Do I Stay Christian or Not?

He was sitting in the front row. He was waiting his turn to speak.

I was sitting in the second row behind him, waiting to hear what he would say, along with a couple hundred other people also waiting in the audience.

I watched as he discretely pulled out his phone. Maybe he was answering a text. Maybe he was typing a note.

And something about this made me smile as he typed . . .

Because he was typing on his phone with just his pointer finger.

Not texting with both thumbs. Not swiping. Not even using both pointer fingers.

He was just using one lone index finger to strike one tiny letter at a time, like many of us do in our generation who didn’t grow up texting like today’s kids.

He then finished his note. And put his phone away.

It turns out Brian McLaren is just as normal as the rest of us.

It was endearing. Because it was so human.

Stay or Go?

Listening to Brian speak at the Christian conference we were attending lit even more fire within me about his latest book, Do I Stay Christian?: A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned.

Image: Do I Stay Christian book review

In person and in writing, Brian infers that the American Christian church is in trouble.

And don’t we all see it, too? I sometimes wonder how much further back in the pews we can keep shoving Christ until we eventually kick him out of the door altogether, just another unnecessary hindrance to the latest Christian agenda.

Who is ready to walk away from this troubled Christianity? And who is determined to stay?

And for those who do choose to stay, how can Christianity include more Jesus and more grace and more love again?

Part 1: Do I Stay Christian? No

These are the types of questions that Brian poses to his readers in Do I Stay Christian. He divides the book into three sections: reasons not to stay Christian, reasons to stay Christian, and how to be good, honest, and loving regardless of what you decide about staying Christian.

In Part 1 of Do I Stay Christian?, Brian lists 10 reasons why many people choose not to remain Christian.

Here are five of those reasons:

  • Because Christianity has been vicious to its mother (anti-semitism)
  • Because of Christianity’s suppression of dissent (Christian vs. Christian violence)
  • Because of Christianity’s real master (money)
  • Because of the white Christian old boys’ network (white patriarchy)
  • Because of Christianity’s great wall of bias (constricted intellectualism)

Behind each title is a wealth of information included in each chapter, plus five more chapters.

Part 2: Do I Stay Christian? Yes

But what are some reasons you would want to stay Christian? In Part 2 of this book, Brian lists ten reasons.

Five of these reasons for staying are:

  • Because leaving defiantly or staying compliantly are not my only options
  • Because…where else would I go?
  • Because of our legendary Founder
  • Because I’m human
  • Because Christianity is changing (for the worse and for the better)

Again, these titles alone don’t tell the story. Brian goes into depth inside every chapter and the remaining five chapters.

Part 3: How to Be Loving, Whichever I Decide?

In Part 3 of the book, Brian writes about how to live in a loving way that is good for ourselves and for our fellow human beings regardless of our decision to stay a Christian.

Some of the ways include:

  • Start with the heart
  • Create positive alternatives
  • Prepare yourself for turbulence
  • Nurture the practice of spiritual resilience
  • Stay loyal to reality
  • Stay human

But the book really doesn’t even end there. If you stick it out to the end, you’ll also find five appendices, including this one: “Do I Stay in My Denomination?”

All Humans Together

In the end Brian decides for himself, So, no. I will not quit. Not today. Today I will stay Christian.

I’m grateful. I like having a humble, intelligent, kind, and Christian leader like Brian to listen to and learn from.

But I also like having a leader like Brian who isn’t afraid or ashamed to share his doubts, disappointments, and disillusionments. Like the ones I have. Perhaps you, too?

As Brian says, we aren’t looking for a cure for being human; what we need is help to become humane.

“Our problems are not just religious problems. Nor are they merely political, economic, or scientific problems. Our problems are human problems.”

Being human by ourselves can feel exhausting. But Christianity is meant to bring us back together, not push us further apart.

When we see our own humanness in others too—even in the smallest ways such as texting each other with our pointer fingerswe smile in recognition.

I imagine God smiles, too.

So, I also choose to stay Christian, for as long as we keep Christ in it.

I highly recommend the book Do I Stay Christian? for those who are prepared to ask themselves the hard questions, and who don’t give up even when there aren’t clear answers. Because, as Brian points out, “If our understandings of God do not grow, neither will we.”

Share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to NetGalley + St. Martin’s
Press for the review copy of this book

sharing at these linkups

24 thoughts on “Do I Stay Christian or Not?

