Don’t call me a Christian anymore

I made a run out to the landfill this morning. I’ve made the trip at least half-a-dozen times over the past couple of weeks as I’ve unpacked. This city doesn’t do cardboard recycle bins like our former city does. That’s because every home has its own cardboard recycle can, which works fine if all you are disposing of is boxes of Wheat Thins. But it isn’t efficient for recycling dozens of packing boxes.

For that, you have to drive out to the landfill.

As far as landfills go, this one is pretty spectacular. The views of Smith Rock and the Three Sisters are some of the best around. Who could hate working at a landfill when surrounded by such beauty?

And for a landfill, it’s fairly organized. I don’t have to pay to drop off cardboard boxes and I can pull directly up near the spot for unloading. That’s where I was today along with another couple, who were also disposing of flattened boxes, when a woman hollered at me from the back of my car: “You want some help?”

I didn’t realize at first that she was speaking to me, but then I saw her carrying an armful of boxes my way.

“Oh! Thank you!” I said.

“I thought you just had a few but I  see you have a trunk full,” she said.

“Yes. We’ve just moved here.”

“Well maybe you will be all set for the holidays,” she said.

“Oh, I don’t know. It might take me until the end of January to be finished unpacking.”

“It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?”

“More than I remembered from previous moves.” (I didn’t mention that I was 20 years younger the last time we moved).

Pushing up the backend of her pickup, the kindly woman told me that she and her husband had thought about moving to Idaho but decided against it. Now they were looking for a place. She wanted to know where we’d bought and if we were happy with it.

Oh. Yes! I said, offering that our builder was a quality fella.

We stood there at the trunks of our vehicles chatting for a moment about the region and all it has to offer in the way of community – an indie bookstore, college nearby, hiking, biking, music, art – and then the lady with the generous smile and thick greying hair asked, “Are you a Christian?”

Keep in mind there are no fish stickers on my car. The only bumper stickers refer to my disdain for Trump. Hardly a clue to my affiliation of faith.

I paused, unsure for the first time in my adult life on how to answer her seemingly harmless question.

Are you a Christian? is no longer a question of congeniality. In these times, it’s a perilous question.

I waited a moment before answering, weighing my response. It’s not Christ I’m ashamed of being associated with – it’s Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham and the ilk of Christians who have claimed allegiance to Roy Moore and Donald Trump.

The thing is I have always been regarded as a woman who was never afraid to speak to my faith. I’ve had people throughout my life tell me how it encourages them to see me be so public about being a woman of faith.

Yet, there at the landfill, I hesitated. Am I a Christian? I didn’t know what answer to proffer.

“Yes,” I said, “but not the Jerry Falwell sort. Not the Donald Trump kind.”

“So it’s all about Jesus?” she asked, raising her arms upward.

“Yes,” I said.

“We have to be willing to speak out.”

“Speaking out isn’t a problem for me. I just hate how some have co-opted faith for political purposes.”

She nodded in understanding. We exchanged personal information with the hopes of running into each other again soon, this lovely lady who helped me with my recyclables, who offered me a kind word of encouragement there at the landfill with the stunning views.

As I drove away, I thought how it seems like I’ve been in a wandering place, a dry and barren land. I thought about how violated it feels to have my faith stripped away by a people whose allegiance isn’t to Christ but to a doctrine of pro-gun, pro-life and pro-Apocalypse.

I wondered if I have ever really known Christ, or if I have just grown up in a religion void of the personhood of Christ. Perhaps all I’ve ever really worshiped is some American construct of a white Christ child grown up to become a bloody warrior.

It can be difficult fettering all this out. It’s a bit like waking up next to your spouse of 40 years and not recognizing them.

Christian is a term I have identified with for the bulk of my life. It’s as familiar an identity to me as my name. Yet, it is no longer a term I want to be identified with – at least not without qualifiers. Some means of letting others know right off the bat that while I might be all about Jesus, I do not in any way shape or form, identify with those who seek to monetize the name for money, power or fame.

Or the presidency.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND: A Novel

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

13 Comments

AFRoger

about 6 months ago

In the entire text of the New Testament, the term 'Christian' occurs only three times, always as a noun, never an adjective or modifier. The people of The Way understood that theirs was not a path that brought them power, peace through military victory or economic growth. To be "little Christs", as Martin Luther understood, was to live lives of faith active in love. It isn't the label that makes us authentic. It's the love. Love, the self-sacrificing kind that Jesus lived.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 6 months ago

Beautiful words, Roger. Beautiful and ohsotrue sentiments.

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Jennie Helderman

about 6 months ago

So well spoken, Karen. How it expresses the way I feel. I want no part of the kind of religion that can embrace a Roy Moore for political gain. Thanks for speaking up---again.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 6 months ago

Jennie:I wish none of us felt this way. I wish our faith wasn't being so awfully exploited. I think of you daily and pray things are well with you.

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Ernst Kern

about 6 months ago

Karen, Thank you for this. As someone who does not hold a strong affiliation with any church building, this gives me faith that their are believers who still put "country/community" first, and not some desire to legislate a morality that they are way too confident is "right". I am also vehemently apposed the idea of teaching children that these are "end times" of some sort. If aging people want to join the ever popular tradition, probably as old as our species, of adopting the belief that the world is currently ending, that is there prerogative. But teaching something as fact that cannot be known is, I believe, extremely damaging to real progress. Thanks again.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 6 months ago

I am right there with you on the "end times' theology, which really isn't a hope at all, but a big dose of fearmongering. It is shameful to teach such nonsense to children. Those "Left Behind" books were nothing more than horror books for the Moral Majority.

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Ernst Kern

about 6 months ago

It is simply planting the seeds of their own self fulfilling prophecy for selfish reasons that include the need to be right and the need to sooth their own insecurities. Progress stops in a climate of fear.

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Ernst Kern

about 6 months ago

'Fear' is 'Power's' sharpest tool.

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Jane Bradley

about 6 months ago

That is a beautiful story of such a connection in a landful surrounded by stunning scenery. Yes, these days with so many "Christians" standing up to defend horrendous actions and greed, you do indeed need to qualify what sort of Christian you are. Well said and beautifully told as always.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 6 months ago

Thank you, Jane for your kind words about the essay and about the photo. Yes, landfills can be quite interesting places. I love these sorts of encounters.

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Jane Bradley

about 6 months ago

And by the way, that pic of you on the steps is stunning.

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lela

about 6 months ago

Thank you for your insights. I have been in this abyss for almost a year. (election coincidence: not.) I have begun seeing myself as a Christian agnostic. On this Christmas Eve 2017 I pray that the true spirit of God...shown to us in the life of Jesus...can reign again. We must be examples of love, kindness and generosity; even as we are encountering friends who profess to know the "truth" yet condemn and judge the behaviors and beliefs of others. Merry Christmas

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 6 months ago

I have wrangled and wrangled with this. So difficult to not want to totally distance myself from all things Evangelical given the abuses it has inflicted upon us all this year. Thank you for these thoughts. Yes.

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