It Would Be Easier If I Wasn’t A Christian: Part One



This is an ongoing reflection on why being a Christian may or may not be worth it.
Part Two is here. Part Three is here. Part Four, the conclusion, is here.


I commend every single person who wakes up early on Sunday, hops in that cold shower, finds their best dress, best shoes, best tie, and flies out the door for an hour plus of spiritual beatdown. To enter the church doors with all the piercing eyes, carrying your awkward Bible, some lugging an awkward purse and wild children, finding a seat in silence, trying to sing the songs you don’t know (not so loudly that others can you hear but loud enough that God can hear you), and not fidgeting for the entire sermon. Then trying to say hello to the pastor who is surrounded by more important looking people, meeting new people who probably already know you from tagged pictures on Facebook, and slipping out without having to volunteer for some expensive mission trip to an unpronouncable country. You go home, set the Bible on your nightstand for the week, and loosen your tie. You survived.

I’ve often thought: Wouldn’t life be easier without church? If I wasn’t a Christian, couldn’t I just do the stuff I always wanted to do? What do I even get out of all this?

In moments of extreme doubt, this is the tennis match I play out in my head. I’ve made lists. I’ve divided it pros and cons. I’ve pretended to be an atheist for days at a time; I used to be one so that wasn’t too hard. I’ve reformatted my moral grid to relativism. A few times I’ve contemplated all the wild things I could do if I wasn’t a “Sunday church person.” I remember what it was like when I would stay up four nights in a row downing shots of Bacardi and flirting with random strangers in tubetops. Sometimes I can even convince myself those days weren’t so bad. I imagine a world without God — impossible — so I imagine just my life without God. And every time the suspicion screams out: Life would be so much easier without Him.

But I wonder first what I mean by easier. A philosophy professor once told me we must always define our terms. When people use words like “easier” or “evil,” we must first ask, What do you mean by that? If “easier” means that I get to do what I want, then it’s probably true: My version of a fulfilled life would be easier. But my idea of an easier life is not always the best life, because a best life does not coincide with doing what I want to do. Even when I get what I want, this always changes. Will I want this in five minutes? In five hours? In five years? This does not include the inevitable consequences: the neglecting of children by parents, the manipulation of the financial world by business men, the exploitation of good will by politicians, the cycles of violence by criminal subcultures. All because they do what they want. Easy does not mean best, and the best is not easy.

But a church-life could not possibly be the best life, either. Numerous people have been hurt by Christians. You never hear many Buddhists or New-Age-ists or Confucianists decrying their religion over some ugly hypocrites that have judged them right out the door. Religion at a glance is awful. The rules feel like tyranny. Even if the Bible speaks truth, there are old church ladies that regulate how to dress, what school to go to, how to sit straight, what political party is the right one — essentially a handful of crafted opinions that seem informed by preference or by a twisting of Scripture. Apparently a necktie and homeschooling will prevent us from burning in Hell.

You might think, Well there’s a middle ground, buddy. If we can find a common meeting ground — a nexus, if you will — of what’s easy and what’s best, then perhaps we have a working mechanism. So we go to church to inform our beliefs, but outside of church we have freedoms to participate in our particular methods of satisfaction. A little salad, a little meat.

Right away there are problems with this. Now we’ve drawn even more rules about what we can or cannot do based on God is happy with this much or God will strike me dead here. We also run the risk of hypocrisy, which ultimately becomes too difficult to maintain.

Jesus told us it would not be easy. There is a cost to follow Him. Looking at it from a cost-to-benefit ratio, the Christian suffers extreme losses. Then why would anyone want to do this? Maybe we have made it too hard with our many artificial layers and Sunday rituals, or maybe our definition of easy is out of sync with spiritual reality. No one goes to the gym expecting easy. Even eight minute ab machines take work. Not just anyone can make it to Harvard. A clean house doesn’t clean itself. That’s the reality.

