I wrote this May 10, 2015, on my other blog, quixotic faith. At the time it was hard for me to share and I was scared of the response. This is part of my deconversion story and I’m not ashamed of it nor does it make me feel weak.
This is going to be difficult for me to share as I am sure it is not going to be popular.
I feel myself getting all twisty inside imagining all the responses I might get, but I have decided that needing people’s approval has done nothing for me and has only harmed me. This blog is the only place where I have a voice so I am going to share my thoughts here no matter the response. You are welcome to share your thoughts here, even if your perspective differs wildly from mine, however, if you are mean-spirited I have every right to not approve your comments. I also might not respond directly to your comment and may write a response post instead if my answer requires more space.
In general, I am conflict-avoidant. If you like you may call me a coward however I am coming from a place where I have been beaten down with only a shell of myself left but I still continue to strive towards the concept of being at peace with all men (and women) while at the same time maintaining my right to have my voice heard.
Well, with that huge disclaimer let me get on with it…
It has come to my attention over the last couple of months that the reason I feel paralyzed in my life and the reason why every day I battle with depression is the issue of shame. This innate feeling that I am inferior to all others and that I have less value than others has always been there and has never left me. In looking at my childhood and early life from a non-judgmental point of view it is pretty clear to me why this is the case. I’ve decided this belief about myself is not true and that I would accept it no more.
It is quite a weak position to be in and has attracted many predators into my life. There is a sense of disgust and condemnation I experience from others who feel as if I should just stop seeing myself as a victim. Believe me, I have tried. I have not only taken responsibility for myself but have taken on responsibility for others’ abusive behavior as well. It is unhealthy. I see now that this cycle would be impossible to stop until I got rid of my shame. The sharks smell my blood in the water and they attack. The self-righteous love to beat me into the ground. It makes them feel really good about themselves.
I ran to Jesus in my teens out of my shame, and of course in desperation for help. Perhaps there was some guilt there as well because who hasn’t done some bad things? It wasn’t until I made a couple of really bad mistakes (well, bad for me) that I realized I needed to saved. Yes, I always knew there was something innately “wrong” with me but it was the guilt from my bad decisions that led me to Christianity. Having been born-again and baptized I said in my heart “finally!” and I hoped that I could finally have peace within myself. I was now a new creation. So this innate feeling of shame would leave me, right?
Nope. It never did. I am being honest with myself now when I say it only got worse. Why? Well, as I said shame attracts predators. What I learned from studying scriptures and what I know about Jesus is that we Christians are supposed to protect our weak and vulnerable. This includes the orphans, the widows, and the poor. I would also include the down-trodden (depressed), the mentally ill, and the outcasts of society (in whatever form they take). I have experienced profound disappointment from the Church that we have failed in this very important duty, but more than that I have personally been beaten into the ground many times by people who were supposed to be ambassadors of Christ and the Faith.
The response I expect to get to this post is from people who will tell me that we are all sinners (Christians included) and that everyone makes mistakes and I simply need to forgive. Another response I expect is that these people who were abusive are not “true” believers of Christ. Or another is that I have not found the right church. Or another is that I am not doing my part to be the change. Or maybe I can’t go back to church because I can’t let go of a certain sin. Perhaps I’m bitter and proud. The list goes on and on and on. And believe me, this self-reflective introspective person (who has desperately wanted to do God’s will and be pleasing to him) has searched my own heart for many years to see if perhaps these were, in fact, the problem.
I’d like to answer these potential responses preemptively. I will not be able to cover all of this in this one post so I will be doing a series of posts to address the issue.
I have found a solution, though. One that atheist will cheer and Christians will grieve: I have decided to leave Christianity. As soon as I made this decision all my shame was gone. GONE people, all 34 years worth of shame, GONE!!!
My striving has ceased and I am at peace. If God exists he knows my heart and knows that I am neither bitter nor proud. I have prayed for years for a miracle. I have strived for years to get back into the church. I have done my best to look for the good in people. I am no longer sure that God exists but if he does only he can bring me back. It’ll take the miracle I’ve been seeking for all these years. It’ll be the years of tears and prayers that have not been answered.
Here’s my problem: if Christianity is true that means that once people accept Christ they are born into a new creation. If even just a small portion of those who profess to have been saved were given a new heart I would expect to see evidence of it. What would this look like to me?
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”–Galatians 5:22-23
I do occasionally see Christians who display these attributes, don’t get me wrong, but I also see those traits in people of other religions and in non-believers (sometimes even more so). And also, these very kind, well-meaning Christians are also blaming me for not being able to overcome my struggles with church. I have been humble and willing to do whatever it was I needed to do, but I have not received any guidance that has actually helped, only blame. Or, if not blame, a meak “just hang in there!” mentality. Well, I can’t hang in there anymore. I’m done.
If spiritual abuse, emotional manipulation, and complacency were just isolated incidents in the Church I could brush it off as it just being a handful of bad Christians misrepresenting Christ. The problem is that I have lived in a couple dozen cities and attended all sorts of different kinds of churches in my somewhat-young life. I’ve seen it everywhere. I have read hundreds of stories about why people are leaving church.
The response of those still inside the church are horrific. The responses are arrogant and proud and self-righteous. It is all more proof that what is happening inside the church is cancerous. And unfortunately it has gone past the point of my just being discouraged. I am now abandoning my faith. That sounds like a very sad thing, but now I actually feel free.