This is my reverse testimony – the story of going and in and out of belief; of letting go, moving on, and finding faith outside of where you are.
My “testimony” was never all that flashy or compelling for while I had been a Christian my entire life, it hadn’t exactly been the stuff of legends. I’ve bordered on agnosticism in the past and once tried to stop going to church when I was growing up. I was content to keep going through the motions because it was comfortable, and because there were good times too. It’s hard for me to say whether or not my feelings were reflective of the truth of those moments as I suspect my nostalgia clouds the reality of the past.
Whatever the case, I had no need to consider anything else until the safety of my world disappeared. To lose someone you love is difficult as it reminds us of just how fragile this whole existence really is. Some people I suppose find ways through trauma like that without turning to Fundamentalism, but I, unfortunately have no idea what that looks like. If I had to do it all over again, I would wish that I had found comfort where I was instead of where I was headed.
My “salvation” is not nearly so memorable. In part because I was on my own and wasn’t aware that people would expect you to know the date and time, but mostly because when it comes to Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in any of their forms, the likelihood is that you’ll be praying that magic prayer again, and again, and again, and again. We’re supposed to be comforted by the fact that this is proof of our need for a savior, proof that we can never do it on our own, but mostly proof that we’re being lead astray by the Devil.
I went to Bible college thinking that I was destined to live forever in this wonderful thing called Christianity and it’s assurances of eternal life. I thought I had wonderful answers for the world and wanted to become a missionary to share them with the world. I ignored the silly rules figuring that it didn’t really cost me anything. I didn’t share the conviction, but what’s three years?
I graduated and signed the Doctrinal Statement, only at that point agreeing with it mostly. For me it was like agreeing to the iTunes terms just so I can download the song my kids have decided is their new favorite. What am I going to do? Say no? Follow that up with a stint at a mission agency’s office where I had the unlucky privilege of reading the letters sent in by churches when they were severing support for a missionary and their family. They were callous, stingy, and petty. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, but felt content to explain it away like any good Christian.
The last twelve years have been a journey through the seedy underbelly of faith. We watched as pastors were let go because of moral infractions committed by their teenage children. I practically bit my own tongue off in desperation as I listened to my father-in-law slander a co-deacon’s moral character after making assumptions about his support for his son who had separated from his wife. Apparently, according to my father-in-law, the simple act of helping one’s son move out (you know, to show your love and support of your child) is such an egregious act that it warrants dismissal from church leadership. My husband sat in on discussions as the senior pastor argued during a staff meeting with the youth pastor in that perennial fight for I’m right, you’re wrong. That same pastor was then disciplined and fired because the numbers in the youth group were declining as if people are the same as numbers on a balance sheet.
The most disappointing of all was after my husband had just taken his first full-time ministry job. We were barely in it much more than a year. We had agreed to a $35k salary with the understanding that they would provide benefits while we paid for his graduate degree (which was a requirement for employment). We were chastised when my husband took a second job to help make ends meet, which worked best for our family, while other pastoral families had investment properties and spouses who worked with nary a peep. We reeled when they insisted that they just couldn’t afford the benefits as some slick businessman on the elder board tried to sell us all of the wonders of High Deductible Health Plans. We couldn’t really expect them to give us such “Cadillac” benefits, could we?
I’ve watched as churches argued over ridiculous things like signage while slashing benevolence programs and employee compensation to the bone. I saw the flip side of Christian meet Republican in ways I had been blind to before.
If I take it back to the beginning of my Fundamentalist days and sum it all up, my experience of trueChristianity™ has been disappointment turned into disgust turned into soul crushing disillusionment. If I were a “good Christian,” I’d excuse it all away – because that’s what “fallen” human beings are like, no need to expect different becausethebibletellsmeso™. Whatever you do, don’t criticize the church because that’s “God’s plan for the world” and he might just smite you for it.
The problem was me, after all. I wasn’t good or faithful enough. If I had just prayed more often or gotten up early in the morning for my daily devotions then I’d never have ended up here. All problems can be solved by just reading the Bible more and having enough faith.
The thing of it is, the more I watch the world around me, the more I’ve become relatively certain that god does not exists in the way Christians say he does. If I’m to believe what they say, then surely the god I thought I was worshipping would exist in their words and deeds. Instead…I’ve never seen a more hateful group of people. Listening to Republican candidates and their Christian constituents was the last straw.
I am no longer a Christian. I’m done making excuses. I will no longer play the battered wife to their conquest of our country (and the world) while they insist that what they’re really taking about is “spreading the good news” to “an increasingly broken world that desperately needs Him.” I don’t for one minute believe it. The reality that I’ve found is that folks are pretty much the same way they were before they ever “got saved” and even if there is some noticeable change, it’s probably the effect of positive reinforcement instead of supernatural intervention. The rest is just a distraction from what they’re really doing.
As for all the “proofs” for the veracity of the Bible and the stories told within its pages? The more I read about history the less the exclusive hold Christians claim on truth seems even remotely accurate (and it’s why comparative religion classes are an essential part of a well-rounded education). As for the male dominated culture? I’ll pass. Give me a few stories about the goddess from around the world. Women have been ignored for far too long.
Now, I know GoodChristians™ reading this are going to take issue with several things I’ve written. They think they have the answers to get me back on the right path. I know because I was once that person. I can play the conversation out in my mind because I’ve had it or listened along as someone else did. I know the lingo. I know where you’re going and respectfully, I’ve been there, done that. You can keep your Christianity and I’ll continue to seek out the light wherever and in whatever form it appears.
For those like me who are journeying out of faith:
Welcome to the other side!