5 Reasons to Lose Christianity… but Find Jesus

It was with great trepidation that I prepared this post, but now, as I share it, there is a sigh of relief in my soul…

After years of trying to identify as a “Gay Christian” or a “church-affirming” person of faith, it seems that the logical side of my brain has had deep conversations with the part of my soul that is tired of drama. Together, they have agreed that the most effective form of spiritual abuse prevention is to avoid triggers.

And Christianity triggers me at the core of who I am – an emotionally awakened, self-regulating, gay woman with an altruistic mind.

First, let me offer an important backdrop for this discussion before I offend most of you with my experience.

We’ve all seen it in social media and even personally witnessed it in some local congregations:

Christianity has been undergoing a very powerful re-branding effort.

At first, this seems to be a good idea, as it is not a faith that has been known for love or kindness to… well, anyone who isn’t white, male and straight. I truly want to get behind the “progressives” who talk about not being “that kind of Christian,” as they follow Jesus’ teachings and attempt to paint a nicer, softer version of this politicized religion on the stained canvas of spirituality.

However, as a Bible College Graduate and a woman who thinks about this topic more than any healthy person should, I recognize that the reason that there is so much conflict over Christianity is the simple fact that its “holy” book is laden with highly disturbing passages, analogies, stories and directives in the name of a God-figure.

Moreover, being progressive right now means big bucks. It means more blog hits, increased interviews, acolades of “bravery” from those who have been wounded by the church, and a false sense of pride in a “new” movement in the faith. (As if the United Church of Christ folk haven’t been teaching this progressive stuff long before it was made cool… I digress).

What we know about the Christian Church is that it is losing popularity… why? Because it should. It’s archaic, draped in a toxic history, shrouded in conflict… and basically the idea of finding community in our modern age is no longer tied to religious beliefs. More folks are happier to stitch and bitch at the local Panera, rather than tithe and survive at dogma-soaked congregational settings. Community, while always difficult to establish, is easier to access and try out, be it through Meet-Ups or the fact that, oh I dunno… we have cars and public transportation, so we don’t need the same local presence that we used to need in order to feel connected. We find out about common interests and we value them much more than our belief systems. Oh yeah, and this social media thing seems to do a good job of helping people feel more connected (perhaps at the expensive of emotional connection at times, but again, another post).

We also know that Christianity is losing popularity because it has this set of beliefs about LGBTQ people, women and overall concepts of social justice that don’t fly with the younger generations. (Did the Biblical writers bother to speak out against slavery? Nope. Sure didn’t. On the contrary, it kinda said, “That’s okay. Slavery happens.” Young people (and yes, some older folks too) do not want to be told what to do based on a book written by men in a time in history that is barely relevant to their own. More and more people are interesting in conversations, not sermons… and giving to the actual community, where it’s tangible and they feel the immediate effects, rather than investing in a pastor’s salary or a building fund. (Your local non-profit… where real church happens?)

However, what the Church is doing, in its well-designed re-branding effort is to make itself hip. Doing as the Romans, they have their loud music, powerpoint screens, even social justice projects, and giving illusions of “cool” when behind it all, the fact remains that there is an extrinsic authority that regulates the Church – the Bible.

Various interpretations and various texts to argue about – but in the end… it’s their holy book – Their script, their point of reference and their reason for the season of known as “Christian.”

But without the Bible, tell me this: Would there be a Christian Church?

I wager there would not be.

Without a book claiming to have authority…

Without a building claiming to be sacred…

Without a leader claiming to be anointed…

Where would the Church be?

It would be in the people.

And thus, we would possibly see that the teachings of Jesus would have some room to grow… once they are no longer confined by books, buildings and budgets. (Oh and egos, but that’s another thought altogether).

