Fathom Mag
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Why I Am a Misfit

When is division a good thing? When is it bad?

Published on:
April 11, 2017
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2 min.
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Back in February, I attended the LIT Conference—a Living Proof event for women in their 20s and 30s with “fire in their bones” to write, speak, or teach.

The women who led the event were all generally conservative leaders of the evangelical church. I, however, am a member of a PC (USA) church, where they tend to be a bit more progressive in their beliefs.

These theological differences made me somewhat quiet about my plans to attend. I feared what my fellow church members might think of my attendance at a conservative, evangelical event with women who were teaching from a more conservative perspective.

The hesitation went both ways. At the conference, I was hesitant to share my denomination with the women I met.

Women are good at creating conversation. I met many women who didn’t think twice about my denomination. But others winced at my affiliation: conversations were cut short when denominations became lines in the sand.

What’s the real issue that makes it so difficult to bridge the gap between conservative and progressive Christians?

I left the conference inspired and challenged by women who have a calling similar to my own. Yet I also left more personally aware of the divide between conservative and progressive camps within the church.

Personally, I don’t think my faith fits seamlessly on either side. I find value and truth in both the conservative and progressive voice. But this also means that I often feel out of place. In-between. Something like a misfit Christian.

We gather together with people who think just like us and call it community—all while rolling our eyes at the “others,” quick to call out a heretic, boasting in ourselves for getting it right.

What’s the real issue that makes it so difficult to bridge the gap between conservative and progressive Christians?

Everywhere you turn you’ll find someone saying “Love Wins.” But that’s not the experience in the church when we talk about division. Fear wins, not love. And one of the main reasons why is that Christians are afraid of being wrong. 

We gather together with people who think just like us and call it community—all while rolling our eyes at the “others,” quick to call out a heretic, boasting in ourselves for getting it right. 

This is fear masquerading as confidence. Saying someone else could be right is an admission that I could be wrong. And to make up my community with a diverse set of perspectives puts me at risk. I may be guilty by association. So, I won’t associate at all.

This divide makes the in-between a difficult place to be. If I don’t fit in perfectly on either side, I don’t fit in at all.

And yet Jesus taught us to pray, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It seems our current church doesn’t look a whole lot like heaven. But when Jesus makes all things new, and heaven is our reality, the deep divide will not exist.Every knee will bow. We will look left and right and see Christians with whom we disagreed.

And it won’t matter.

Pentecostal and Presbyterian. Evangelical and Catholic. Contemporary worshiper and liturgy-lover. Progressive and conservative. All consumed by the glory of Jesus Christ, our cornerstone.

Julianne Clayton
Julianne is a writer, speaker, and pastor’s wife, with a background in student ministry. She and her husband live in Tallahassee, Florida, with their dog Kaylee and their cat Kat Middleton. You can check out her personal blog, or connect with Julianne on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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