So we re-define this tension by pulling back. Nothing is easy. Choosing easy isn’t easy. Even if we lived life as if it were only about the self, there is nothing simple about ourselves either. We know what we want until we have it. We benefit from something only as long as we think that’s true, which in our default state is never that long. It’s at this point that we must either re-invent the self again to fulfill what’s missing — an endless, exhausting cycle — or realize this isn’t about me since we can’t rely on me anyway. When we realize this is about more than just meeting our own needs and actually about living for the right thing, we must know what is absolutely necessary to live for. Whether you like it or not, you live for something.

The question isn’t, Is the gym easy? but rather, Do I need to go to the gym? So the new question becomes: Is it necessary to be a Christian? Something about that crazy Sunday process must be worth it. There must be a reason I’m willing to endure some discomfort on a day I could sleep in til noon. Not just a little taste of here and there, but something dramatic and explosive and real.

Part Two is here.

Part Three is here.

Part Four, the conclusion, is here.


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10 thoughts on “It Would Be Easier If I Wasn’t A Christian: Part One

  1. Yea, you might need to re-evaluate what a christian is, it sounds like it’s killing you. It sounds like all rules and expectations. I’m not sure that’s it. But I’ve only seen one little blog and not the rest. Maybe your life is different but not better. You’re right in one regards though because a middle way may not work either. Christians do have to sacrifice some things and take a stand on others. I myself don’t really go to church and one of my earnest church going friends finally realized that she was going to church out of guilt. There is a huge mindset of religous people that think and teach that religion is “toeing the line.” A recent book called “Love Wins” by Rob Bell, a minister, sheds a different light on modern christian thought. I think that you’re earnest about change but maybe it needs to be tweaked. Maybe I’m taking everything to seriously. Anyway, have a good day. Thanks. Keep Blogging, Keep Writing.

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    1. Yeah… you need to read a little more of the blog. Your statement about reading Rob Bell kind of shows where you are at in your Christian walk, however. I would not recommend Rob Bell as an author or as a minister… he preaches the false gospel of Univeralism and then denies that he does. I don’t mean to come down on you, but believe one should do research and read a little more before making a comment.

      Good article J.S. And I see you like Francis Chan… great guy. I wanted to ask if I have your permission to repost I and II (when you get II done) on my blog with a link and credit coming here?

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      1. Mark! Thank you always for replying. I love the way you think.
        Rob Bell has recently fessed up to believing in a literal hell, though I think many are still confused or even deceived by his previous statements. I’m grateful that he’s raised the discussion in the public forum, and personally I still don’t think he’s a universalist, but perhaps an open theist.
        I think this article series will have three or four parts. You definitely have my permission. Also have you considered buying a website domain name from WordPress? It’s about $20 for a year and I think your blog could benefit from its own dedicated name. Like I said, you have some great thoughts and anything to make them easily searchable will help the discussion.

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    2. Thanks for your reply.
      The blog post is wrestling through some thoughts that many people share but may not say out loud. I appreciate you thinking through them with me. I’m not sure about Rob Bell’s new book (I haven’t read it but may eventually) and I don’t think he’s shed any new light, either. Christianity always goes through a revisionist period where disappointed people call it back to basics. We may yet again be on the verge of it.
      I do have a conclusion in mind so I hope you stick around for it. Thanks again.

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  2. I stumbled upon this post at an interesting time. I’m still a fairly new Christian– about 2 years into my walk. I used to be an atheist (or angry theist, as my philosophy teacher used to say), as well. I’m struggling with devoting myself fully to God at this point, because it does feel like too much work. And because I’m doing it this half-way now, I’m not getting anything positive out of the situation. My mind is telling me lies, I guess.

    Anyway, thank you for posting this. I will keep reading as you continue this series. It’s very nice to hear that I’m not alone.

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    1. Thanks for thinking through with me on this. I’m weakened all the time by doubts and discouragement, but mostly I keep wondering, “Why do this? Is it worth it? Do I want to or need to or have to?” The biggest temptation is to give it up and follow myself. But I’ll be going over that alternative also.
      Part two is now posted. I think I’ll conclude on part four or so.

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      1. Matthew 7:13-14
        13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

        God Bless.

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