So this leads me to a very direct and poignant call to support a great exodus from Christianity. Hanging on to Jesus’ teachings may be the hard part and it is optional, in my opinion because some of his teachings are socially and emotionally under-developed. But without any further ado, I offer you something that will upset many of you. For others though, it may put the nail in the church coffin. You have been waiting to hear that it is safe to walk away. It is safe to lose Christianity… here are 5 reasons why…

1. Lose Christianity because… their holy book is profane.

Unlike most spiritual texts, Christianity’s “holy” book is grossly tied to violence, inequality, 1947957_278200805670461_1195406355_ncrimes against humanity, injustices towards women and minorities and frankly, a key plot twist that never sounds appealing – child sacrifice. The older I get, the more I realize that killing your son has got to be the least creative option for achieving justice. I would like to say, “Hey God, I hear you made hummingbirds, dinosaurs and the ocean, but when it came to retribution, your creativity leveled out at killing your kid? Epic creative fail.”

1782130_278199992337209_142745578_nOne of the most obscene Biblical passages regarding God’s need for justice/righteousness is when he turns two bears on a group of 42 bratty kids for making fun of one of his prophets, Elisha. Yeesh. I want God to get my back, but what’s with all the child-murder? I work with children… In fact, I work with about 42 every day and if they say mean things at times, it’s because they are kids. Doesn’t God know they are just testing out hurtful words vs. helpful words? A book that tells this story about that God should be banned, at least for anyone under the age of 18!

 

2. Lose Christianity because… you don’t need to be the house negro to make a point.

Ouch. Did she just say that? Actually, I’m anonymously quoting a friend who made that statement in regards to LGBTQ Christians. We can make our points about spirituality without subjecting ourselves to the system that keeps the white folk empowered (straight?) and the colored (gay?) scrubbing windows and able to come in from the rain at night. We all know that Jesus is not the same as “the Church.” Do you really think that if he was hanging out among any of this today, he would recognize these “churches” as what he meant when he said to gather and share? The Church is a system and in the end, the return on investment is low for its inhabitants, as its owner (pastors and politicians) reap either financially or psychologically. (Oh, there’s the ego conversation again…) There is a safer way to find spiritual community than surrendering your identity to the system.

3. Lose Christianity because… they can’t seem to reel in their rogue right-wing.

1602068_275828789240996_643552855_oOften times I hear progressives and conservatives isolate themselves from one another. “Fundies” are viewed as the enemy while I hear “liberals” are just as much a problem for those who believe in “Biblcally-based” things like marriages, families and 401k’s. For a religion that they are trying to brand as one of love, there is a schism deep within itself that is undeniable. If these two groups could figure themselves out, I may take the whole lot more seriously, but when you tune in and really listen to what’s going on, you can see this: One side of the coin despises the other side and claims they have different values. They are on the same piece of silver, no matter if you flip it 40 times and apparently Jesus isn’t even enough to bring them together! If the progressives are so grand, rather than recruiting the de-churched or those who happily walked away, why not take all that liberal “Jesus is love” stuff and lavish it on the brothers and sisters of the faith? In short, even Jesus said, “Get your backyard in order before taking over the neighborhood.” (Or some shit like that… a plank eye comes to mind, but thankfully, Bible College was a long time ago 😉 )

4. Lose Christianity because… their God is kind of unstable.

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Be it the Old Testament or New Testament, the holy book has a way of making the Creator sound like a petty father who can’t determine whether to smite or smother. It’s a simple fact that the religion is based on God “loving” the World that he SENT HIS SON TO DIE. Meanwhile, there are rules and regulations that differ based on interpretation and no routines are established for what “really” pleases God. (Do justly, walk humbly and seek mercy rings a bell but apparently even that is too vague).

AZ_Refuse_ServiceWorse yet, is when Christians ignore the absurd nature of the God’s supposed decrees. When I saw this sign to the left, I didn’t think, “Yeah, you tell ’em.” After I thought, “Don’t you know how to spell virgin?” I thought… “Why am I the only person who thinks that it’s ridiculous to make so many excuses for this strange holy book? It’s full of nonsense at times!

