**All photos and posts are my original work. Please do not reprint photos or articles without permission.**

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Leaving Christianity




“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” 
― Galileo Galilei, 

“The Bible has noble poetry in it... and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies.” 
― Mark Twain

“If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be—a Christian.” 
― Mark Twain,

“Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later, and they conclude that the entire one hundred percent is bullshit, which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people's minds.” 
― Neal Stephenson

“Love is larger than the walls which shut it in.” 
― Corrie ten Boom

“I want Jesus to come back and say 'THATS NOT WHAT I MEANT'" -” 
― Margaret Cho

“…Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I don't know what will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. We're more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.” 
― John Lennon

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

“You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
― Anne Lamott

“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me--that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” 
― Anne Lamott

These quotes sum up where my heart is these days. Which would be right in the middle of a conflicting, insane, uncomfortable mess. This holiday season marks two years since we left The Church (tm). Two years of half-heartedly trying a church here and there, searching for something we never found. Two years of being in this limbo place between wanting desperately to belong and not caring if we ever stepped foot in a church again. Two years of a spiritual detox. Of judgment and rejection and hesitant friendships begun and trust trying to bloom again. Of stepping back and seeing this thing called "christianity" with new eyes....the eyes of an outsider.

I am nowhere closer to resolving this conflict over religion in my life. I'm not sure I ever will be. But today I realized something.

I am done. I am done with Christianity in America. I want no more part of it. I have no wise words or inspirational thoughts here. Just weariness and raw honesty.

I look around me and I see nothing about Jesus in Christianity. I see a lot of judgment and cliques and pettiness and fear. I see rules and regulations and church constitutions that have more pages than the book of Mark. I see bigotry and sexism and homophobia and hierarchy. I see "pastors" that look more like powerful CEOs of businesses than servants washing feet. Questions that aren't allowed to be asked. "I'll pray for you" being thrown at everyone that doesn't fit the mold. Conformity masquerading as unity. Insincerity and masks. Weak cliches thrown at broken hearts. Power and control and greed and and performance and who has the biggest church and the best worship team and the most accurate theology.

That doesn't mean I'm done with God. I'm not quite sure where I stand with the idea of God. Walking away from institutionalized religion has caused me to ask even more questions, seek for more answers, and mostly to let my heart rest and be. I'm not any less conflicted about Jesus or why I believe in the God of the New Testament. I'm just OK with the conflict now. If God is who he says he is, he can handle my doubt and questions. If he doesn't exist, then doubt won't hurt anything. If he's some vengeful, sadistic god that won't let you into heaven if you don't pray some prayer then why would I care what he thinks? Obviously I lean toward the first scenario. Mostly out of choice, and partly because there are things I cannot explain and deeply personal happenings and issues that cause me to believe in something higher than myself. And I kinda like that Jesus guy.

My spiritual journey is messy, for sure. And there isn't room for messy misfits in America's churches.
People are leaving The Church in droves, and there's been a myriad of boring articles trying to explain why. Postulating all kinds of nonsense on why those darn Millenials just won't go to church. But why do these hot-shot pastors spewing such things never just sit down and ask. ASK the people who left why they left. Is that really so hard? Or do they even really want to know? Micah from Redemption Pictures put together many heart-rending stories worth consideration. 

When asked about leaving the organized system of Christianity, here's what a couple of my friends had to say:

"My personal view is that what frustrates me so much is definitely the man made version of Christianity. My entire life, I have been told what the Bible says, what the Bible means and how it applies to my life. But I am not the only one: our entire western society is dominated by a certain ideology of This Higher Being we call God and what His Book should dictate in our lives. In my opinion, this ideology is completely twisted and lacks basic Truth. I'm not sure what the Truth is but I know what it is not. " ~Naomi

"I am right there with you. I'm sure I'll study Jesus more at some point, but I've just been tired for more than a year and can't even begin to think much about it. Stopped attending church all together about two years ago, now that I think about it. Wow. I barely ever missed a Sunday before that. I think you'll find that the sentiment you shared is not so uncommon anymore. We're hurt, frustrated, and burnt out. Doesn't mean that we don't still want Truth."  ~Amy

"The more I read and question, the more I'm convinced christianity began to lose its way back in the 3rd century when it began to be formalized and politicized and has been on a more or less downward spiral from there." ~Heath

"But this is what concerns some activist Christian leaders, that we are all not attending church anymore, so America is going down the tubes! They don't seem to understand that just because we can't take their institutions anymore doesn't mean we have abandoned God or the Bible. We just abandoned performance." ~Matt

"I got so waterlogged of Bible after 3 years of Bible school (forced by my family because I was "rebellious" and it was that or homelessness,) that I have rarely opened a bible since, six years later. Since I got married we have rarely gone to church and we recently realized we are done with Christianity altogether. We want truth but most Christians do not live out what they claim are their greatest truths (Love God, and love your neighbor, pray for your enemies.) I am not going to be disrespectful of another person's choices or religion. Granted, if something a religion believes is a human rights violation I would do everything in my power to see it stopped, but if I disagree with someone else's path I am not going to mock them for it. How is that loving your neighbor? And yet I see Christians do that all the time." ~Jennyfer

