Warning: this post is all over the place. Many of you said I publish posts even if it’s hard to follow or theres is no conclusion. Well, you get what you asked for so…Good luck?
This whole Joshua Harris thing has thrown me into a tizzy and opened up old wounds. If you don’t know, Joshua Harris wrote a book in the 90s called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” in which he advocated courtship over dating, not “giving your heart away” and no intimacy (even kissing!) before marriage. His book was the cherry on top of the True Love Waits movement, which I was oh-so lucky to have been a teen and in my early 20s at this time. The age when you are developing your ideas about sex and romance.
Joshua Harris has recently announced that he has separated from his wife (oh, the irony!), no longer considers himself a Christian, and is ‘deconstructing’ his faith. And I am mega pissed.
Being an (allegedly) self-aware person I asked myself why I as so angry at him. You think I’d have some sympathy, considering that the TRUE CHRISTIANS are eating him alive. More on that at a later time. The issue for me is that these teachings destroyed my life.
Really, Quix, destroyed? Hyperbolic, much?
I just sat here for 15 minutes staring at the blinking cursor, wondering what and how to share. My brain plays the devil’s advocate and loves to judge and berade me. Does this default of mine come from my upbringing? Is it the fault of church doctrines that I embraced? Is this part of my mood disorder, causing distorted thinking?
What if it is actually true that I didn’t do Christianity correctly?
I lost my best friend of 17 years over this question. I stopped talking to her a few years ago after she blamed my deconversion on the fact that my version of Christianity was too radical, that I had embraced teachings that were detrimental, all due to my mental illness.
Was my version of Christianity radical? Yes
Had I embraced teachings that were detrimental? Yes
Was this due to my mental illness? That’s a harder question to answer.
For those who have never believed it is easy to answer this: yes, these people are ‘mental.’ To believe delusions of a personal God intervening in your life is ‘crazy.’ And yet…millions upon millions of people believe this.
Let’s evaluate whether the average evangelical Christian would meet the criteria of a psychiatric disorder:
Do these beliefs deviate from the social norm? In a large part, no. Evangelicasm is so mainstream it’s influencing our politics.
Are these beliefs causing dysfunction and distress? Perhaps, but that’s a grey area. Because the amount of benefits that prayer, routine from rituals, and social support often experienced by evangelical Christians off-sets the negatives. Most religious people are able to go about their days as functioning members of society.
Does it cause harm to themselves or others? For evangelicals who are exploiting others for profit or committing violence, than yes. I think it can. And there is an argument to be made about how radical and toxic beliefs are negatively affecting our world and the planet.
By the time I had decoverted my best friend had become a progressive Christian and felt I had been doing this Christian thing all wrong. What my friend conveniently forgot was the time in college where she had a brief stint of worshipping with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the time that her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor brought us to another cult that she was tempted to join and how my reason and friendship brought her away from these cults. How we led Bible studies together. How many times over the years that she told me that I was her spiritual mentor, that I was her voice of reason, even up to the year that I deconverted. The most recent event being that her current church was being incredibly invasive in her life and creepily was trying to get her to go against her instincts.
Yet…when I deconverted she told me I had been too radical. I had been doing it wrong. And that the reason I had chosen evangelicalism instead of progressive Christianity was my mental illness (I have bipolar disorder).
What made this even worse is that she is a psychiatrist. She diagnoses and prescribes medicine to people with mental illness. She knows me well, and has known me since I was 18, and so her words have weight.
I still cannot talk to her because interacting with her makes me question myself and my sanity.
My therapist recently told me, “Trust yourself.”
Not in regards to this particular issue I’ve been writing about, but in general.
Trust myself?? But, but…
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3: 5-6
The above verse is so ingrained into my brain that my default is to not trust myself.
But, I have bipolar disorder! What if what I’m thinking or doing is a result of my emotions?
Oh, heaven forbid! Nobody, I mean nobody, EVER makes emotional decisions! Never.
I’m much more aware of my emotions and how they affect my thoughts than the average person. How? Therapy, lots and lots of therapy. I mean, combined with my naturally reflective personality. When was the last time I made a major decision because I was having an episode? Hmm…can’t remember because it’s been so long. I am cautious, extremely cautious, overly cautious. Because I am afraid, deeply afraid, of being wrong. Of being considered crazy. Of acting crazy. Of being rejected.
