Growing up, Aaron Hendry, says he never doubted his faith. But over time, the youth housing team leader has been forced to face some hard realities. 

He writes about his views on Christianity and explains why he is still a Christian today.

This is part of Re:’s Belief Week. From young people who are celibate, to New Zealand’s first Wicca church, we take a look at what belief, religion and spirituality mean today. Check out the rest of the stories here.

When I was a kid, I never doubted.

I believed that God was real, that Jesus walked the earth, that the Christian story was about radical love, a story of a God that loved humanity so much that They chose to become one with us, chose to join us here on earth right in the midst of all the crap and mess we find ourselves in.

And yet, I have found myself far more comfortable with doubt in recent years.

When Christian leaders are revealed as hypocrites who abuse their positions of power over those in their care, I doubt.

When Christian celebrities, who clothe themselves in wealth and prosperity, claiming their lavish lifestyles come from the hand of God, rather than through the exploitation of the poor, are held up as icons of Christianity, I doubt.

When Pastors, such as Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church and Peter Mortlock of City Impact, men with power, wealth and influence, ignore the genuine exploitation and oppression of tangata whenua, claiming they are oppressed due to health restrictions that have saved the lives of vulnerable people, I doubt.

When these men are able to radicalise and mobilise their communities to resist health restrictions which have vulnerable communities at the centre, I doubt.

And when Christians get so caught up in what they’re against - when they use their power, privilege, and influence to punch down on the vulnerable, to exclude and demonise our queer whānau, to harass young women considering abortion, to blame young, traumatised kids for living on the street, I doubt.

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And though I love this faith dearly, I am forced to face some hard realities.

The whakapapa of my faith within this whenua is complex.

And though as a Christian I want to elevate the stories that speak of love, restoration and justice, there’s also another reality.

The reality is that it was my own spiritual tūpuna who developed theology which the church used to sanction and bless European colonisation.

The reality that throughout the history of my faith, the dominant voice within Pākehā western Christianity has been one which has aligned itself with Empire, one which has built structures and systems which enabled the oppression of women, sustained the discrimination of our Rainbow whānau and ensured the flourishing of racist institutions that continue to cause harm to this day.

I must come face-to-face with the fact that many Christians across the western world uphold White supremacist systems of power, aligning themselves with those who champion neoliberalism, and celebrate a capitalism system which exploits both people and planet resulting in untold devastation.

When I see Christians defining Christianity in a way that is so different to the God of Love that I was introduced to, I struggle to believe.

And so, perhaps now you’re asking, why am I still a Christian?

Just recently, I was asked this very question by an individual that struggled to see the compatibility between the life and values I live out of, and the image of Christianity that is so often represented in public spaces.

It was a genuine question and a solid one, yet the person asking it was unaware of how deeply my faith has shaped my life and continues to sustain me in the mahi I do.

As tangata tiriti, Christianity is a part of my whakapapa whether I like it or not.

The good, the bad, the ugly - I can’t so easily cut myself from my tūpuna.

And as ugly as some of it is, the history of oppression, the institutions using the name of Jesus as a tool of colonisation, the church standing with the Empire over the people, there has also been a long whakapapa of liberation and resistance running right next to it.

At its core, the Christian story is one of resistance against Empire and colonisation.

It is the story of a poor, brown, indigenous boy who, in the face of the oppression and colonisation of his people, envisioned a new reality.

One that stood in opposition to the Empire, that envisioned a world founded on Love, a world where the Divine image within all, was recognised by all, where Love was the way humanity chose to walk, where the Divine Dream came on earth, as it is in Heaven.

And as a young Pākehā teen studying the scriptures I found it was the teachings of Jesus that led me into solidarity with the poor.

It was the message of the Gospel, this message of love and liberation for the marginalised and oppressed, which radicalised me and compelled me to devote my life to participating in the Divine’s mahi of liberation and justice.

The story of Christianity is not simply about believing the right things and living a conservatively moral life in order to jump into heaven after death. 

At its core Christianity is about liberation, justice and love.

It’s a story that makes the claim that the Divine is not just on the side of the poor and oppressed, but that the God of the universe cares so much for those on the margins, that They would choose to become One with them.

A story that calls those who would stand with the coloniser, to recognise that they themselves are bound by their own inhumanity.

A story that calls the powerful and the privileged to be liberated through laying it all down and joining the Divine on the margins of society.

In the end, I call myself a Christian, because in the face of the hypocrisy of individuals, and the corruption of institutions, I choose to look towards the radical and revolutionary Jesus.

To plant my feet next to Christ, to join in solidarity with those who suffer and to believe that no matter how messed up our world is, change is possible, love is the way, the Divine Dream is being realised, and justice will be done. 

Aaron Hendry works as a youth housing team leader at Lifewise, an Auckland-based community social development organisation. He also writes about religion and social justice on blog, When Lambs Are Silent

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