When Christianity is used to justify bigotry, hatred, hitting children, sexism toward women, rejection of LGBT friends and family, bombing other countries, rejecting people we don't like, controlling people, spending money on huge buildings instead of feeding the poor, judging other people, splitting families apart, bondage, wars, throwing away logic and reason.....is it any wonder that many of us are just done? We're tired of trying to reconcile that innate belief of justice and morality that Christians say points to God, with the God we are told is love. It cannot be reconciled and some of us cannot live in cognitive dissonance any longer. The answer is as simple and as complex as that. The institutions and businesses on every corner that people call "church" are nothing like the church I read about in the New Testament. Maybe someday I'll find a group of people that want that pure, simple fellowship in faith, and that aren't afraid to ask hard questions, and aren't afraid of doubt. Maybe I've already found it in many of you I've met online.  Maybe I've found it in the people I meet and walk with every day, some Christians, some not. Maybe it can't BE found inside the stifling walls of a church building. Maybe Love was never meant to be caged like that.

I have no idea what the future holds for my spiritual journey or if I will someday try Church again. I'm open to the idea. But for now, I'm just done. To save my heart and soul, I am done.

24 comments:

  1. You have stated it well. :) I love the Mark Twain quotes!

    ReplyDelete
  2. (Applause). I'm glad to see one more person say "enough is enough" when it comes to the Americanized brand of Christianity. Your spiritual searching may keep you in Christianity, it might not, but don't be afraid to go where your searching leads you.

    I had enough of the bigotry, the " 'murica!" mentality, and the hypocrisy, the bigotry/ignorance about mental illness, and the abuse from my family.

    Modern American Christianity reminds me so much of the song "American Jesus" by Bad Religion:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=12kcpP-8jfM

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for your raw honesty. We are in NZ, have been "unchurched" for a year now - and to be honest - God has been closer than when we were churched. All the best with your journey.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Darcy, you're the best and this was great, as usual.
    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't go to church because I go out in nature and feel much closer to God than I ever do in a cold building. But yet the church is offended by that statement, so I won't put up with their guilt trip.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am really sorry. Sometimes things that happen and people in the church really mess up. Life is messy. There are just no perfect church or people. Don't let that ever stop you from having a relationship with Christ!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. An excellent well written article that describes so much how I feel too. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for your honesty. I used to feel the same way until I found a church that I feel a connection too. I'm a mormon and I think it might be worth considering for you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The Emperor has no clothes, and you are just one of the children that dares point it out.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I believe God and have accepted him as my Savior. I read my bible, study it on my own. I know what it reads/says. One verse may mean something different a week later, depending on what is going on in my life then. I have had preachers tell me "this is NOT what that verse means". REally? i think not, just as said at the beginning, God talk thru me by a verse in different ways, meanings. Also, church is a "building" only. People make up the foundation. People can worship outside of a building and find God wherever he/she is at. As for the people inside of a church who claim to be "Christians" well, that is another sad state of affair. The church preaches to be friendly and love one another, yet, I have not been to a "friendly, people" loving church who loves another Christian. More to the point, if you do not belong to a certain circle of female group, click with them, then your an outcast. I never had that click with women inside of a church. Well, because, I was a "single" parent and I did not fit into their perfect little family life picture frame. Every church I attended, be big or small, I was treated like an outcast. So, I will stay an outcast to a building. But not to Christ. Jesus taught to love. Not to give up on people, Christian or not, pray for them.

    ReplyDelete
  11. You summed up exactly what I think and feel on organized religion! Thank you for putting it into words.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for the thought-provoking post! Like so many others, I'm also frustrated by many things going on in mainstream Christian culture. And honestly, maybe I've been part of those problems. But I'm not quite ready to give up on Christianity or reject offensive Christians. They are people after all. And although I have no doubt there are many believers/churches that have done some serious wrongs, I think to adopt a negative attitude towards them because of their faults is just as much an error as it is for them to reject us/others/unbelievers because they are different. The problem with churches is that there are people in them. Organized religion is often messy and painful, but so is organized society of any culture and so is disorganized religion and disorganized society. As humans, I have no doubt that we will go on hurting each other despite our best intentions. Sure, I think some things need to change, but I'm not going to scrape church because I honestly think I'll run into many of the same issues inside or outside the walls. As Greg Brown put it, "it's a messed up world but I love it anyway."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And if that is where you're at, that is perfectly valid. I too would've said the same things not very long ago. But where I am now is giving up on all of it. It's time for me to withdraw and stay away from the toxicity for a while. To let my soul rest in the peace for a bit. Peace that I have tried but failed to find in church.

      Delete
  13. I always wish that all of us outcasts could get together and make our own church. I was a liberal atheist until I was 21. Then I became a liberal Christian, but the things that bothered me about Christians as an atheist still bother me as a Christian. I don't have a connection with a church and my husband and I struggle daily with it all. I don't know if we'll ever find a physical church community. I know they exist, we just don't live in the right place!

