faith

Why I’m hitting the “pause” button on my involvement in Christianity

This post is hard for me to write, but it’s a long time coming.

I’ve spent the last several years on a spiritual journey, and I’ve ended up in a lot of dark corners, dead ends, and places that feel suspiciously like Knockturn Alley (from the Harry Potter universe.) I always enter a new part of my journey hoping with a sincere heart that, this time, I might find the answers I seek. So far, though, I only end up with more questions or, as I’m facing now, total disgust in the journey itself.

I’ve made many posts about my spiritual journey (here, here, here, and here just to select a few) so I’m not going to rehash all of it. To boil where I’ve been so far down to a single sentence, let me just say that I’ve been from one end of Christianity to another and, through all of it, I have continued to try to be a good Christian because that’s what’s expected of me. I’m from the Midwest, where conversations about Jesus flow as frequently as discussions on corn prices and the state of the summer crops. Being a Christian is expected. Asking someone where they go to church is as normal as asking about the weather. However, the reality is that I’ve reached the end of the line now and it’s time to make some changes. To put it simply: I’m out.

American Christianity today is disgusting. The state inside American churches isn’t one of hope; it’s about personal agendas derived from however that particular person has interpreted the Bible. People live with their heads in the sand, clinging to the particular verses of the Old and New Testament that supports their discrimination while rejecting the passages that convict these same people of their own transgressions. Pastors are, in my experience, largely uninspired. In the last year, I’ve listened to dozens of sermons, both in person and online, that were about as memorable as my grocery list from three weeks ago. Five minutes after they were over, I couldn’t remember a word of what he/she said.  There’s no heart of passion coming from the pulpit – it’s all just words for the sake of saying something without actually saying a single word of consequence.

Politics and politicians are playing a big part in why I feel like I do, as well. As gays fight for equality, I’ve seen nothing but vitriol and hate spew from people who claim to practice a religion of love. I’m horrified that every Republican presidential candidate out there wants to legislate from their own personal religious convictions, meaning basic rights to certain segments of society – immigrants, women, gays, anyone who is a non-Christian – are threatened because those lifestyles don’t marry with the white bread world in which these delusional people reside.

And then there’s my personal self.  I’ve been focusing on reading the New Testament for the last year because it is the definition of Christianity, right? But I read it and I feel… nothing. I’m not moved, I’m not inspired, I’m not shaken to my core. I don’t want to fall to my knees and weep from the joy like so many people I know at least pretend to do. I don’t feel the passion and strength from those words. To be honest, I’m not sure I even believe them.

Now, let me just add in the caveat that I know that not all Christians are bad. St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis will always be a beacon of charity, hope, love, and faith for me. That church was my true north for a decade and is, to this day, probably the only religious institution that I trust. The problem is that the good Christians are far outnumbered by the bad – by people who want nothing more than to suppress or oppress those around them for various lifestyle practices or beliefs. I used to have to spend holidays with my extended family, listening to hateful talk about gay people or minorities. These words were flowing from the mouths of practicing, proselytizing Christians.

Since I’ve made the decision to push the “pause” button on my involvement with Christianity, I’m letting the dust settle. Do I believe in God, a larger, greater force who created this world and who loves us, His people? Absolutely.  Do I believe everything else I’ve been taught these past 37 years, either through familial indoctrination or through my own exploration? No, I’m not so sure that I do. The more I study and explore, the more I find myself aligning with Native American spirituality and, in a lot of respects, I’m finding answers within Judaism.

Where I will end up, I have no idea. I know that for this year anyway, it means that there are no Christmas tree or Christmas decorations in my house. No lights, no crosses, no happy little signs of the season. I’m not pretending anymore. I’m no longer going to call myself something that I’m not sure I am or going through the motions of celebrating a holiday that leaves me feeling emotionless. Will my family be happy about my decisions if they find out? Probably not, but I don’t care. If I’ve made the wrong decisions, I’m sure I’ll answer for them on the other side.

