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Riven

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Everything posted by Riven

  1. Thank you for posting this @R_Collins I've enjoyed many of your videos since I starting reading and posting here regularly. I would think the accelerated decline is most recently due to Christianity trying to become more of a political force in national politics. To a degree, this has been the case for a long while (the Moral Majority in the 1980s is the first I was aware of it), but the 2016 election featured rhetoric from the evangelical "talking heads" unlike anything I've seen in my lifetime. There are many in the church (like me) who were not completely on board with a lot of the dogma and doctrine, but willing to stay because it was "what we knew" or our social/cultural tradition. I can say that my exit was entirely related to national politics and the evangelical defense of what had formerly been disqualifying characteristics of a candidate.
  2. @Bhim - I had some fun Googling a number of your bullet points this weekend! I was unaware of most of these inconsistencies. As per usual, most of the top Google results were various Christian sites, with their extreme mental gymnastics, trying to explain why none of these things were problems. I soon found myself down the rabbit hole, reading things that seemed to make sense. That felt familiar. (sarcasm intended!) I think this is why I'm so interested in reading books by people who have a) studied the bible and b) will be more intellectually honest about the problems. Right now I'm reading Valerie Tarico's book, Trusting Doubt. It's fabulous, and exactly what I need right now! @LostinParis - WOW. If this doesn't just completely encapsulate the total disconnect between our freedom to (supposedly) choose, and eternal death if we don't choose god, then I don't know what does!! I've never seen it put so simply, and yet so succinctly. THANK YOU!
  3. @MYRTBOS - It is wonderful to be out of such tension, holding competing thoughts for so long. As @sdelsolray said, our cognitive dissonance serves us well to inform us, however refusing to look at things doesn't. It took what it took, but I'm glad to be on my way out. @DestinyTurtle - thank you! It's been a rough road, and it's not without irony that I say I'm taking the road less traveled. It's easy to stay stuck, and harder to take steps into the unknown. But as you said, my life, my responsibility. I'm willing to step up! @Geezer - You have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you.
  4. Yep, @Joshpantera - life can pretty much be summed up with any song lyric! And this one's a favorite of mine!
  5. Thanks for sharing that. It helps to know I’m not alone in these experiences!
  6. I’m slowly reading through the testimony section. I hope everyone knows how important this section is to people like me. I need to know I’m not alone in my experiences and thoughts. 

  7. Thank you so much for pinning this post, or I probably would have never seen it. @DarkBishop's metaphor about the blue or the red pill is the best explanation I've ever read. And it helps immensely to think of it this way. I started visiting Ex-Christian way before I deconverted. I even signed up for an account, and then never posted, and didn't come back for a long time. It takes what it takes, I guess. I know I've fully deconverted at this point, and I also know the worst is over. I still have a process and a journey to go through, but I have left the really bad emotionally difficult stuff behind. Time creates perspective, and perspective helps a lot. I'm in a new phase now, and I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it's interesting to be living it from the inside, as opposed to seeing it from the outside. I'll explain. When I was still in the church, but going through the initial stages of deconversion, I'd watch atheist talks on Youtube. I thought, "Hey, if my god is so powerful and my truth so profound, then watching this won't do anything to my faith." (I'll pause while we all laugh hysterically about this.) Ok.. so anyway, my thoughts were, "Geez, these atheists just focus on disproving god, they're always talking about the bible, how it's wrong, etc.. So, if life is so amazing without god, why can't they stop focusing on him?" Now, here's the thing: I'm now in the exact same position!! I'm that person! I have been logging in here every day. I started a blog. All the crap I've bottled up is just pouring out of me. And, I have strong, almost uncontrollable desire to study and read everything I can get my hands on about the bible's origins. I'm even considering taking an online Historical Biblical Criticism class! I've become one of those people!! So, that's interesting to me, and it's also uncharted territory. It's also probably just part of my process. But, it's SO IMPORTANT for me to read the stories here, of those that have gone before me. I appreciate everyone here that has shown such a warm welcome. I hope I can pay it forward too.
  8. That's it right there! Faith (believing without seeing) is held up as the pinnacle of achievement! No critical thinking allowed. It's a crazy "catch all" for not just inexpiable things, but for questions that should be put through a critical analysis. It's totally bonkers! LOL. No, amazingly I'm OK today in that regard. And, thanks to those three years with a great counselor, I was able to pick better the next time around!
