My Christian Give-a-Damn is Broken

I used to care so deeply.

I used to care so deeply about right belief, about Orthodoxy, about the church’s teachings and how to best live them out.

I used to care so much about being part of the inside, part of the Right Crowd. I used to care so deeply about not being cast outside for some minor heresy.

Getting theology, and Church, and behavior right used to be a matter of life or death. Is it Calvinism or Arminianism? Is the Catholic Church right? Am I really in mortal error for supporting gay marriage? What about adoration of Icons and Saints? And is infant baptism a monstrosity? What about speaking in tongues?

These were the questions that weighed the most heavily on my mind – these questions that kept me up at night. Yes, I believed – as I still believe – that Love is the greatest law; that all is secondary to that, but that did not negate the power of the human church over me.

My membership in the Christian community used to be of utmost importance to me – more important than anything else – and the most vital questions of my existence were how to maintain that membership. This was about more than other people, this was about my connection to God Himself – what could possibly be more important than that?

But, like a motor that is driven too hard for too long, something broke.

Over the years of fighting to hold onto all the disparate elements of my life: being gay, being Christian, being skeptical in mind and mystical in nature, the pieces that held my give-a-fuck together finally blew apart. I was run into a deep, horrific, life-threatening depression. In order to get out of that dark place, I had to give up something precious: I had to stop caring about the minutia of my Christian faith.

Now, my faith is some wonky hybrid, unacceptable to the orthodox, blasphemous to the Old Guard of my Christian upbringing. That 6th sense that kept me magnetically tethered to my Christian community through right belief has been burned away – and the nerve damage is so deep, so complete, I don’t know if I will ever get it back again.

I feel astoundingly liberated. I am free in my faith – free to make my own choices, free to explore, and free to find God in my own way. I am tethered only to those I choose. It was a painful cauterization, but necessary.

I take responsibility for my own mind, and my own choices. I do not blame you, fellow Christians, for the psychic anguish and subsequent breaking. But, nonetheless, there is a moral in this story for my Christian brothers and sisters: if you want people to keep caring; if you want them to respect and hold dear the values you deem most vital, you must be kind. Be gentle. Be empathetic. Remember that life is hard, and that minds are fragile. Be kind to those who suffer, or we will have every reason to walk away.

10 Comments

  1. “being gay, being Christian, being skeptical in mind and mystical in nature” – I relate with all of these, and also with shattering the christian self-image and leaving all the minutia behind. I think this is how a lot of us feel who’ve ended up on the margins of christianity. Thanks for writing this. I always feel a little less alone finding someone else who stopped giving a damn 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for sharing. I think we are a growing community. We children of the church have been so bludgeoned by doctrine and shame that we just can’t anymore. I do believe that because of us, the church in the west is changing, hopefully for the better.

  2. Once again you nailed it. For me and so many others your experience is shared. And now that I have left the orthodoxy this is my community of believers. Where personal growth and struggles are openly shared as a healing balm and path of hope. Keep on, keep on.

  3. Stephen, the picture you chose for this Blog entry was more appropriate than you can know. The broken glass with the shards of broken pieces still in place, reminds me of the “Conditional Love” practiced by so many church communities. In my humble opinion it represents a rejection of Unconditional Love which is God’s very essence present in each of our hearts and the creative force which gave birth to the Universe. With each act of Conditional Love, the window of the soul is broken and shattered even more. We cannot love others Conditionally – which is the expression of human love; finite love, and expect they will find God speaking to them through us.

  4. If Christians would only believe the New Testament when it says things like “don’t you know that Christ is within you?” or “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” or “that God is in you” – they could start to focus on loving the essence of God who dwells within them, loving themselves with all their heart, soul, and mind. Listen to your heart, this is where God’s “law” is imprinted. Once a person can love and accept themselves fully, they can love their neighbors as themselves because the recognize that God is in them, too. Surprisingly, faith traditions outside Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are way ahead of us in this understanding.