31 thoughts on “Why I’m hitting the “pause” button on my involvement in Christianity”

  1. I began to question Christianity about 30 years ago, for some of the reasons you discuss here. As the years went on, I began to realize that the people in my life who show the most compassion, honesty and love were Atheists. I was taught as a child to believe that Atheists were horrible people without a caring bone in their body and I needed to fear them. Yet, these were the very people who accepted me and accepted everyone without question while, the people who hurt me the most and turned their back on me and my family were the ones professing their love of God. In the end, I realized that I didn’t want to be associated with such a hypocritical, hate-filled group of people and I have felt a great weight lifted as I walked away from the Christianity I was raised to believe in.

    I’m living my purpose-filled life and my life brings me great happiness. I work very hard to surround myself with those people who love and respect me, not because of what I believe or don’t believe, but because of who I am as a person. I enjoy the company of those who are accepting of all regardless of race, religion, political or sexual orientation. I believe that it’s absolutely okay to agree to disagree and one of the things that my husband and I are seeking out in our future move is getting involved with a free-thinkers church. A group of people who are accepting of each other with all our similarities and difference.

    To you, I hope you find what you’re looking for on your journey. It certainly took me a very long time to let go of the ideals that were placed in my head from infancy into my adult years. Letting go of those beliefs was a very difficult and somewhat painful journey for me and I hope you are able to more quickly find peace in your quest, no matter where it leads you.

    1. The most compassionate people I interact with daily are Atheists so it’s interesting to see you confirm that as well. I have a healthy dose of fear tied up with my decision, but it feels right. Thank you for the supportive words!

  2. May your pause give you more time and energy to examine anew why you believe, what you believe and if it’s even true in the first place. May you have the courage to ask hard questions and not be satisfied with B S answers. Freedom starts when you give yourself the right you already have, that of thinking for yourself.

  3. I read all of your past posts so I could be caught up on your journey. Wow. No wonder you are exhausted. You’ve had an interesting spiritual journey! And with all long and important journeys, it’s usually when the traveler is closest to their destination that the road feels endless and gets rockiest. It makes sense to me that you would want to take a little rest and lay your burden down for a while. It also seems that something has made you more upset than normal. Hopefully writing out your feelings and blogging your thoughts has helped.
    As you know, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was raised in Utah by devout LDS parents who taught me from the moment of birth about Jesus Christ and to believe in Him. I always believed in and loved Jesus just as a given – until I faced a terrible crises as an adult. I had to seach deep down inside of myself – and I had to walk by faith for awhile not really knowing – and then, I had many things happen and feelings in my heart that helped confirm to me that yes, there is a Jesus. Yes, I do believe in this. But, a belief in Jesus isn’t something we just “get” and put in our pocket or sit on our shelf. I think it’s something that has to be worked on every day..
    So, it was interesting the day I found out that a lot of Christian denominations have branded Latter-day Saints [‘Mormons’] as “non-Christian”. ?! Baffling. Since the name of my church bears His name, and the entire focus of every teaching in my church is about how to come closer to Jesus Christ, and how to keep his commandments and follow his example – looking to him for my hope and salvation.
    Most people are simply uninformed about our church and our beliefs. It doesn’t help that there are some people who actively try to spread lies. I don’t get that. Why does a person spend time trying to tear down and criticize other religions instead of focusing on what YOU believe?
    But, I totally digress.
    It’s true, Mormons are “different” than other Christians.
    Ironically, we are different because we actually believe that Jesus Christ is a real person – a resurrected, holy, living God – who is still actively involved in our earth. He didn’t just ascend into heaven and disappeared forever. In fact, we actually believe has appeared to and spoken with living prophets in our modern world. Face to face.
    Like he did with Moses, and Peter that you read about in the scriptures. Jesus has the same “M.O.” – makes sense, right?
    Apparently, this is a bit of a shocking concept. But, the great news is – you can check it out and decide what you think. God does a good job with helping us believe things that are true – through the feelings of our heart. Tonight is the annual Christmas Devotional where our prophets and apostles and leaders speak and give a Christmas message to the world – and, I’ll be singing. You can watch it live at this link.
    I know you’re “done” with religion, but just in case you would like to hear some really nice music – or, give a chance to the people who will speak – perhaps there will be something memorable for you. You’re invited! https://www.lds.org/?lang=eng
    🙂 – Cheers! Holly

    1. I have a very soft spot in my heart for LDS. Despite my religion boycott, I will probably watch the devotional this evening and I always watch General Conference. I just don’t know if that’s the church for me, either. I don’t know anything anymore, and I hate feeling this way!