  9. I'm in the process of de-conversion. I'm not sure where I'll end up on the atheist-agnostic spectrum (is that a thing?), but I exited the evangelical church in November of 2015, right about the time several so-called leaders of conservative Christianity threw in for Trump. Talk about shattering everything that I'd always had crammed down my throat. All those voter guides. All that talk of electing "Godly men." It all got thrown out the window on the throne of political power. Instead I heard, “boys will be boys” and “locker room talk” coming from the same voices advocating for godliness in leaders for so many years. I digress. I was not raised in a Christian home. My mom gave it a go for several years when I was around seven or eight. It was enough to memorize, “Jesus Loves Me” and to know the basics. “Jesus loves me, and he died on the cross for my sins.” We moved shortly after that, and church was not on the docket again. In our household, it was my father’s way or the highway. His anger and rage ruled the home. I grew up waiting for the other shoe to drop, because I never knew what kind of night it would be when he got home. Drinking, drunkenness and anger permeated the home. Sometimes it got really scary. I kept my opinions to myself, because no other point of view was tolerated but his. I grew up without understanding personal boundaries. I grew up hiding all opinions and quietly deferred to his will no matter how unfair it felt. It was a survival tactic. Little did I know, this made me the perfect candidate to do well inside the church machine. I’ve had an interesting life. In my early 20s, I was fortunate to fall into a group of amazing musicians with big-time connections. I had backstage passes to NAMM shows, and concerts of some of the biggest names of the 80s. I opened for used-to-be-famous musicians in smaller venues. I also fell into a work situation that ended up being a tech start-up that grew out of a failed, larger corporation. By the time I was twenty-five, I had a life most envied from the outside. However, on the inside, things weren’t working. You know that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach that something is missing? Maybe not. But I had it in spades. After many years of reflection, I understand now that it was some major missing pieces from a traumatic childhood. Around this time, I was invited to an evangelical church for the Christmas program, and ended up going forward at the alter call. Unconditional love sounded pretty good to me at the time. Little did I know, this “love” would come at a very high price, with plenty of unwritten rules to follow. I would spend the next twenty-five years inside of conservative evangelicalism. It didn’t solve my problems, but did create plenty of new ones. So, I left my sinful life behind. Musical friends, drinking, the occasional drug dalliance, were all excised from my life. I threw myself into worship team, choir, ministry, outreach, short-term missions. I studied JI Packer, CS Lewis, EM Bounds – we used to call them “all the dead white guys.” I was discipled almost constantly for the first three years by both our senior pastor and the chaplain at the local rescue mission where I volunteered. It was a time of learning, and assimilating. The first time I bumped up against the “don’t ask” rule was after missionaries from Papua New Guinea came to talk about their work creating a bible from scratch, for a people group that had no written language. It was fascinating to think about creating a language from scratch, and they were very sincere in their efforts to “reach” these people. Later that night when I got home, it dawned on me that this tribe had existed from quite some time before the missionary family had arrived. I wondered, “what happened to all the people that had died before they got there?” I mean, did they go to hell? That didn’t seem fair. So I dropped in on our senior pastor the next day to ask my big theological question. I was proud of myself for thinking about this so deeply, and was sure I’d get another theological lesson out of it (which I loved). I had jumped into my studies with enthusiasm and was excited to learn. When I met my pastor and posed the question, it was the first time in all our meetings that I saw his countenance change in front of my eyes. He was not pleased! Why?! I suddenly felt nervous like I’d done something wrong. He quietly told me that at some point in every person’s life, god will make himself known to them in some way. Somehow there would be a reckoning where they would choose to believe, or not. It was all very vague. Now I’m not a theologian, but the question that popped into my mind, yet stuck in my throat refusing to come out was, “but if god shows up in our lives like that, why do we need churches to give the message?” But, my childhood training had taught me well: When a powerful man is upset with you, shut up. And I did. This event sticks in my mind because it was the first time I learned there was ground you didn’t tread on. If only I had known about the historical-critical method of bible study at that time. If only I knew that the bible wasn’t the inerrant word of god. If only I knew that there were no original manuscripts. If only I knew of all the discrepancies. If only I knew. Over the years, I filed away many questions I knew would label me a trouble-maker to ask. My good-girl, "be seen and not heard" childhood training was still my driving force. Don’t make waves. Don’t make waves. Don’t make waves. Say nothing. Put up with partial explanations. Turn a blind eye to hypocrisy. Endure voter