Guest Post: Are You in the “Real” Christian Camp?

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Today’s guest post comes to us from Laura Ziesel. Laura is a freelance writer and editor living in Azusa, California with her husband. She blogs on matters of faith, gender, church culture and more She is also a contributing writer for The Redemptive Pursuit, a weekly devotional for women. I think a lot of you will relate to her thoughts here!


My husband and I have lived in a combined total of 17 unique cities (3 outside of the U.S. or its territories).  And we're still quite young. Now that we are adults calling the shots, one of the most important aspects of settling into a new "home" is to find a Christian community. We look for this community in a church, because we believe in the accountability and humility required to be part of a church body. And we look for a church that will both be challenging to us and a place where we can serve.

Exactly a year ago we were driving across the country from Boston to suburban Southern California. Never having lived in California, we were excited about experiencing the newness together. But what we were not excited about was figuring out the landscape of denominations available to us. Why? Because whether or not we want to admit it, we are driven by the belief that there are two main camps of Christians out there: the real Christians and the cultural-only Christians.

Now the complicating factor is that on top of our "Us vs Them" paradigm is the fact that our concept of who the real Christians are has changed over the course of our lives. Unfortunately, American Christianity seems to be divided along our political ideological lines. The extremes of each camp can be characterized (from my perspective) in the following ways:

Conservative Christian: sexually chaste; wears Gap clothing; believes that women can/should not be pastors; denounces homosexuality; equates Christianity with American patriotism; believes that humans are born sinful; submits to the authority of the Bible; esteems Church leaders; takes lots of missions trips to needy places elsewhere.

Liberal Christian: sexually permissive; wears non-branded clothing (well, maybe Birkenstocks); believes that women can/should be pastors; embraces homosexuality; equates Christianity with global citizenship; believes that humans are born good; interprets the Bible casually; believes in organic Church leadership; takes lots of missions trips to needy places just down the block.

Growing up, the real Christians in my mind were conservative Christians. I literally believed that Democrats could not be real Christians. Really. I'm not exaggerating. I would say, about what I have categorized as liberal Christians, "Oh, they're only cultural Christians." But then I went to college and I started to learn about my own culture and how it affected my perspective of the world. And I overcorrected, finding myself saying, about conservative Christians: "Oh, they're only cultural Christians." 

Now my husband and I find ourselves in the lovely world of the in between: We don't feel at home in either camp. We believe that both camps err in major and minor ways in regard to orthodoxy and orthopraxy. But, we still feel that we're forced to choose, more or less, between the two camps. And we hate this. 

I realized today that my hatred of being torn between these two perceived camps has created a new category of real Christians in my (ever so self-absorbed) mind: Real Christians are those who don't feel at home in either conservative or liberal camps. Now I think everyone is questionable and few have found The Way.

I obviously have a sickness of needing to determine if someone is a friend or an enemy. If only I could focus on the real enemy.

One of my college professors used to say, "The nearer the theological proximity, the greater the vilification." He was right.

Hopefully we won't move for awhile. 'Cause if we do, we're screwed.


Do you feel like you have to choose between two Christian “camps”? How do you decided? How have your biases changed through the years? 

(Be sure to check out Laura’s awesome blog!)

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