    2. I wish I could come give you a big hug and tell you everything is going to be OK. That’s probably not very comforting – and I don’t mean to minimize your pain. Based on my personal life experiences – and I’ve had some very serious, traumatic ones – most – hmm, maybe ALL – of the brightest times of my life were immediately preceded by some of the most terrible, darkest times. So, if your life happens to be anything like mine then the odds are in your favor things are going to turn a corner soon!

      It appears to me that you have done a LOT of soul searching and “wading through the deep water” for a very long time on your spiritual journey. You’re worn out and “world weary”- who wouldn’t be?! [and, you just endured a huge life change, and epic move, which adds extra stress into the mix].
      Maybe while you are taking this “pause” in life, you ought to go have a good heart to heart with your Heavenly Father. I’m not suggesting meditation or using a rote or memorized prayer. Nope. It’s time to have a serious, heart to heart – knock down, drag out one-on-one talk. Daughter to Dad.
      Pick the most quiet private place you can go where you can feel completely free to shout or laugh or scream or cry – or whatever you need to do while you just pour it ALL out on Him.
      You have what I would all “a righteous desire of your heart”, and God promises to grant us our “righteous desires”. Maybe you even have some needs and desires even YOU don’t know about yet – So, go to the source of all Truth – and ask Him.
      Tell Him everything you’ve tried and done so far, give him your frustrations, your anger, your hurt, your fears… lay it all out.
      Trust me, He can take it.
      And then, you leave it all there! You don’t take it back – you just put it all in His hands and make Him hold it for you. It’s time to remove the burdens you’ve been trying to carry for way too long. Your poor little heart and soul can’t take it any more. Let know you have done everything you possibly know how – and more – and you’re worn out. You don’t know what else to do or think or feel anymore! So, you’re gonna let Him take the wheel and drive for awhile – all through the night and maybe forever. You’ll let Him solve the problems. You’ll let Him find a way to heal the world – and a way to heal you.
      ___
      I’m speaking from personal experience. When my daughter was laying in the hospital on inpatient day #46, after enduring 10 long years of chronic pain and illness and we had tried every treatment and doctor and specialist and medication known to mankind – and now – after ALL of that, she was laying there dying – and there was nothing the doctors could do – and there was nothing I could do anymore… that’s when I finally broke to pieces. All I could do was go back to my hotel room and lay on the floor and sob and yell and scream at God. And then, in an act of what I thought was total “defiance”, I GAVE it all to Him. I said “Fine! I AM NOT doing this anymore!” (there were probably some expletives in there) It was the only thing left I had any power to do – give up. Give up my desires, give up my whole heart. I just laid it all out and pushed it over to Him and said “OK God. It’s in Your hands now. I can’t go on another minute like this. I have absolutely nowhere else to go but to You, and I’m going to let You take over.”
      That was one of the scariest and most desperate moments of my life. It was also the most liberating. It was a defining moment – one of many for me – on my spiritual journey. It’s taken me a long time to learn – and for some reason, I have to keep learning this – but we don’t actually have to be at deaths doorstep or in the depths of a personal crises to lay our burdens in His hands. In fact, we really ought do it every day. We can do it every minute if we need to. Whenever things feel like they’re just too much for us – it’s OK. He’s got this.
      He’s got the Whole World in His hands. He can take your sack of troubles and carry them for you.
      And then, when you walk beside Him and “wait on Him”, that’s when you may start noticing things that can only be explained as miracles.
      ___
      It’s worth a try. I highly recommend it.

      P.S. I’, having a hard time picking a fave, but I think Pres. Uchtdorf wins for his story about the Ukrainian song that he asked the Choir to sing (we didn’t know who had requested it, or why – I am so happy he asked for Carol of the Bells! That was so cool!)
      Also, I had no idea Sister Burton was a cancer survivor. If you missed the Devo, it’s on replay over at the lds website. ♥

    3. I missed the devotional because I was at the emergency room yet again (having a Psoriatic Arthritis flare-up and I don’t get to go to the rheumatologist until Thursday), so I’ll be watching it tomorrow morning bright and early!