guides and the pressure to vote “correctly.” Just fit in. Three years into my life as a Christian, I would get married to someone who put on holy face in church, but turned out to be worse than my dad ever was at home. I endured a divorce in those early years, and was told because it was “just” abuse, it wasn’t a scriptural divorce. I would never be free to remarry, unless it was him! It was floated that I should hang in there. Instead, I got out after fourteen months, and almost didn’t survive it. Feeling like no decent man would ever want me now, I did more than contemplate my suicide: I planned it. Ultimately I didn’t carry it out, but it was close. I stopped myself on the day I had planned to drive to the bridge I would jump off. My affairs were all in order, and letters were written and left in my apartment. It took three years of counseling to be OK again. And still, I didn’t leave the church. Not for a long, long time. Next up on the hit parade was the split of our 3,000-person church. This was something to watch unfold. It was deeply disturbing and ugly. I had a front row seat, since it involved a power struggle between two pastors, both of whom I deeply cared for. The church did split, and it was never the same. It then split again. A few years later, the building was sold and today it no longer exists. To this day, people don't speak to each other. Families were split. Life long friendships ended. All over two men's egos. The bible tells us that god will hold leaders to a higher standard of accountability. I've never seen any leader in the church act as if they gave a crap about that admonition. If there was a holy spirit guiding people, I never saw it. I saw a hell of a lot of self-will run riot though. I saw affairs that were tolerated by big tithers, while those that didn’t have the same financial standing, were thrown out. I learned the many unwritten rules of membership. Which TV programs were OK, which weren’t. Looking like you had it all together was approved of, having problems was not. If you had struggles, this meant your walk with the Lord was at fault, and the fault was always yours. People with real problems were shamed into silence. Including me. One of the Christianese sayings goes, “If you feel far from god, guess who moved?” This and other fluffy platitudes were highest depths of theological introspection that the laity could come up with. I grew to hate these sayings. They were an assault to intelligence. Still, I was silent. As the years wore on, I slowly began to see something more sinister take root. Maybe it was always there to a degree. I know the rabbinic tradition calls for questioning and reinterpretation of scripture, so I saw Jesus as simply operating within that framework. What's interesting is how everything comes around again. The Christian church (at least in America, which is all I can speak to), is very much like those Pharisees of old that Jesus railed against. Over and over I would wonder why leadership didn’t see it this way. Everything was cast in stone. Either all the bible was true, or none of it was. The earth was new. Dinosaurs and man coexisted. By this time, my counseling had served me well, and was getting more and more emotionally healthy. I knew this type of pseudo-reasoning was black-and-white thinking, which was dysfunctional. Their very own Jesus didn’t operate this way! He questioned the authority and wisdom of the current religious leaders and traditions. Critical thinking is completely lost today in general, but the lack of it is almost a requirement to subscribe to the tenants of evangelical Christianity. I'm teaching my son logic and critical thinking, because I want him to have the tools. I look up and down the comment sections on social media and I see nothing but ad hominem attacks, straw-man arguments, etc. And it's no wonder. Our politicians have been winning elections with this kind of rhetoric for... well, for a long time. Pair that with reality TV and the dumbing down of America is complete. The ultimate irony is that the church today teaches Sheep 101, and rewards you for falling in line, towing the party line and not making waves. The exact opposite of who their very own Jesus was. About the time I started seeing the tide of opinion changing on doing outreach to the homeless and the hurting, it was the beginning of the end for me. A deep dissatisfaction was growing at how the church was ignoring most of the teachings of Jesus. For years, there had been a growing faction that had turned into a groundswell that took on "biblical" causes that dovetailed with political positions. The hypocrisy of whipping out the Bible to discriminate or legislate against minority people groups, while simultaneously ignoring most of the very-well-spelled-out teachings of Jesus on enemy love, and other inconvenient teachings, was all I could take. One day the dam just burst. Everything I had “filed” for so many years under my “cognitive dissonance file cabinet” just exploded. I began to Google topics related to my dissatisfaction with Christianity and that was when I knew I could never go back. It took over twenty years to have my final straw moment, but as I began to learn about all the problems with the bible, my beliefs just evaporated. But it would take me another three years to do something about it. I was in emotional turmoil all of the time at this point. I knew I’d be leaving my entire social network. I poured myself into music. I joined a second band. I filled my days with busyness and outreach. I was running from myself, and the hard decisions I knew I needed to make. Maybe