This blog post first appeared over at www.allisonvesterfelt.com - you can read more about Allison there!
Are you a Christian, or are you not?
Silence hung heavy in the room after he asked that question. We had just met, and he and I we were sitting in his living room, along with a few other people. Anything he knew about me he had learned from reading my blog.
His wife stood in the kitchen preparing dinner.
“I was looking through your site,” Sean said, “and I just couldn’t tell:
I stood still, simmering in the heat of the moment, but I wasn’t sure how to respond.
photo: Creative Commons, nicky.reynolds
It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answer. The answer was unequivocally yes. And I know I’m not supposed to pause on that sort of thing — hiding my lamp under a bushel and whatnot. It was just that I wasn’t sure if answering the question with a simple “yes” was sufficient enough to help him understand. I wasn’t sure if my answer would mean the same thing to me as it did to him.
I swallowed hard. “Yes,” I said. “I’m a Christian.”
Are you a Christian writer? He wanted to know.
Are you a Christian blogger?
And while I knew the obvious answer to those questions also had to be yes — I’m a Christian everything, after all. There really isn‘t a way to separate these things — I also couldn’t deny that his question made me feel like I was being painted into a corner. If I admitted to being a “Christian” author, was I only allowed to talk about certain subjects? Did it mean I always had to quote Bible verses?
Did it mean everything I wrote had to read like a daily devotional?
This is something I’ve wrestled with my entire life, the feeling that if I was going to be a “Christian” I had to hide what I really felt and thought about the world and life. And the feeling that, if I was honest about what I really felt and thought about the world and life, I wouldn’t be a very good “Christian.”
I used to feel ashamed for feeling this way, like I was probably sinning by being embarrassed of my faith.
But lately, I’ve started to think that this just might be human nature. Not just with faith, but with anything.
On the one hand, it makes us feel so much safer to put people and things and even art into sections like this. In a way, it’s even useful. It helps us to make sense of things we don’t understand and fill in blank spaces of information we don’t have. But when it really comes down to the essence of something, the spirit of it, I don’t think a title like “Christian” or “Vegan” or “Barista” or even “Writer” does it justice.
Categories can tell us some things about a person, but not everything.
And I guess I just don’t think any of us can be reduced to a category. I don’t want to reduce you to a category, and I don’t want you to reduce me to one. I don’t want to create art so that it will fit nicely into a category.
I want to listen while you tell yours.
And I hope that, as we do this, our stories speak to who we are, and who we’re becoming.
So am I a “Christian” writer? Yes. It can’t be any other way. I am a Christian person, after all, and I live my life based on a foundation of my relationship to God. I write from what is deep inside of me, and in that sense, there’s no way it could be anything else.
But I guess I just feel like saying... there’s more to me than that.
Will you stick around to listen?
Do you ever feel like you're being reduced to a category? Please tell me the story. I'm listening....