      Thank you for the time you took to leave such a beautiful, heartfelt response. It brought tears to my eyes. And hope. It gave me hope, as well. You’re right that I really do need to have a Daughter to Dad talk. I spend so much time in prayer asking for answers, but I don’t think I ever take the time just to lay it all out, bare my soul, and go before God in a raw, open state. I don’t usually let myself break like that, and maybe that’s part of my problem. I tend to be an internalizer, and I’m also one of those people that gives my worries to God and then jerks them right back so that I can continue to stress out about them. I don’t do the faith thing very well, obviously. 😦

      Seriously, though, thank you for sharing such beautiful words. And I’m truly sorry for the loss of your daughter. You’re an amazing, resilient woman and I believe I could learn a lot from you!

    4. Thank you – I think you are an amazing resilient woman yourself and I know I could learn a lot from you, too. So there you go! It appears that God has matched us up and I’m looking forward to our friendship. 🙂
      – Just to clarify, part of my miracle that happened in that story I told you (which was a very short version) is that my daughter did not die. She should have. The doctors told me to prepare myself for it because it was 99% certain. But, God had other plans. And, because I had put her in His hands, I was able to endure the very long hard road it was for her to live and recover. It’s been 9 years since that day – she still struggles with her health, but, God has a plan for her. Her life – like all of ours – is a miracle.
      I’m so sorry about your flare up! ouch. How awful. Our bodies are direct conduits of the things we internalize. Stress makes us physically sick. I have learned a lot about that that the hard way. It sure sounds like you are in desperate need of a good hard “break” right now! Sweetie, you just gotta get all that “poison” emotion out of you as soon as you can! Hope you can get some sleep, too.Take care of yourself.

    5. I AM SO GLAD TO KNOW YOUR DAUGHTER LIVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was heartbroken for you! (My own mother is in the hospital tonight 2400 miles away so I’m really sensitive about other people and their loved ones.)

  4. I totally get this. I cringe when I see the people who are most loudly calling themselves “Christian” insisting that means carrying guns, keeping refugees away, denying marriage licenses to gay people and feeling persecuted if Starbucks doesn’t put a reindeer on their coffee cups. It makes me want to have nothing to do with it. And like you I find that reading the Bible doesn’t necessarily help that. But I also see friends who are serving quietly and humbly in Haiti, providing health care, education, food and love to suffering people, and whose faith is deep and profound. I see Christian friends who spend their days befriending and helping the homeless. And I see people I know and have loved my whole life, some of whom have ugly political opinions they don’t mind frequently posting on Facebook, who would give the shirts off their backs to help neighbors in need. It’s complicated.

    I think what you’re doing now (pausing) is reasonable. I feel pulled in that direction myself. To borrow the old advertising slogan, may your pause be one that refreshes. I hope your time of reflection gives you some clarity and I hope you’ll continue to share your journey with us.

    1. Yes, yes, yes…. that stupid Starbucks cup. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? I blame social media and the news cycle and everyone’s inability not to hide their abject stupidity for driving me to my current decisions when it comes to religion. The openness of social media is killing this country. Can I take a time machine back to the 1980s or so? You’re right that people and the situation is complicated, and that’s part of my problem – why does it all have to be so complicated? Why can’t we just treat each other with kindness and love, regardless of where we come from or “who” we pray to? Why is that so hard these days? It’s like all the kindness and compassion has been sucked from the earth and it only exists in little, fragmented remnants. *frustrated sigh*

  5. A search for your own truth is very personal and you don’t need judgments and fear from those around you making you feel like you are exiled from the tribe. Take a deep breath and realize you aren’t as alone as you currently feel. Another alternative that supports diverse views and embraces truth from many sources is Unitarian Universalism. Don’t let anyone scare you back into a mold you are not ready for.

    1. A friend of mine who left the LDS church is exploring Unitarian Universalism. I need to ask her how that’s going. We’re both experiencing our first Christmas season where we’ve both said, “Nope, no thanks.” It’s an odd time to decide that you’re rejecting something, especially when it’s in your face. But no, I won’t let anyone scare me back into that mold. I’m far too bullheaded for that!

  6. Yes, it is so sad that we live in such a watered down society. Pastors and other Preachers, I believe say what the congregation wants to hear for fearing offending someone, instead of asking the Almighty God what he needs to bring to the people. But it is Faith that keeps me believing we have good church leaders who will preach what God has laid on their hearts. I’m not quite sure what kind of answers you are looking for and do pray you find them. Being a Christian and religious is extremely popular but as you say “don’t walk the walk or talk the talk.” So sad. Our Country is in a hot mess and all we need to do is read the old testament, to fear the retribution. I truly hope you are successful. God Bless You!!!!