if I decide not to decide.... but the lyrics of RUSH’s song Free Will rang in my head. “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” In the end, the church made it easy for me. My son was being picked on for not “hating Obama” enough for his peer’s satisfaction, I overheard the outreach pastor talk about how the homeless were “wrecking this town” and my main band threw a member out because they were divorced and weren’t qualified to minister from the platform. By this time, were in a new state, and our current church had been our home for five years. But no one knew I was divorced. Something inside me broke in late 2015. The final straw was Focus on the Family’s James Dobson advocating for Trump. I’d loved that organization, donated to it, and was completely dumbfounded at his defense of this man from a believer’s point of view. It was like I suddenly saw the truth. The church was a power structure, tapped into man’s need to believe in something higher than himself. Centuries of control, money, and forced adherence to man-made doctrine. Secrets about the bible’s issues and problems kept from the laypeople. I was sickened. I told my husband we were out of there, no matter the cost. I quit both bands, walked out, and never came back. I will close with something I wrote as a believer, back in 1998. Even then, I saw the problems. No more. Well, I guess you know the answer to that. There is no revival. There is, however, a hell of a lot of “Dones” like me, stampeding in mass exodus out the doors of the church. Now to that I can say, “Thank god!”
  10. It is sad, @Joshpantera I haven't given a lot of time and attention to this, but I know it needs to come off the back burner at some point. I pretty sure I'm through the worst of the deconversion adjustment, although I know it's a process and journey too. But the traumatic feelings are just about gone. I can't ever go back to worship music, but it's been so many years since I've played any other type of music.... I did play professionally before my conversion. I started in a country band, moved to blues/60s-80s rock, and then finally progressive rock (I was in a Yes cover band). Hopefully, I'll find my way back to my happy place, soon. Thank you so much for what you said about being invested in my playing again. No one has said that to me. It means more than you can imagine.
  11. Well, hell. INFJ -A/-T This explains a lot. https://www.16personalities.com/infj-personality
  12. What are you known for? Is it your love for others? If someone were to read your social media posts, what would it reflect? What about your comments? Christians, I'm talking to YOU. It seems the ship has sailed on loving others. Especially other Christians with whom you disagree. I truly believe that social media has shone a stark, bright spotlight on the hearts of men (and women) and the verdict is in: Christians have just as much hate, anger, judgement and vitriol in their hearts as everyone else. Let that sink in. And then get angry. But not at me. I have to call it like I see it (or in this case, read it). Every. Single. Day. Obviously, everyone is human. We all have those emotions and feelings. What I'm talking about is if you call yourself a Christian, you are held to a higher standard. Especially where your behavior towards others is concerned. But I have a question for you: Are you the called ones? Or the ones tasked with calling everyone out? I'm weary. Really weary. Weary of seeing your Bible used as a weapon. So much so, that prior to my deconversion, when I did still did devotions, I would come across verses that are typically the "clobber verses," and I couldn't focus anymore. It destroyed the Bible for me. [Cue the judgmental rant: "Well, that's YOUR fault! It must be YOUR relationship with God. YOU need to work on that!] No, it could not possibly be the effect of other Christians' behavior. Nope. I'm so weary of the superiority and judgement of believers. [Cue the proof texts about why it's OK to do this....] I'm sick of the Christian double standard which goes something like this: "I'm on the side of God, therefore when I call you out, it's a holy calling. My behavior, however, is not up for discussion." I see this play out day after day online. And in real life too. I'm weary of seeing Christians nod in agreement about loving others during a sermon, and go home to eviscerate someone on Facebook who dares to have a different opinion. Especially political. Sit tight Christian. Buckle up. I've got some news: God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When your church becomes a mouthpiece for a political party, you cease to be the church. In the words of one of your own pastors, Carey Nieuwhof: I could not feel more strongly about this. Especially in political discourse. Every day, I see people with little to no understanding of theology use the Bible as a weapon to make a point or win an argument. We call it "proof texting." You know what? It's destroying your witness. It's destroying other believers, and it's destroying any chance someone wants to jump into your cesspool of hate. The rhetoric I see vomiting out of Christian mouths every day turns my stomach. The message, more often than not, is "I love you, as long as you agree with me." If not, all bets are off. I don't recall Jesus saying that. In fact, he talked about enemy love. Another long-lost Christian command that no longer exists in Evangelical America. What happened to being peacemakers? Instead you pledge allegiance to America First. It seems the "kingdom" that holds first place in your heart is not God's. It's man's.
