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Christian In Name Only?


HoustonHorn
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A few months ago I posted here with a topic something like "scared to tell the wife". Well I've since told her that I don't consider myself Christian anymore and that I'm not going to church, and it seems to have worked out better than I would have expected. She seemed a little disappointed at first, but no tears, no fights, no condemning my soul, nothing like that. I think it helps that I really haven't changed any other than that I don't go to church.

 

She has been going to church less and less, although I think most of the reason is that she doesn't like to go alone. The church we went to most recently was one that we had just started going to so we really didn't know anybody there. For me it made it an easier break.

 

But now I don't know how to approach the subject of religion. Last time we discussed beliefs she was of a pretty literal slant. Flood happened, man created in Garden of Eden, that sort of thing. But she's also very interested in scientific stuff, talks to a psychic about our pets (yes, you read that right :) ), and drinks socially (we were Baptist). Basically non-Christian type stuff. I really think that her beliefs are starting to wane.

 

She was raised in a fairly fundamental Christian family but went away from it for a while. Prior to us meeting she had a bit of a wild streak that she still hasn't told me much about, but joining a church seems to have ended that streak.

 

I guess my question is if there are any suggestions for the next step. I don't want to pressure her into admitting that her actions don't jive with her beliefs. I just want to do what I can to help her through what I see as the beginning of a very hard process for her. She's been a Christian for a lot longer than I was so I know it'll be harder for her to leave it behind if that's the decision she wants to make. Plus most of her family is very religious, whereas mine isn't, so she has that additional stressor if she does decide Christianity isn't for her.

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I guess my question is if there are any suggestions for the next step. I don't want to pressure her into admitting that her actions don't jive with her beliefs. I just want to do what I can to help her through what I see as the beginning of a very hard process for her. She's been a Christian for a lot longer than I was so I know it'll be harder for her to leave it behind if that's the decision she wants to make. Plus most of her family is very religious, whereas mine isn't, so she has that additional stressor if she does decide Christianity isn't for her.

 

HoustonHorn - my father left Christianity before my mother. I was a young teen and all through my teen years I went back and forth.

 

Dad always had books and articles and such laying around the house, ALWAYS. And if one of us children picked up his books, etc to read ... he never said a word. He just let us read and ask questions when we were of the mind to ask questions.

 

Dad always challenged us to think, but it was usually through reading and dinner table discussions. The only times he "got in our face" about our beliefs is if our beliefs were impacting our behavior in a destructive way. For instance if he overheard us talking about another kid at school and putting them down. He really had a problem with judging other people (in general - not just because of religion). And if he overheard that kind of thing - he would call us on it. If our beliefs (religious or otherwise) were part of the problem, he'd point that out.

 

Other than that - he just simply encouraged us to read and think - the rest sort of took care of itself.

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My wife and I sort of "fell away" at the same rate (which was very slowly), but I think I was a little ahead of her.

 

We've always just kind of talked about things as they came up. Movies seemed to have been a big conversation starter for us. I remember after watching Pleasantville, she and I had a long talk about church and expectations. Another great conversation occurred when we were trying to figure out "how to handle" a gay friend [Yes, we actually thought we had to "handle" him; we were fundamentalists for fuck's sake! The guy was (and still is) a fairly devout Christian--with conservative theology--and he had gone through a lot with church. We saw how the church treated him, and we talked about how we wanted to be different than people in church.] Women's issues were huge for my wife and I. A movie like Iron-Jawed Angels would have given us a lot to talk about (by the time we discovered that one, though, we had been out of religion for a long time).

 

Again, my experience was very slow, so I'm partial to advising a similar course--of course, our situation was very different as well (I had already graduated from a Bible college and two seminaries and was making my living as a church planter for a large Baptist organization, and my wife was also a Bible college graduate). I would just use things that just naturally come up as conversation starters. Get her talking a lot about her beliefs. Talk about the things that you are uncomfortable with in religion and the Bible and asks what she thinks about them. Have short conversations; don't try to accomplish everything in one sitting.

 

It is a very difficult process and Christian family makes it harder (both my wife's and my family are very religious). Go slow and be patient.

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It's tricky, but ultimately it would be best to let her draw her own conclusions at her own pace. Religion and belief in God is a very private thing, so take your cues as she gives them, and always be respectful. If she asks, answer, or do what exbeliever said and use natural conversation starters.

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