    One of the biggest things I realized, in going from atheist to christian, is that both positions take faith. There is no damning piece of evidence for or against God. Because of that, we could all stand to be a bit humble with our beliefs. But, uncertainty is uncomfortable, though it fits better with faith, a stance that doesn't rest on fact. And so, because lacking certainty is a terrifying part of the human condition, people choose to claim certainty. Truly having faith would mean being comfortable with doubt. That's what a leap of faith is after all, trusting that something will catch you even though you can't see it and therefore aren't "certain" it is there. Learning how to sit with ambiguity is one of the most difficult things a person can do, regardless of a person having faith or not. It's just plain hard for human beings in general. It's why as an atheist I was "certain" that no God existed. If you can rest in your doubt, but still find joy, in whatever brings you joy, then I think you have succeeded at something quite hard!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So many great points here, Gwen! Thank you for this comment. :) I relate to all of it.

      Delete
    2. Remember there is more than one god (and goddess) - check out paganism. Seriously - you can be very spiritual, and have a close connection to Deity/ies who are NOT jealous, NOT vindictive, NOT blackmailing.

      Delete
  14. My position is that agnosticism is the only rational conclusion. There is no compelling way to prove the existence, or non-existence of God. So far as I know, no one has ever returned from the grave to tell us what's on the other side. Every spiritual experience that has ever been documented (other than fraudulent ones!) have been completely subjective. I have profound spiritual experiences myself all the time! But I know better than to trust myself on stuff like that.

    The key, I believe, is to approach the bible differently: Take a moment and consider the bible as a collection of ancient documents, a work of human culture. If it is nothing else, it is certainly that! If you study the bible in this manner, devoid of the massive accretion of doctrine, theology, interpretation, etc. that religion has added, you will make some amazing discoveries.

    For example, did you know that the God of the Old Testament (referred to in Hebrew as Elohim, or El for short) was a pagan god as well? Also, there is very compelling evidence that Yahweh was also a pagan god. Yahweh's daughter, Sophia (the Canaanite goddess of wisdom) is also referred to in the OT.

    At that point, consider the Book of Ecclesiastes in light of the Works of Plato. Read Job in light of works like Oedipus Rex. You will find amazing similarities. Likewise with the story of the Children of Israel contained in the Books of Genesis, Exodus, etc. Those books work best if you consider them alongside things like the Odyssey of Homer.

    I think you see where I am coming from. Once you deconstruct the bible, you begin to understand it much better. Then you can come to the point where you can relate to the God of the bible in a more realistic manner.

    Regards,
    Jeff Browning

    ReplyDelete
  15. Try The Salvation Army :) Everyone belongs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except gay people, from what I hear. :P

      Delete
  16. Ever hear of Emanuel Swedenborg? In the 18th century he received visions, where God showed him how the Christian church had departed from the true faith and became corrupt. I see many people leaving the church because of the same errors that Swedenborg pointed out over 250 years ago. He describes an inner spirituality and way of living that is much more complete than what most churches are currently teaching. I left the standard churches many years ago, and yet I go to church in my heart every day.

    ReplyDelete
  17. But what if hell is real? Wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry later on? There's no going back...
    And I understand how some Christians "ruin" it for others. However, leaving God and the Bible behind isn't the answer or the solution. We all have a God-shaped hole in us. He created us for Him; to worship and glorify His name.
    You don't have to go to church to be a Christian. I don't.
    Modern day churches are full of hypocrisy. They don't teach the true word of God.
    And many are full of "progressives". =/
    Jesus was not progressive. He loved the sinner and hated the sin. Remember the incident in the temple and the moneychangers? Jesus is love but He is also justice and truth and righteousness. I think He would be ashamed to see how corrupt we have become.
    "Progressivism and fascism come from the same ideological root.”
    True Christians stand up for what is right while still loving their neighbor. One can speak the truth in love.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I completely understand your dilema and frustration especially when I read your background, it was so painful. I am from third world and my parents converted a year before I was born so I grew up in a christian home.

    Unlike the christian beliefs in US, in my country churches advocate for women's right and a very holistic living and my parents taught me to love the poor and the needy all their lives without being judgemental because Jesus taught that. My home was the home a local woman come to if she was beaten by her husband, or if she wanted a cup of tea as she could not affort it in her home and my mother gladly helped her. There were men who hated my mother for disturbing their community but she had the courage to stand alone (in christ) for the truth and for the needy and I feel that it is the real Christian faith. A faith that puts others needs before your own family and risk your own life sometimes doing that.

    I do not remember my mother ever feeling sad when I left for US or other places (she cannot see me for 5 years or longer) because according to her there are lots of other daughters that need her guidance and love and she is busy doing that. This is so different that all the christians in US who only talk about their own family, their own children and nothing else seem to matter to them.

    We also left American church to start a church among our people and that has been fulfilling and the American church where we were members (we paid tieth) never even called us to see why we are not coming to church - they never cared for non-whites I think.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The religion of Hill Evidencism is only based on evidence and logic: http://hill-evidencism.blogspot.com/.

    ReplyDelete