  13. Pretty damn close. About 25 years ago. I left all that behind for worship teams and choirs. I could play or sing pretty much anything getting airplay on Christian radio right up until I walked out of two bands (and both churches) in late 2015. I've not picked up my guitar since then. It's an area where I've still got to do a lot of healing.
  14. Riven

    Inaugural Entry

    This has been a long time coming. I've yet to write my ex-timonial outlining the downfall of my faith, but that's coming. I think it's fair to say that after twenty-five years inside of evangelical Christianity, it's going to take a bit of processing and healing to get it all sorted out enough to write it all down. The best way I can come up with to describe my slow and painful exodus, would be to say it felt like death by a thousand paper cuts. The metaphor works, because any one of the "reasons" I could give, wouldn't seem on its face to be enough to walk away. But over a period of many years, it wore me down. Down to the core of my soul. So much so, that when I finally found the strength to walk away, I felt like I'd been robbed of those years. I was left trying to figure out who I was without the identity of "believer." And in truth, I didn't know. I'm still learning. I can't go back, but I can move forward, living my best life now. These days, I am "closer to fine" than I have ever been. Ironically, I feel free and unchained. Funny, that's what Christianity tells us will happen when we accept Christ. That was even true for me, in the beginning. But what I didn't know, was that Western Christianity also comes with a lot of unspoken and unwritten "rules." In the end, the rule book grew heavy, and the veil that was torn off was the real truth of the Bible: that it's peppered with inconsistencies that most Christians will never hear about in church. We don't have original manuscripts. The gospels were not written by apostles of Jesus. There was political infighting among various church factions that lasted over a century about which manuscripts would be considered "inspired," which was decided four hundred years after-the-fact. As I was beginning to become a student of the real Bible (not the sacred, inspired, "either it's all true of none of it's true" Bible that evangelicals tout), Western evangelicalism decided it was time to get in bed with politics. That was my final straw. That, and the absolute hypocrisy of other evangelical Christians. There is no more discipleship. There is no more open-mindedness. No more quest for truth. The only usefulness the Bible holds for many Christians, is to use it to "proof text" other people. Including other Christians that don't see it exactly how the evangelical does. I left disgusted. I still am. So, here I am. I've found a home at Exchristian. Shockingly, they know how to be respectful when disagreeing. I guess "godless" people aren't so bad after all. Imagine that.
  15. “One of the most amazing and perplexing features of mainstream Christianity is that seminarians who learn the historical-critical method in their Bible classes appear to forget all about it when it comes time for them to be pastors. They are taught critical approaches to Scripture, they learn about the discrepancies and contradictions, they discover all sorts of historical errors and mistakes, they come to realize that it is difficult to know whether Moses existed or what Jesus actually said and did, they find that there are other books that were at one time considered canonical but that ultimately did not become part of Scripture (for example, other Gospels and Apocalypses), they come to recognize that a good number of the books of the Bible are pseudonymous (for example, written in the name of an apostle by someone else), that in fact we don't have the original copies of any of the biblical books but only copies made centuries later, all of which have been altered. They learn all of this, and yet when they enter church ministry they appear to put it back on the shelf. For reasons I will explore in the conclusion, pastors are, as a rule, reluctant to teach what they learned about the Bible in seminary.”
    Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don't Know About Them
     
    And this my friends, is why the masses in the church, down through the ages, know nothing about the historical origins of their so-called "sacred, god-breathed" scripture they deify as the fourth member of the trinity.
    1. sdelsolray

      sdelsolray

      Ehrman's observation is accurate and insightful.  I would add that there are many preachers, pastors and similar "I am the authority" hucksters that have not spent years to earn college degrees in theology or related fields, and have invested no time whatsoever with/in/around schools of learning.

    2. Riven

      Riven

      True! I'm sure they have no problem finding devotees, either. 🙄

  16. Oh man.... you have my full empathy as well. I am fortunate in that my husband is OK with my conclusions. The Christian extremist wing of my family is a few states away, so I only need to deal with it during holidays. Thanks! It had a few decades to think about it.