Never-believers and former-believers like to say that when people “hear” from God it’s the answer they wanted to hear. That when God gives someone a “vision,” or a direction, it’s the direction they wanted to go anyway. You see this a lot with pastors and elders in churches. God told them to do this or that and if it’s from God (which is their own voice in their head), then they have to follow it. I have many examples of this, which I may write about at a later time.
As for me, what I “heard” from God was nearly always opposite from what I wanted. This, at the time, led me to believe that I must have a very sinful contrary heart and as a result, needed to deny myself more so I could follow the Lord. Maybe that makes me ‘crazier’ than the average Christian. In hindsight, what I see is a complete undermining of my ability to trust myself. Perhaps it did start out due to the worthlessness I felt from my mental illness, but I am certain that the Christian doctrines and community fed heavily into this.
I received praise on how humble and teachable I was. Many many times. Any time I’d assert myself or my actual way of thinking I was shot down, corrected, invalidated, and gaslit. Over many years this takes it’s toll on your ability to trust yourself.
What does someone’s life look like if they keep making decisions that are opposite from what they really want?
The obvious answer is an unhappy life, but it’s more complicated than that. There is no going back and undoing certain things. Just like my two pregnancies and births have left permanent scars and stretch marks on my body, my life decisions will always be with me.
As a Christian I used to believe that God was narrating my life, that my life was a story. If my life is a story, then it is a fascinating one, and if there is Someone in charge then all is how it should be. If my life is not a story, then I have wasted a lot of my life undermining my own thoughts and denying myself things I want.
What does one do with that? I can, of course, create my own story as it is actually I that is the narrator. This, however, does not take into consideration that there are things which I cannot control.
That is where I am currently at: a perceived helplessness. I feel trapped and I have had some very dark thoughts as of late, as a result.
Here is my current thought process. You can think of it as an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other for the visual, though of course I believe in neither angels no demons. It is my brain, which is currently in a loop:
Angel: Life is what you make of it.
Devil: But, it’s too late.
Angel: Too late for what, exactly?
Angel: But, life is what make of it.
And so on… The thought cycle repeats.
Has my life been destroyed?
My life was going at a certain pace in a certain direction. Once I started trusting myself I realized, with quite some horror, that I was not liking this pace nor direction and suddenly it became so unbearable that I realized I had to put a stop to it. So I put on the breaks and tried to change direction, yet is seems that I am still in foward momentum.
I’m trying to think of a good metaphor. Okay, so I’m on an airplane and it’s just landed. But it doesn’t immediately stop when you land. The plane hits the ground hard and then you start feeling resistance that uncomfortably juts you foward in your seat.
Yep, that’s where I’m at. I’m not yet able to turn the plane around. So I’m bracing myself waiting for the plane to slow down.
Except, in reality, most of the time I’m not just waiting, I’m trying desperately to turn the plane around, which at this point is futile and exhausting. And is making me want to give up on everything.
Life is what you make of it.
It is a truth, but not the full truth. We all have limitations and things beyond our control.
I am afraid I’ve put myself in the situations I’m in by my decisions. That is true, but it is also true that I have been greatly harmed by toxic teachings and doctrines and people who exploited my weakness and these heavily influenced my decisions. The consequences which do not simply go away when you reject them.
Back to Joshua Harris. He was just one man who wrote a book. He had bad ideas that he shared and were embraced by the evangelical community. He has since said he was mistaken. He’s now showing support for the GSRM community. I prefer GSRM (Gender, Sexual, and Romantic Minorities) over LGBTQIA because I feel it’s more inclusive. That’s great that Joshua Harris is trying to make amends, BUT it is not enough for me. I expect him to completely denounce all of his former religious beliefs and expose their toxicity. His journey of “deconstruction” is not his own – he is a public figure who had a hand in negatively affecting millions of lives. Perhaps he does not know this. Or perhaps he does not know what to do with the realization. He purports himself to be a “storyteller.” Well, take up the gawddamn mantel and use your gifts for good, damn it.
I’ve seen many pastors “fall from grace” and I’m so sick of their self-victimization. Time and time, again. No, they don’t get my forgiveness. I’m no longer required to forgive others. However, I have also seen many pastors put aside feeling sorry for themselves and actually find some ways to undue the damage. For those pastors I can be their ally and maybe even their friend. I don’t want them falling at my feet weeping. I want them to get up and say, Okay, let’s tear this shit apart. Maybe Joshua Harris will get there someday, but I’m not holding my breath.
You may wonder what teachings specifically “destroyed” my life and in what ways. I have intentionally left this vague for the purposes of self-protection. However, I do plan on carefully treading through those waters on my blog as I am able.
Thanks for reading.