.
If apostasy means welcoming all my neighbors, listening to their experiences and doing better together for the sake of Anchorage, then I am guilty and glad of it. If apostasy means standing with people on the sidelines of full community inclusion and welcome, then I am guilty and glad of it. If apostasy means understanding that life is complicated, but mercy and kindness in the name of Christ makes it easier for a moment for anyone, then I am guilty and glad of it. If apostasy means sitting with those who disagree with me, having conversation, and refusing to "agree to disagree," then I am guilty and glad of it.
If apostasy means holding "God is love" (1 John 4:8) to be the highest truth and guide in my life, then I am guilty and glad of it. And I intend to persist in this apostasy that I recognize as following Christ.
The Rev. Julia Seymour is pastor of the Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage.
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