  17. Riven

    hi there

    It will be a struggle, for a while. Everyone's journey out is different. My only suggestion would be to be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. I signed up for an account here a long, long time ago -- then never posted. I wasn't ready. But the newness of feeling empty because you no longer have Jesus to talk to in prayer, will fade. You'll become more at home with "just you" residing in your thoughts. It's a weird feeling in the beginning, not to pray. I still did for a while, although I prayed to "the energy and unseen forces that governs the universe." Seems silly now, but I needed that. You need what you need. Then I started to read, as has already been suggested. If you feel Bart Ehrman (not a believer anymore) feels like too much, start with Pete Enns, who is still a believer, but has quite a bit to say about the crazy orthodoxy of the evangelical church today. I started with the Sin of Certainty and Inspiration and Incarnation, and then I moved on to Ehrman's books. Frankly, my impression after reading Enns was, "How is he still a believer?" but then again that's a very personal choice, and only one that each person can choose for themselves. Good luck, and check in with us on your journey!
  18. I would absolutely agree with this. I've definitely seen and experienced this in many group situations. I have to say that I personally don't like it from any "side." When my husband and I started attending the United Methodist church (I am supporting his continued belief, and he is supporting my stipulation that I would not attend a church with him that wasn't open and affirming), I noticed their tendency to talk the same way about the "other Christians" (read: Evangelical Republicans). I don't like that either. It's a personal decision, but I don't want to engage on that level. Of course here, on Ex-C, I will admit I'm blowing off a lot of pent up, held in steam from years and years, however, my issue is entirely about evangelical hypocrisy and how they express themselves on social media to those with whom they disagree. If you claim that the bible is "all true, every word," then slandering is not something god allows you to do. I'm all for open, respectful debate about differences, but unfortunately, those experiences are the exception with evangelicals in social media, not the rule. Ann, I think that it was the Moral Majority, starting in 1969 or 1970 by Jerry Falwell, but think it may go back further. I had an article bookmarked about it, but I can't find it. However, there was a recent article in Forbes that is closely related to this that I recently read (and saved). It's long, but well worth the read , if one is interested. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisladd/2017/03/27/pastors-not-politicians-turned-dixie-republican/#3f018c06695f
  19. Thanks, @mymistake for that clarification. I guess I didn't realize that. I'll have to look into the origins of that phrase -- I didn't realize it was a hate group!
  20. Me too. I registered Republican when I was 18 because that's what my parents had raised me to think. However, after a number of years, I began to vote for the issue or the person, not the party. Finally, I registered Independent. It was more of less symbolic at that point, since I'd been voting how I wanted for years, but by that time, I was sick of the church trying to tell me how to vote. By the way, I like your link to the characteristics of skeptics vs. pseudo skeptics!
  21. It's this rhetoric that was the final nail in the coffin for me. The crazy thing is that not only have the talking heads from that party all been repeating those same talking points, but so has the church, and now the congregants. Shallow theology for shallow people. In 25 years it went from, "pick the most godly man in the race" for our voting, to "everyone makes mistakes, looks at "x" (insert name) from the Bible." Really? So, I guess they'll be changing who can serve in leadership or be pastor, right? No? Such hypocrisy. This is the church and everyone in it saying the the ends justify the means. I'm not sure where that Biblical principle is.
  22. Thanks, @sdelsolray. I'm still expecting to get in trouble for posting something like this. I was literally afraid to look at comments. I have a ways to go in healing. I aspire to getting to the "ignore" stage. Right now, I'm processing and mad as hell! (Oops... don't believe in that!)