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Even more emotionally unpredictable and illogical are the belief systems themselves. For example, prayer has a complication in that it is entirely unreliable, yet it is a key ingredient of the faith. Exactly what part of the brain is working to monitor something so circular and illogical as prayer? If prayer works, does that mean that I have influence over God? If I do have influence, what does that say of this egomaniac God who only blesses those who know how to talk to him/her/it properly? As a person who teaches social and emotional intelligence, I have to say, this god could use some lessons on being assertive vs. aggressive, as well as learning the power of choice in order to maintain healthy relationships.

5. Lose Christianity because… you have the Freedom to Be and Leave.

I wrote about this in Enlightened-ish and am sharing an excerpt below because I think it’s time that the bigger picture of our core beliefs be considered. Sometimes we stay attached to Christianity because it’s our cultural reminder of family memories. Sometimes we stay out of obligation because “they aren’t all bad” or because we like the community and we’re too busy to find it elsewhere. Sometimes we stay because of actual convictions related to the cherry-picking of verses that matter to us. (Cherry, or cotton, I don’t know. Ouch). But in the end, beliefs are in fact chosen… and if Christianity is too violent, dramatic, unstable or just plain illogical for you… the Freedom to “Be” and Leave means you have options. I can’t promise that other religions are any better (as most are male-driven and seem to reflect a lack of social intelligence) but perhaps a fresh start will feel good after all of the lost friendships, church-hopping, blog-bantering and arguments in your faith journey.

From Enlightened-ish: A Grief Memoir about Spiritual Awakening:

“For as disillusioned as I felt about the church prior to my father’s death, I never intended to write about anything specific related to my time in a progressive church… Leaving the Christian Church became a key breakthrough for my spiritual awakening. 

“I cannot have my spiritual journey tied up in the success or failure of an organization. It sounds like high-risk behavior for a spiritual person to place all his or her eggs in the collection basket so for me, I cannot support a place where my investments are not diversified. The ROI for the Christian Church would make my spiritual portfolio plummet.

“Many members of the community had hoped I would stay connected, in spite of how this place contradicted my core beliefs (core beliefs discussed in depth, in Enlightened-ish). I didn’t trust any of the leaders to understand where I was coming from in separating from the community. The gossip and lack of emotional intelligence had become toxic. I cut ties altogether with some subgroups of the church. Once the standard operating procedure for conflict management became, ‘Efficiently shuffle things under the rug and psychoanalyze one another,’ I knew my time was up… I gave myself the freedom to “be” and “leave.”

In the end, religious leaders benefit from having followers because those followers surrender their most valuable resource: The ability to self-regulate. If the Bible, a pastor, or even God regulates you, you are not on a path of becoming a self-actualized person

And I know this, because I was once a person who falsely believed that surrendering “my” plan for “God’s plan” was a part of being a loyal, obedient and even wise follower of Christ.

This manifesto, coming from me, is pretty bizarre really – a woman who dedicated her life to Jesus at a crucial age, attended years of church camps, graduated with honors from Bible College, served several churches in youth and pastoral leadership positions and even continued to engage in “bridge-building” with people on the progressive side of this conflicting issue.

But it’s time.

Because the truth is… the Church is not an ally to itself, let alone an ally to the rest of the world. (Um, exactly what teaching is behind hate/discrimination bills? Church teaching, that’s what.) For every minute we spent trying to criticize it or rebuild it, we lose time that could be spent focusing on the person of Jesus, our relationships with our neighbors and the ability to self-regulate during conflict in order to reach peaceful, mindful communication.

So, what about finding Jesus? (Yikes, can it even be done? Well if you are still reading, let me sum this up already so we can all move on!)

Jesus was probably the most misunderstood and messed up figure to ever try to be a spiritual teacher and healer. Imagine that, without social media and the written word, I died today, but 70 years later, less than twelve of you tried to write up some thoughts about my life. Good grief, I hate to think of how you would portray me, even if you loved me 😉

And so it goes… we can go on a search for Jesus, if we feel that he matters… that may be valuable to some of us…

But what the Christian Church has shown us is that it is time to let it go of their business.

