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What Love Looks Like

By John Shores ~

My father was a Baptist pastor, later became a Wesleyan pastor and eventually became an Orthodox priest. Anyone familiar with these sects of Christianity will tell you that this is an extraordinary life journey.

Dad and I used to fight a lot about our differing worldviews back when I was a Christian. After all, I had been conceived, born, marinated, and slowly roasted in the Protestant faith. And I was angry about a lot of things from my youth. So, it was natural that I would strike out at Dad when I was old enough to do so at a distance. He was very patient with me, and for that I will always be grateful.

I reached a point in my life where I had started to read up on and embrace Orthodox ideas. Dad had already made the transition. The bishop at our church used to teach a message that "God is Not Mad at You."

At first, this pissed me off to no end. I mean, honestly! Who could believe such malarkey? But as time passed and I allowed this thought to take hold,

I found that despite so much of the Bible being about condemnation and judgment and despite a life-long neurosis that God was just itching to thrash me for even the slightest error (thought crimes being my chief worry), I really preferred the idea of a god who was actually good and not just marketed as such.

The Beginning of The End

There came a point where all of this fell to the ground though. It was another church split, and I was completely disillusioned. I had always longed to belong to a church full of Christ-like people. Instead, what I had invariably encountered was, well, people. Despite claims that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation" and so on, I had never experienced such a transformation myself nor had I ever witnessed it in another person.

So, I took a step back and began a journey whose purpose was to prove, if only to myself, that Christianity was and is true. I came away from that journey not only an ex-Christian but also as strongly agnostic as one can be who has been raised in a world where the existence of god was taken for granted.

The Typical Reaction

When we left the faith, we lost all but two of our friends. I learned that one of our friends (who was very dear to us) would not allow my name to be spoken in his presence.

When we left the faith, we lost all but two of our friends. I learned that one of our friends (who was very dear to us) would not allow my name to be spoken in his presence.The elder of my two elder sisters and I had troubles as well, but I do not attribute that to her Christianity so much as irreconcilable differences of our perspectives and personalities. Still, abandoning the faith precipitated a conflict between us that ended in a years-long period of non-communication.

Deconverting carried some very heavy costs. Having read many stories on this site, I am aware that this is pretty standard fare for someone leaving the faith.

An Atypical Reaction

My parents were another matter entirely. When I told them that I was no longer a Christian and explained the reasons why, they simply thanked me for trusting them enough to be honest about it, they acknowledged that the choice I had made at least had the benefits of actually asking the hard question, and they left it at that.

Dad and I not only stopped fighting at all, we actually started talking to one another as adult men and now he is one of my few true friends. When I went to visit them later that same year, they both remarked that they had never seen me so happy.

During that visit, Dad of course brought up topics centered on morality in its many facets and I would listen respectfully. But here's the shocker; where I disagreed with him or had a different perspective, he listened to me respectfully. This was a first for us both.

I know that Mom prayed for me every day until her last. But you know what? She never told me so. She simply did, living out her faith in the quiet simplicity that I had always envisioned a true believer would. I admire her for that.

Here's The Big Difference

What made all this possible? Why were my parents so OK with my apostasy when all others simply freaked?

Well, my parents loved me. And they figured that if they could, well, so could their god. And that was all there was to it.

To me, this is what love looks like.

What The Responses Mean

There are Christians who can say, "I love my child and I would not torment him/her for this choice. If I can love like this, so can god." If a sampling of this site is any indication, this is quite rare.

But if a Christian begins with worrying what god is going to do to those who leave the faith, aren't they really saying that god doesn't love as well as a human parent would?

What the hell good is a god who is not as decent as we are?

Either response is actually good for the Ex-Christian. The first response is of course the most desirable. But the second is a confirmation that the choice to leave was the best course of action.

After all, it's far better to not believe in any god than to believe in one that is not worthy of the title.