  23. When I first became a Christian, I was already an adult. One of the first things I was taught, was that we prayed for the president, no matter what the party affiliation. I can remember getting handed those, "Voter Guides" that I eventually realized had candidates from just one party. But aside from that, the takeaway was: The Bible tells us to pray for those in authority. As a new believer, wanting to follow what god said and take it seriously, I did so. I was one of those "all in" believers that took the bible seriously, and believed I should try to the best of my ability to follow it. And yet, during the eight years of Obama's presidency, my email inbox and Facebook feed was filled with Obama hatred. Jokes and memes of the most vile kind. I almost didn't survive the last election. One side note: I can get along with people of any political persuasion. I have friends that are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, Green Party, and so on. My issue is not with politics, my issue is with those who call themselves Christians, and then proceed to slander those they disagree with, in the most vile ways. (By the way Christians, slander is a no-no according to your god -- Psalm 101:5 and 1 Peter 2:1, Ephesians 4:31-31 to name a few.) But modern day Christians don't care with the word of their god says if it's inconvenient for them. Uunless it is to judge another with it. They largely ignore verses and teachings that touch any part of the way they want live their lives. So, moving on. The vast majority of these hate-filed, mocking memes I've had to endure are posted by my believer friends. How do I know this? As a good little evangelical Christian for 25 years, I was properly indoctrinated to associate only with my own kind. Therefore, 99% of my Facebook friends are evangelical. (At least they were at the time of my deconversion starting.) Evey time I saw this selective enforcement by my Christian friends, following only the rules they want to follow, it chipped away at me. They felt completely "justified" because they have "truth on their side" and that somehow invalidated how Jesus taught they should treat others. We have tried to raise our son to not "hate one party over the other" but instead to think critically about issues and make decisions based on thoughtful reflection. Most of all, when we were still believers, we taught him respect for the office, and to pray for who is there, regardless of party. The Bible actually has a specific verse for this, but again, Evangelical America selectively ignores what they don't want to do. Evidently, this measured approached was not appreciated in my son's youth group at the time, because he got "called out" for responding in reasonable and measured tones when some Obama hatred conversation was happening. (He was just 11 years old and already being subjected to the idea that if you don't conform to Evangelical “group think”, then you are rejected!) I'm not sure when being a Republican became a litmus test for proper Christianity, but I see and encounter this regularly. This was another reason we got out. I wasn't sure what scared me more: That my boy would be singled out for holding reasonable views, or that he would succumb to peer pressure and become like them. Let’s move on to Boy Scouts. No fewer than five of my Christian friends knew my son has joined, have had the following reaction (as either the first or second sentence out of their mouths): "Aren't you worried about the homosexual thing?" I have LITERALLY had to reassure them that, "No, I don't think there's any worry there." It's pedophiles we should be worried about, NOT gay men. Because, THIS IS HOW THEY THINK. For years I watched the subtle judging and shaming that goes on in Evangelical church culture. There is an "us/them" mentality that has become more and more prevalent. The silent judgment and not-so-subtle ostracizing of those whose political beliefs are different. The very subtle way they say, "We love you as a lost sinner, but once you become one of us, either you change or you're out of the club". So the "unofficial list" of everything we can't talk about, be involved in, or like, if we are Christians, grows ever longer. Christians: For the record, judgment is a very bad evangelism strategy. There were so many unofficial "litmus" tests to jump through. You learn early on that you don't ask certain questions, even if they are questions that stem from a true desire to understand. Back when I was a new Christian, spending a lot of time in the Bible, I did have some questions. Some things didn't make sense, some chapters seemingly contradicted other chapters, or events. I just wanted to ask someone to help me understand. I learned many, many years later that I had unintentionally bumped right up against the "inerrancy" doctrine of the Bible, and how we should never point out any flaws. (I believe the "inerrancy" thought is relatively new -- 19th Century?) You get branded as a "troublemaker" if you continue to ask questions, so you are shamed into silence. The litmus tests I've encountered are: You must vote republican, or you are voting for murder (abortion). This was literally said to me. If I'm not a "one issue" voter, I can't be a Christian. If I believe in man-made global warming, I'm clearly not in the fold, or worse, a liberal. Social justice. If I'm "for" helping the least of these, I'm clearly a liberal. (Ignoring all of the scriptures on this exact mandate to help those less fortunate.) Ironically, the Christian/Republican dogma of "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" with no help from the government rings amazingly true to Darwinian "survival of the fittest." I digress. I have actually seen in the 25 years that I was a Christian, it go from "following the teachings of Jesus" when I help the poor, to "being a liberal." Seriously. Social justice issues used to be a ministry option, now it's a dirty liberal word. Or worse, Democrat! Helping the homeless in some church circles is considered "controversial!" I actually overheard a pastor in my own church refer to "those people" with