Because for many, it is nothing more of a reminder of a broken culture, a crucified faith and a burden to our collective ability to Love One Another. And if it weren’t for the Bible, we would probably be church and no one would have authority over how we live it out.

Walk gently through these explosive thoughts… and know that even if you stay involved with the organized church, this isn’t a judgment against you… but having been there, what I know is that a part of you wonders why you’re doing it. If you ever get tired of the drama, it is in fact, safe to walk away (even if just for a season).

No matter what, I wish us all the ability to breathe deeply as we seek to reconcile ourselves to… ourselves.

~~

This post goes out to three “influences” in my cyber communities. The first is a blog post from a Facebook friend. Please check this out and know that the content is well-prepared by a former Christian leader. It is honest, raw and will probably make you re-think your position on homosexuality and the Bible.

The second influence is a Facebook Page called, “Holy Shit.” I do not know the admins (yet), but I stumbled upon their page and found myself feeling at home, revived and encouraged by the satire, the honesty and the community. I know I can’t please ’em all, but as I lose readers with this post, I know there are ten-fold to gain. Knowing we are not alone – What a valuable influence for us all, no matter what we choose.

To the folks at CTofBM, this doesn’t mean I love you any less either. You remain supported in your chosen frontline duties of the Christianity Branding War… but if you ever fold up shop and call it quits, no judgment here 😉

~~

DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. She has appeared in FOX DC News and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Her new book, Enlightened-ish became available April 25, 2013 and chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

The “De-churched” – How to Talk to Us

Some people have found progressive communities of faith in which they feel comfortable, connected and cared for, while some of us have been so wounded by the leaders of organized Christianity, that we simply cannot and do not attend.

I’m a Bible College graduate. I was a youth minister for years and a pastor as well.

I know what they label us.

They call us the “de-churched.”

It’s always a hot topic really and the more a person surrenders their autonomy on their spiritual path, the more intense the discussion becomes! Those who have found comfort in remaining a part of Christianity or progressive faith communities celebrate that they feel comfortable in their congregations and they act as though they have stumbled upon a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

church_FireBut some of us have found that each effort to engage in Christianity ends with a slammed door, a crossed boundary or a judgmental word. I have found this each time I have attempted to rejoin Christianity and either I have really bad luck finding socially and emotionally intelligent Christian groups (or leaders) or I am just not destined to be a part of any organized Christian-based community. (Or a 3rd option I have yet to discover).

I share this not only because I think it’s hard for some of us to leave… but because what complicates our recovery is how some of those who “stay” treat those of us who left.

Sometimes they talk to us like we gave up.

Sometimes they try to recruit us to reform. (Does the analogy of a bad marriage help? Not everyone is called to stay with an abusive spouse and help them heal after every beating.)

Some of us leave because we don’t want to suffer anymore.

Some of us leave because it is well with our souls to do so.

Some of us have turned the cheek too many times and now have endless scars and can’t proceed with this form of faith.

Some of us still really dig Jesus, but have been shown over and over, that Christian does not = Christ-like.

It’s a sad reality, but it is our reality.

So, let us be.

Don’t tell us how awesome your church is – that’s your story.

Don’t tell us how to forgive – that’s your process.

Don’t tell us why it’s important to be in community – that’s your value.

Don’t tell us the church needs our unique voice – that’s your cause.

Tell us it doesn’t matter where we go Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights… because we are loved, just as we are and nothing about church membership or group-based spirituality will change that.

Tell us we matter.

And then walk with us…

walk_with_me_lhi_poster_1Like Jesus would.

And maybe that will lead some of us back to your churches…

Or maybe we will find that nature, the coffee shop, the movie theater and the community food bank feel more like church anyway…

So, in short, don’t talk to the de-churched…

Walk with the non-church goer.

Our stories are legitimate.

Our faith is real.

Our lives are whole.

We aren’t broken just because it doesn’t work for us to be in church.

And you aren’t whole because it works for you…

We become whole when we allow for differences, celebrate individuality and find cooperative ways to love mercy, do justly and walk… humbly.