4/02/2010 | Share this article: View CommentsBy lovecomesfromlife --
Late at night, during busy times, sitting on the bus, whenever my mind wanders I often ask myself what exactly happened. Where am I now that I lost my faith? Who am I? Maybe, I thought, if I get it all down I can understand it better. It helped.
- What I miss.
- What I gained.
- What has changed.
- What had stayed the same.
- Who hurt me.
- Who I hurt.
- Who is still being hurt.
I. What I miss.
When I told my pastor that I had left the church he said to me, “That must be lonely”. “You can’t even begin to know,” I replied. He meant that without a church family I lacked a sufficient social outlet. I meant that the most important and intimate friend, one who listened to me, cared about me, and watched over me had left me bereft of his ideal companionship. At night, when my husband is asleep and the cats are off somewhere else, I am alone.
Image via WikipediaI recently watched the 1970’s movie, “Godspell”. It left me feeling wistful for the community and meaning I had left behind. People of all stripes coming together over a man who brought them peace, belonging, and an overwhelming sense of spiritual goodwill. Adults left behind their cares and ambitions in order to fully engage with a passionate idealism. Strangers became family. Family strove together for enlightenment.
When I was a Christian I was important. I was known from eternity past and knit together carefully in the womb. Every little experience was part of an enormous plan for both the world’s and mine own good. The future was laid out ahead in shining promises and the far future, heaven, was built with me in mind. I was not a conglomerate of behavioral, psychological, social, chemical, and evolutionary forces. I was me; I was big. Now I understand myself in the continuum of human history and biology. I am much smaller now.
I believed that God had the answers to life’s most difficult questions and that we had a way of reaching those answers through faith and the church. Not only was there an answer to my questions out there somewhere, it made sense to even ask if there were an answer. Why, even when we know it is wrong and try not to, do we judge people on their race/gender/disability/insert prejudicial noun here? The church says it is because we are sinners. But how do I answer that now, without the bogeyman of sin to point to? We hate because we aren’t better than hating. I hate because I’m not better thsn hating. There is no better answer. We do things because we do them. The world is the way it is. Tautology is our only honest teacher. The only change we can expect it that which we accomplish ourselves.
II. What I gained.
I gained a different peace. I am not guilty about being who I am. I am a woman no longer guilty of Eve’s sin. I do not need to accept Jesus Christ into my heart to fill a God shaped hole. I am whole. I am not burdened with man’s original sin and the blood of Jesus isn’t on my hands.
Ironic as it is, it is only when I was a Christian that I was a sinner. Without God you can be a criminal or a plain old lousy person, but you can’t be a sinner. You may offend your fellow man but you cannot transgress against a nonexistent god and his nonexistent law. Your sins are no longer counted against you, go now in peace.
Incredible internal metaphysical power. When I have attended church services with my family or for social functions I stand aloof from the pleading, the asking for forgiveness, the praising. I am the highest power in my life. I am not dependant on another being for the ordering of my soul. Within my mind, soul, and body I am God. I am the final say, the almighty, the maker of my mind and destiny.
Of course, all great power comes with great responsibilities. When I harm someone I have no one to blame (with the possible exception of migraines) but myself. And there is no one to expiate my real guilt except myself.
III. What has changed.
The dirty little secret is true. Atheists do sleep in Sunday mornings. And we love it. And we quietly mock the attempts to wrangle children into their Sunday best at eight in the morning. Thank you very much, but I think I’ll just have some waffles instead.
IV. What had stayed the same.
Everything has stayed the same. I am still exactly who I was before I became a Christian and who I was while a Christian. The voice with which I narrate my life still babbles on in my head, I am still a serious reader, and I still like cats, art, and hosting parties. I care about my friends and family but am bad at returning calls. I am frustrated about not being able to know everything I want to know. I am sick a lot. I am nosy. Making people laugh is one of my favorite accomplishments. I have been, or have been developing into, the same person for almost 25 years. Being a Christian was like reading a very long and intense book. Engrossing while reading it and sad when it was done but not something that had the power to change who I really was.
V. Who hurt me.
I really wanted to get to this section. To air the dirty laundry, to hit back at the people I fingered for all my pain and lost-ness. I wanted to make it known that I had been lied to, manipulated, had my youth taken advantage of. But that would be nothing but half-truths and scapegoating.
I was complicit in my time in the church, nay; I was full of fervor for it. For every lie told to me by someone in authority I parroted one to someone under my supposed authority. My young adulthood was taken advantage of, my outcast nature manipulated. But instead of holding back these overwhelming influences from others I sought out those even younger and more socially inept. It is a less heinous cycle but it is akin to how many people who are abused become abusers. The story of who hurt me and whom I hurt is the same damned story.
VI. Who I hurt.
Because I spent such a long heartfelt time in the church, because so many people I love are Christians, because most of this country identifies themselves as
Christians I am loathe to say horrible generalized things about the church and those in it. Being Christian is just another life choice, one that I can’t get behind but that, by itself, is neither here nor there. But when people call on God’s name and quote their holy scriptures in order to bring down healthcare, marriage rights, and an end to racism and sexism it makes me want to knock some heads together. If belief in Jesus was just another way to realize how important it is that we care for each other and our world then I would wish the church the very best. Instead it is used to manipulate political and financial power for worldly gain, to disregard the needs and rights of the most vulnerable populations, to entrench outdated gender, racial, and sexual roles, and swindle folks out of what blessings they have.
VII. Who is still being hurt.
Who is still being hurt? Women who can’t be ordained or enjoy reproductive rights, children who are abused physically and emotionally, old folks having their life-savings stolen b a televangelist, immigrants lynched by KKK-inspired border patrols. If only the church were about love, compassion, and community. But it is not. It is about empowering the status quo.
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