disgust when discussing “the problem” that there are "more and more of them" in our town. Then the endorsement of Donald Trump by Jerry Falwell, Jr. happened. One became the front-runner of the Republican Party and the other was hailed with applause in the largest Christian college in America. Mic drop. The beginning of the end for me. And the silence has been deafening in Evangelical America. These preachers of hateful, xenophobic rhetoric are the only voices doing the talking. Of course mainline Christian pastors are talking, but as Franklin Graham recently said in his ridiculous "tour" to "save California" recently said, those in mainline Christian denominations are, "godless." His words! So now evangelicals are attacking any form of Christianity that doesn't mirror their echo-chamber truths. The bile is backing up in my throat just typing that. And I see the evangelical Christian churches falling in line with messages of nationalism over the teachings of Christ. Ignoring inconvenient teachings about enemy love, and instead proof texting bible verses, going to war against any other believer that sees it differently. Guns, borders, walls, immigrants --- are all political wars that have been brought right into the church. And the church wonders why there's a mass exodus. And the the fully indoctrinated continue to point out that those who fall away because of what "man" does, were probably never believers! Well, some of us fall away because we've bothered to study the bible critically and we're sickened by what the church has become. But that doesn't fit into your neatly tied little package of conditional grace and love, does it? My question is this: How can you Christians show the love of Jesus to all people, when that love has become so conditional? So politically entangled? When you've become more known for what you are against? Culture wars. Christmas wars. Offended at every turn. I spent more time undoing damage done by Christians when I used to talk to a non-believer than I did actually showing the love of Christ (when that was my thing). How is a dying and hurting world expected to believe Jesus loves them, when his followers clearly don't? And they are blind to their own hypocrisy! The church has always seen itself as counter cultural. Yet somehow American Christians think that conforming American culture to the church is an assignment straight from God Himself. We are just over 200 years old as a nation. 2000 years ago the early church did not think this way and a cultural takeover (or take back) is not a biblical mandate, although I'm sure plenty of evangelicals would argue that. You see yourselves as "being persecuted" simply because Christianity is no longer holding the same privileged position is has for so much of our country's history. Your solution? Legislate us back into the 1950s. No thank you. I've seen gay and transgendered people run out of churches. Why? Because they continue to live in "sin?" Because they "chose" that "lifestyle?" (I hate that phrase.) I have news for you. Everyone's got something they are dealing with in the "shit they need to deal with" category. INCLUDING YOU, CHRISTIAN. Every single one of you ought to think about that. Because that is conditional love. What happened to "come all ye who are weary and I will give you rest?" I know, I know, you have a thousand doctrinally sound reasons why people who continue to "sin" can't stay in your church. My only point is that if you could actually enforce the idea, with 100% accuracy, that those who are sinning (according to you) without repentance are not welcome in your congregation, your church would have to shut its doors due to lack of attendance. Starting with all the so-called Christians slandering others with impunity on social media. American Evangelical Christianity has become so wrapped up in nationalism that I barely recognize it anymore. Republianity. What happened to "this world is not my home" and that we are foreigners here? Political views have been elevated to the level of theology. Can anyone really say that a culture war to "take back the United States" is advancing the cause of Christ? It's not. It's repelling people. I've seen this a lot, given that most of the ministries I have spent my 25 years in the church in are "front line" where I had a high degree of contact with non-believers. For years, the conversations have gone something like this: "Wow, I would go to church if more people were like you..." Then they tell a story of being judged and condemned by someone who called themselves a Christian. What they are really saying is, "unconditional love is shocking, I want more." Christ could have not been more clear when he talked about this. In fact, I see more unconditional love, or acceptance, by those who hold no beliefs at all. Including my new friends here at Ex-C. I realize I'm not talking about all churches or even all the people in my own former church. I won't paint all evangelical Christians with the same broad brush I see them using against those who don't believe as they do. But these issues, along with a multitude of problem areas in the Bible itself, plus the disingenuous way that pastors preach from it, have repelled me out of that system. Good riddance, Republianity.
  24. Thank you, @buffettphan, that helps greatly!
  25. Glad you brought up Noah and his ark! Imagine me, a young adult, being confronted with this narrative. I wasn't that little kid that just accepted the story because it was being told to me by an adult as "true." My first thought was, "how did they get all the animals on that arc? You know, the ones that existed on other continents. How did they get there?" Followed by, "Why didn't the lion make a meal out of some of his natural prey?" I kid you not, the answer was that, "God can do anything he wants. They could have been relieved of their earthly, carnal nature for a period of time, to accomplish his will." At the time, I thought, "Well, OK. I have nothing to refute this with, so I'll shut up now." I rest my case. Christianity is nuts.
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