This article first appeared at The Nuance on Patheos.
I am a Christian.
I love Christians.
I have great hope for the Christian church.
But throughout my journey one thing has repeatedly frustrated me. And that is the tendency among Christians to value the identity marker of "Christian" over basic truth and honesty.
Oh sure, we've got the "truth." But that truth revolves around theological realities about how one secures salvation or lives the Christian life that must be defended and upheld no matter what, along with the institutions that contain those same realities. In other words, the politics of protecting theological truth turn that truth into a set of ideological markers, showing us who is in and who is out. Who is totally Christian and who is definitely not.
What matters most is to be found in, to not cross the ideological line. What matters most is to fight those who tamper with the ideology. What matters most is the survival of the "truth" in the midst of political forces that might seek to destroy it.
And in the process of the superficial politicking, the actual truth is nowhere to be found.
I think this is why Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'" It's because theological truth is prone to missing the forest for the trees. It's prone to protecting ideas - institutionalized as rituals - instead of people. It's prone to the majestic maneuverings of language that seem to prove the point sublimely while missing the point entirely. It's prone to decrying "positions" in favor of its pure and abstract idea - which is, of course, a position.
Often, a position that harms people.
I've come to believe that God desires honesty, not Christianity. [Tweet This]
I've come to believe that this is what Jesus was really on about - the devastatingly simple act of coming to terms with our deepest, truest selves before the light and love of God, that we, and the world, may be healed.
The simple process of facing the mercy of the Messiah without pretense, that we might receive our own sight and then be able to see the suffering around us.
So, I'm tired of the maneuvering.
And when it comes right down to it, no matter how majestic the theology and pristine the Christianity, if faced with a choice, I'll choose basic human honesty every time. I'll side with those who are suffering, who are wronged, who are oppressed, who are struggling, who are standing for what's right. I'll side with those speaking the truth, however it might chafe against the religious powers that be and the gatekeepers who hold the keys to "Christianity."
Or at least I'll try.
Because that's exactly where the true Light will be found.
Honesty is the air Grace breathes.
Go and learn what this means.