If like me you grew up in church, you’ve heard a whole lot about denominations and why, like different countries, they often hate each other for reasons that are not logical. To an “outsider” church is church, and to an outsider who has visited a few more churches, church is divided between the loud churches and the quiet churches. That’s pretty much it. But to us, that’s practically the same thing as confusing a Mexican enchilada with Puerto Rican empanadas -they’re not the same. I grew up in an Assemblies of God ‘pentecostal’ church that was very open to the moving of the spirit, but very much so against the moving of anything else. When I mean anything else, I mean that dancing (any form of it) was a legitimized way to sin, even at your own wedding. So unless you were dancing in the spirit, I hope your feet were planted firmly on the ground. That was a bit difficult for me as I took ballet classes, and my main goal in life for a long time was to be a prima ballerina (the irony). This church slowly progressed into a more accepting and mainstream church, so by the time I left, not only was there a Christian hip-hop dancing team, there was also a step-team and all sorts other kinds of teams. When I stopped attending that church, I joined an All-American Baptist church. It was calm, ceremonious, the youth had a lot of 80s throwback parties and frisbee nights, and we ate a lot of pizza. There wasn’t much talk about sin, or dancing, or anything really, I honestly can’t remember half of the messages from that church, I just knew that everyone there was a Republican and that I needed to keep my mouth shut a good 90% of the time. As time went on, I have visited many types of churches. Everything from Presbyterian, Lutheran, Adventist, Catholic, to even a lively Nigerian church in London and a Korean Baptist church in New York. I’ve ridden the Hillsong train and threw myself off of it, and I’ve also been to the strict Latin American Pentecostal churches that make you think that wearing make up is a sign of the antichrist. Sometimes I feel like the church “player”, I’ve been to and have been a part of so many churches, I start mixing up where I encountered what.
In my defense, I move a lot, and to join a church and go through a 6 month membership course only to leave that city 6 months later isn’t exactly helpful. But if there is anything all of these churches have in common it is their absolute hatred for one another, and their deep concern for their “image”. At my latest church I had a guy at a bible study seem to want to smash my head with his bible for saying I attended an Adventist church and really enjoyed it. At an Adventist church I was told I wasn’t one of “them” I was one of those “Christians”. I was confused out of my wits as I thought that Adventists where Christian, was I wrong? I am confused. At a Baptist church I was told that Pentecostal people are irresponsible, crazy, and emotional. At a Pentecostal church I was told that Catholics were not Christian and needed to be saved. At a Hillsong family church I wasn’t talked about ‘denomination’ but I was sure told that they only wanted specific types of people in leadership, and that everyone needed a particular “look”. At an Evangelical church I was told that Hillsong was the devil. I have yet to visit a Messianic Jewish church, but I am very curious as to what they would say to me at this point. At some moments I have felt the need to run away from everything that has to do with the church, I have wanted to give up, throw in the towel, and simply acknowledge what everyone says: “there is no such thing as the perfect church” just like there’s also no such thing as the perfect man, the perfect house, the perfect job, life, you name it… it won’t be perfect. I get that, but what people fail to realise is the fact that I was never shooting for perfection. I was shooting for acceptance. Not of me necessarily, but of the fact that we were never called to be the same person, or the same denomination, or the same political affiliation, or the same anything. We were called to simply love each other, and love each other is what we do worst. We do debating pretty good, we also do criticism pretty good, but love each other? Not so much. See, I don’t want you to ask me why I’m not a vegetarian and go to church on Sundays instead of Saturdays. I don’t want you to ask me what political party I’m affiliated with and then proceed to give me a speech about how only the conservative party holds “true” Christian values. I don’t want you to look at how long or short my skirt is. I don’t want you to see if I’m “hipster” enough to sing on your stage, and hippy enough to repost your forest background bible quotes. I don’t want you to look at me and expect me to know your rules and regulations, or to know where to sit and not to sit. When I walk into your church and your message is about things that are going on with your members? I am confused. I don’t want you to tell me how I’m different from you, and how that somehow makes you better or me better. I want you to tell me how we can be the same because Christ loves us all the same.
Christ didn’t come to give us denominations, He came to give us an everlasting relationship. This is what I want people to understand, and it is all in this verse:
The Law of Liberty
14 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike.Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord;[a] and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose[b] and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.[c] 11 For it is written:
“As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”[d]
12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
God is fine with you! He’s just as fine with you enjoying the sabbath and being a vegan as he is with you being a meat-eating Baptist. He is fine with your tattoos and your hipster ways, and he is fine with your long skirt wearing ways. So why aren’t you fine with it? Why does everyone have to adjust and bend and twist to match you? God looks at the heart, and all these arguments say a lot more about what’s in our hearts than the image we try to portray.
I’m a nomad in every sense of the word. I’ve been happy at a quiet mass, I’ve been happy at a fiery pentecostal church. I have been happy where I have heard the word of God for the moment when I’ve heard it, but you know when I haven’t been so happy? When I’ve tried to get involved a bit further only to find out that first I needed to become one of them instead of one like Christ. That’s where the problems begin and end. We cannot be “patriotic” of our denomination or even of our lack-there-of. The only thing we should be proud of is of our relationship with Christ, our love for others and how we treat them. If that’s not enough… well, I guess we have some deeper issues that need to be dealt with before we start talking about how great our church is.