Reading this post by Dan Fincke at his new home at Patheos, I had a sense of deja vu. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had Christians say something similar to this because they really do have a difficult time explaining how someone can stop being a Christian. An old friend of his sent him this “analysis.”
Hi Dan! I read your article about how you deconverted. I just want to make one comment and I say this in love because we are friends and I am not judging you in any way. It sounds as if you were trying to get your faith from people and doing the legalistic things of Christianity and not relying on your relationship with Jesus and your love for Him and this is what made you lose your faith. But that’s not what being a Christian is about. Christianity, being a true Christian isn’t a religion, ultimately it’s a relationship with Jesus. The other things flow from that because you love Jesus.
Well at least it wasn’t “you must not have ever been a real Christian,” which I must have heard a thousand times. In an uncharacteristically sarcastic response, Dan expresses his frustration with such statements:
That was it! I never knew I was supposed to love Jesus! Wow! It was right in front of me all that time! As you can imagine, I was surrounded by Christians who were telling me, “Whatever you do, remember this is a religion of rules, not loving Jesus! Whatever you do, don’t love Jesus!” And I foolishly listened to them!And those hours and hours of intense prayer, all the Bible study, all the efforts to bring my friends to Jesus, all the worship services singing Jesus’s praises with shivers down my spine and sometimes tears in my eyes–I can’t believe that that whole time I never thought to just love Jesus.
Actually–wait a minute. I totally forgot. I did love Jesus. I loved Jesus enough to commit every fibre of my being to Jesus. I loved Jesus enough to do everything I thought was necessary to express my love for Him and to grow closer to Him. I went to a devoutly Christian university to study about Jesus and live with fellow Jesus-lovers, I devoted my heart, soul, and mind to figuring out how he could be known and how to convince others of His existence so that they could believe in His love and come to be saved. I kept myself sexually chaste as best as I could because it was what I thought Jesus wanted. I risked alienating friends and families by constantly making Jesus the central issue in our conversations…
How fucking dare you question my love of Jesus? Why don’t you, dear Christian, for once in your life, question your own goddamn intellectual conscience instead of other people’s commitments to Jesus.
But here’s the real problem. As Dan puts it, when someone makes an argument like the one he quoted, they are “trivializing our entire intellectual, moral, emotional, social, and spiritual lives with banal clichés.” It’s just a means of casually dismissing us rather than seriously engaging our experiences and our positions.