  1. Nancy Ruegg

    I’m so glad you ended your post with “I also choose to stay Christian, for as long as we keep Christ in it.” Amen, Lisa! Without Christ we no longer have Christianity–just some good principles to live by but no power to do so. True Christianity is different than every other religion. It’s not about earning our way to heaven but accepting the Way God provided, through the sacrifice of his Son on the cross (John 3:16, 1 John 4:10). Christianity is about coming into relationship with the triune God and enjoying all his blessings–like peace, joy, and hope!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You sum it up perfectly here, Nancy! –> “Without Christ we no longer have Christianity–just some good principles to live by but no power to do so.”

  2. Maryleigh

    Maybe it’s how I process, compartmentalize (is that even a word) – but walking away from Christ is not a option – but walking away from churches that have failed its people is an option. While people in churches may fail to be the hands, feet and heart of Christ, Christ never fails. Relationship with our Savior is the only way to overcome churches that fail to behave as Christ behaved. When a “church” is more concerned about protecting the reputation of its “organization” than protecting its people, it has ceased to be Christ’s church. I think it’s important to distinguish between the two – at least, that is what I have determined as I have wrestled that “bear.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We compartmentalize the same way, Maryleigh. 🙂 That “bear” is definitely a hard one to wrestle. I totally agree with you that we have to distinguish between Christ and the organizations that we create. I’m thankful that there are still wonderful churches out there that keep Christ at the center.

  3. Corinne Rodrigues

    This stood out for me: “Our problems are not just religious problems. Nor are they merely political, economic, or scientific problems. Our problems are human problems.”
    While I call myself a Christian because of my beliefs, I’ve been struggling for years with the way my Church functions. I don’t attend any more. But I find that my faith is much deeper despite that.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hear you, Corinne. I imagine being in a foreign country is so totally different that it accentuates many of the crazy ways that churches can behave. Sigh. I admire you for maintaining faith wherever you go. Loving God and loving people has always been our highest calling, and we can do that anywhere in so many different ways.

  4. Linda Stoll

    Interesting, Lisa! Sadly, too much of the worst of our culture and politics and world view has wormed its way into the church. I’m always grateful for conversations like this because it sharpens who we are, Who we believe, and why and allows us to discard anything that has crept in to distract us from what matters most.

    Christ alone.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Linda. I need conversations like this too because it’s easy to get caught up in the peripheral things and stray from the main thing. If we could return to our first Love, much of the infighting might fade away.

  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, thank you for this post! I’ve heard of Brian McClaren, but have never read his work, so I can’t speak to his theological doctrine, and hence, his advice/insights.

    I will say that if one is truly a Christian, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and having received Christ through the gift of faith by His grace as atonement for our sins, I don’t think it’s possible to “not be a Christian” afterward. We sin, certainly (sadly!), but He will never let us go, despite our unfaithfulness.

    People do “walk away” from faith, but I feel, based on Scripture, they were not Christians in the first place. The Bible talks about tares among wheat. But certainly, Christians should walk away from false teachers (and there are other reasons, biblically) for leaving a particular congregation or denomination, but that’s not the same as leaving Christ.

    For what it’s worth, that’s my two cents, which I pray MAKES SENSE :), and I always so appreciate your book reviews. That takes a lot of thought and work, frankly!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m so grateful, too, that God never lets us go. I didn’t grow up believing that way, so it brought me such peace once I finally understood that when Christ said no one can “pluck” (my original KJV roots are showing) us out of his hand, he meant it!

      I’d been stalling on writing this review for awhile because I had marked so many pages in the book, which makes it so hard to write a review. I hope to share a little more from the book on Friday. I don’t know if all of Brian’s writings would be up your alley so this might not be a book you’d want to buy. 🙂 But you’d definitely appreciate some of his thoughts.

  6. Lisa Blair

    Do I Stay Christian? Sounds like it needs to be worded, Do I Stay Religious? Religion and Christian are not one and the same though some think they are. Most problems have to do with religion, and not Christ. This is a timely statement, “I choose to stay Christian, for as long as we keep Christ in it.”

  7. David

    Dear Lisa, thanks to you I have pre-ordered this for when it comes out over here in August. Liked “Faith after Doubt” so looking forward to a similarly engaging read. He seems to have missed a section though: “Part 4: If I don’t stay Christian, what then?” What are the alternatives? If it doesn’t work out, what are the ways back?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That would make an interesting Part 4, David! Do keep me posted on what you think about the book after you get it and read it. (I still think it’s weird that they make you wait until August.)

  8. Jean Wise

    I am glad you gave a complete overview of his thoughts and some examples and that you finished with your decision too. His book and your post is great for discussion. Thanksl

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Doesn’t it though? I agree, Michele. It’s rare for me to read a book where I actually know the author, or in this case, at least have seen the author in person to pick up on human details. 🙂

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