    1. Thank you for your words! The problem I see is that too many pastors pick and choose what they want to focus on. Hate the homosexuals, but ignore the woman on her fourth husband sitting down in the pew. Preach against the woman who left her husband for cheating, but don’t say a negative word about the man who actually did the cheating. I’ve seen it all from behind the pulpit, and it’s disgusting.

  7. I’ve seen in Christianity the very best and very worst of the planet, but then sometimes I think that’s just the state of our species. I’m with you in being raised in Midwestern Christianity and finding it wanting as an adult. You are not alone.

    1. I’m glad you liked it. I’m so happy here. We moved here in July 2014 and then moved a little farther west when we bought our house this past October. I just LOOOOOOVE the Puget Sound region so much. It’s ridiculous for one place to be so gorgeous!

    2. My husband and I visited Anacortes and the Stanwood area in September. I drove over to Camano Island also, while he was busy with a conference. We took route 2 from Spokane, which was hazy for a while because of the fires but it cleared out and it was beautiful after Leavenworth. I really want to get back to visit Olympic National park and the coastal area. I can certainly see why people make the move from other regions of the country.

    3. We live on the Kitsap Peninsula, which is on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle. The Olympics are in my backyard. And Mt Rainier National Park, which is one of my favorite places on the planet, isn’t that far southeast. I just love this place so much!!!

    4. Now I see you lived in Indianapolis. The west coast has a much different vibe! I’m only a few hours from Indianapolis. I sometimes feel like I would be happier on the west coast (I like Santa Cruz, CA) but our family is here, so we stay in the area. We want to see Rainer too. We want to see everything 🙂

    5. I’m from the Hanover/Madison area of Indiana, but my career in Indy ultimately brought me here to corporate in Seattle. I’ve never been as content since I’ve been on the West Coast, even though I miss Cracker Barrel and Steak and Shake and Penn Station so much!

  8. I hope you know how much I’ve enjoyed being friends with you, and being able to witness your journey (digitally, from afar). Your personal honesty will certainly work wonders as you continue moving forward. You have a Heavenly Father who loves you and knows you and will answer in the way that will best bless you. 🙂

    I think one of the problems we are facing right now is that we hear from so many “Christians” who are practicing anything but Christianity, and we don’t hear much from those people who are quietly going about their lives, loving others and looking for opportunities to lift, build, edify, serve and bless. The same for other religions. We’ve heard so much about Muslims who are making terrible choices, but we don’t hear about the millions of Muslims who are so wonderful to be friends with. I’m sickened by what I hear from some Christians who are in the lime-light, and yet I feel so blessed from what I see and hear from the hundreds of Christians I know who don’t need or want attention. Many atheists seem so cold or indifferent in the public arena, but the many I know are so caring and solution-oriented and send out love and positive feelings to all around them.

    I wish we heard more from and about them! 🙂

    Anyway…I look forward to hearing about your 2016 discoveries. They always bless me 🙂

    1. You’ve so right, Brian, and deep down I know that. I know that there is still a lot good in Christianity, it’s just that the radical fringes are the ones getting all the publicity, and it sickens me to associate myself, even in name only, with these people. I just can’t be someone that’s okay with people I love, be it black or gay or Muslim or anything other than “white Christian” being treated so poorly in the supposed name of Christ. 2016 is going to be interesting for me, that’s for sure!

  9. Wow, Rachel, that’s quite a journey. Like you, I left the church (Anglican) many years ago. It just didn’t have the answers I searched for…thus started a life long quest for Truth. I am pleased to say I found my way without religion. It seems you have outgrown “Church” and need to find your own Truth on your spiritual journey. I wish you well…I believe everyone should embark on that journey.

    1. I’ve definitely outgrown church. I want that faith community, and I DO believe in God, but I don’t find Christianity to be what I need. It’s a hard thing to admit to yourself – that you don’t really “buy” all of it. I’m glad I’m finally there. I feel freer having accepted my internal truths in that respect, and now I’m discovering those other truths that lie waiting to be unearthed!

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