  5. Interesting story. I think the main thing for us to consider is that God loves us…not for what we do or do not do but just for being us. In the religious system we have many issues because there are so many interpretations of the bible and so many different doctrines. Once we step out of that system and seek and live for God without all the religious rules and obligations we can see God in a different light. A God who loves us for who we are and wants the best for us. So many of us christians seem to have the idea that we need to point out the sins and mistakes of others or we are not doing our job as a christian. I do not know why we are taught that because Jesus so clearly taught us that loving God and loving others was the way of his followers. Of course we are not all going to agree on things, but we can accept, respect and treat each other kindly and with the love of God even in our differences. Love covers a multitude of sins (which we all have commited) and love draws us to the Father. Judging, condemnation and finger pointing only drives people away. I for one have found more freedom, more meaningful fellowship and a wider range of friends being outside the walls of religion and depending on the leading of the Spirit each day.

  6. Hello, friend.

    What a gift to live where you do — Asheville is such a beautiful place. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina and they will always hold a special place in my heart.

    I grew up in church, too. In fact, I can’t remember a time in my young life when my family was not deeply committed to serving our small body of believers. I can’t remember a time in my formative years when I wasn’t being shown the love of Jesus on a daily basis. But, when I was a teenager, my mother left, and I began struggling with deep depression. Of course, I know I don’t have to tell you that absolutely no one in church was talking about mental illness at the time. Having spent my entire life being viewed as the good girl, the girl that had her shit together, I had no idea where to put that kind of hurt.

    When I went to college, I ended up choosing a liberal arts Bible college about an hour away from my hometown. Admittedly, looking back, I took a lot of that time for granted. I wish I had paid more attention, been more appreciative of those opportunities to dive deeper and become more rooted in my Christian faith and it’s history. My parents, while they had raised me in church, were not well versed in the countless intricacies of theology and church history.

    There were debates everywhere about the many issues you named in this post. Some friendly, some not so much. Because I had not chosen a Bible major (though every student was required to take enough hours to declare a minor in biblical and theological studies,) and because I have never been much for confrontation or conflict, I shied far away from that scene. But on one particular day, during my junior year of college, a younger group of students was debating at the table next to mine in the library. A friend of mine interrupted and said that truly, none of what they were debating mattered at all if they were not willing to go outside and show real, practical love to the homeless person, the drug addict, the LGBT person, the woman who had chosen abortion, the mentally ill, and the many others who have been cast aside by the church.

    The more I get to know Jesus, friend, the more I see how deeply concerned he was about the outsiders, and how readily he turned everything on its head for the people in the Right Crowd. He came to seek and save the ones who were lost, the ones who were messy and bruised and busted up and sick and wayward. He came to love on the people who had tried and tried again and knew that they couldn’t make it on their own. I’ve spent my entire life in the Right Crowd, friend, but the more I see myself in light of Jesus, the more I recognize my own mess and bruises and waywardness. The more I see my desperate need for him.

    I, too, am knee deep and sinking in the business of unlearning, relearning, and falling in love. Christianity is nothing, if not a wild love affair with Jesus and the world he came to save. So know this: you are not alone. If no one has ever really said that to you before, or perhaps if you’ve never really believed it — believe it now. You’re not alone.

    Faith is a long, barefoot walk. And our kind Father is always turning our feet towards home.

    Apologies for the novella, friend. I hope that perhaps you found some hope here.

  7. The fact that Christians themselves cannot agree on both small and large points of doctrine, resulting in schism and even physical violence (mostly in the past, but still) begs the question : which True Believer has it right? God’s love transcends human bickering and rigidity.

  8. I think you were absolutely right about the engine wearing out. If you overdo,or over- stress about anything ,it’s like running out of gas. I think my Baptist upbringing had me worried about “going to hell” for being Gay for so long that it finally stopped bothering me. But honestly it was because a Presbyterian minister told me the only sin I was committing was not loving myself as God made me. He said “God doesn’t make mistakes,and you need to accept that you are Gay for some important reason”. That stopped the whole problem.I switched churches .Sometimes the people we learn from don’t know what they’re talking about,and other times they’re gifts from God.We have to open closed minds.

  9. Wow. Powerful story. Thank you so much for sharing. It can be hard to walk away from something you love so much just to take care of yourself, but I’m glad you did it. I’m sure you are, too! Prayers for you throughout the journey, wherever it takes you!

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