Is there such a thing as a Christian Atheist? Robert Jensen, a non-believing attender of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian in Austin, Texas, claims to be exactly that. How can this be? Why did this non-theist join a Christian congregation and even later preach sermons and lead prayers?
[Jensen recently] returned from a trip to South Africa. Folks there, he said, put a high premium on ubuntu, the concept that people become fully human by living within a community and recognizing the humanity of others.
In his mind, that’s crucial in trying to address problems such as racism, imperialism, sexual exploitation, environmental destruction and economic injustice.
…”I joined a Christian church to be part of that hope for the future, to struggle to make religion a force that can help usher into existence a world in which we can imagine living in peace with each other and in sustainable relation to the non-human world,” Jensen writes. “Such a task requires a fearlessness and intelligence beyond what we have mustered to date, but it also requires a faith in our ability to achieve it.
“That’s why I am a Christian.”
No, sir, you’re a good-hearted humanist in sheep’s clothing.
Having hope, living in peace, recognizing humanity in those around us, and using community to achieve it does not rely upon religion nor upon Christianity. The church may be one avenue that’s currently open to spreading good to this world, but it certainly doesn’t need to be the only one. And it could do a lot better.
Bettering humanity is a task for each of us. I agree with that concept of ubuntu; humans are community-oriented creatures. As a Christian in my past, and now as a freethinking atheist, I heartily believe that we become the best of all possible beings when we’re in community with one another. Being together crafts us into better people who can change the world.
We can all do these amazing things; we just need to build more avenues that are open to more people (and–may I say–avenues that don’t rely on mystical ghosts and superstitions to light the way). What better way to serve the world than to have secular communities that neither rely on ancient myths or supernatural motivations to do good, nor have to fit into the limited model that is “church”. Sure, it would take creativity, time, and hard work, but perhaps we could create a community of communities that could better serve those around us and the world than what’s been done before.
We don’t need to try to fit into an old, dusty model that’s too stuffed with misdeeds and mystical nonsense. We can make something new!