9/29/2012 | Share this article:By Christy ~
I started the only Ex-Christian support group in the New York City/tri-state region. My ranting was wearing thin with everyone else.
We're called ExChristianPostTheo. We've been going for less than a year and have 60 members so far. We try to support people leaving (or who have long since left) "the" faith. But we also form a replacement social group for what turns out to be generally very intelligent, brave, curious people.
You don't leave Christianity if you're a casual Christmas-and-Easter Christian. You leave Christianity because it's been your life, because you went to Sunday School AND Bible Study every week, because you went to Christian summer camp or led the youth group. You leave Christianity because you spent a huge amount of your life seriously trying to grapple with your own faith in a sincere way.
That's why, in my experience, Ex-Christians are rarely the wanton sinners Christians say we are. We're not even GOOD at the bar scene, much less interested. We may have trouble integrating into life outside the options church proscribed (who's up for bowling?!) The Post-Theo half of the group addresses the need of Ex-Christians to continue to talk with others about the probing questions that drew them away from Christianity. That's Post-Theology. It's Bible Study for people who can no longer tolerate Bible Study.
I, personally, have a long story about how I left Christianity and maybe will address it more fully in another letter. In brief, I was homeschooled and told I was possessed by demons. I was later briefly incarcerated (as a straight-A, totally sober student) in a Christian mental hospital on none other than the infamous Marcus Bachmann's (of "pray away the gay" fame) recommendation. I was drugged for a year. Of course later I was thrown out, cut off, and treated like an insane person. After three exorcisms "failed," my mom decided I have Borderline Personality Disorder and made a point of writing half the therapeutic team at Columbia University (where I was getting help) to let them all know. I don't have BPD. I have a pretty heavy diagnosis of PTSD as a result of all this, but not BPD. But PTSD implies somebody traumatized me at some point. BPD relieves my family of blame.
I effectively have no family anymore. I can't spend my life in the company of people who literally think of me as a deranged, demon-possessed monster. And that's unfortunate, because as a Christian I was raised to strongly value my family.
I've spent most of my life being told I was unlovable and fundamentally invalid because I questioned my faith. It's like trying to walk on broken legs. Working with other Ex-Christians has empowered me quite a bit, and has helped me lose a lot of anger toward Christianity as a whole. But the anger flares anyway, at times.
With luck, this note will reach other people in the NYC area who would like to come share their stories, thoughts, and experiences with our Ex-Christian support group. Otherwise, I would be more than happy to offer advice or support to anyone else who would like to start a group of their own. It's a brave, thoughtful thing to leave Christianity, and I have huge admiration for those who do.
Filed Under: Letters