Leaving church to search for Christ

Sometime near the end of what I now call World Vision Week I had a dream.

As the blackness of slow-wave sleep dissolved, I found myself in the completely mundane and peaceful kitchen I once shared with my ex-wife. As we puttered around, putting away the evening’s dishes, I sensed a shadowy presence swooping past the windows barely visible beneath the nearly drawn shades.  I inched closer to the sink to peek out into the purpling sky. Just as I leaned in, great wings beat against the glass as a large bird of prey screeched past. No, not a bird of prey – a scavenger. Vultures! Dozens of them.  My heart raced and in a flash I found myself standing in a strange and ornately designed chicken coop surrounded by hens and roosters of every plumage imaginable. All were cooing and clucking kindly, quietly preparing for a long evening’s nap when I noticed, huddled in a corner, a massive vulture surrounded by gentle, golden Buff Orpingtons. The vulture peered at me around its jagged beak that was perched atop a lumpy red face. No matter how I cried and tried, I could not move the tender feathered flock from under the wings of this menacing creature. As I coaxed and called, the beast began to unfurl its withering wings and arch its nasty neck preparing to strike a savage array of skull crushing blows and shred the sinew of the innocent.

I awoke to a wail that was escaping my own throat. And I wept. And I knew instantly that I was weeping for the church.

Y’all, this post ain’t about to get any shorter so if you need to go tinkle or grab a whisky I will wait…

 

Welcome back.

As a woman born in the mid 20th century of the American south to generations-deep Baptists, I have always and only understood myself as a Christian.  Sure, there have been many iterations of the tribe I’ve explored and claimed (each foolish enough to claim me) but today I stand before you at yet another crossroads on my journey.

I love Jesus. I love every cotton pickin’ (well, fig tree killin’) story about the Divine Light of Galilee. I cut my teeth on Noah figurines and just loved to pieces every felt-art, donkey-sprinkled bible story served with butter cookies and Kool Aid.  I looked forward to vacation bible school with the same obnoxious anticipation I now feel for a pilgrimage across the pond. I was dunked in a baptismal pool at the front of the sanctuary of  Confederate Ave. Baptist Church right along with all my gangly friends and experienced my first kiss on a youth group retreat to Panama City. I’m all learned up real good in religious studies in the universities and divinity in the seminaries now. My theology has changed dramatically over the years and if I could, I would claim a crazy mix of liberation, feminist, queer and process theology as the closest thing to understanding That Which Cannot Be Understood.

Still, all this time later, I buy the narrative. Something in my core tells me there is an eternal truth to be found in the Gospels (as we now have them).  No matter how I try to be otherwise, I’m a believer.

But y’all, to be blunt, Jesus’ fan club sucks. NO, not all of it and not for all time, but for me, right now, it really kinda sucks.

Non-denominational wagon circling
Denominational hubris
Cult of personality
Prosperity gospel
Blood sacrifice theology
Cherry picked legalism
Willful ignorance rather than biblical literacy
Passionate about the words of Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley or even Paul yet only a passing flirtation with the words of Jesus.
Families being taught the Christian discipline of turning their backs on their children
Christian formation in fear and lies
Friends great at leading bible studies but not clue what to do with the mourning
Classmates turning their backs on the meek
Churches turning their backs on the poor
Communities turning their backs on the hungry
Nations turning their backs on the peacemakers
Wives, shut the fuck up and learn to give a decent blow job
New carpet in the million dollar sanctuary while the hungry stay hungry, the nekkid stay nekkid and the prison industrial complex sprawls
Hate the gays and starve a child
Most of all, hate the gays to get the golden ticket past the pearly gates

Damn y’all.

As much as my core tells me there is truth to the Jesus narrative, there also flickers along the same fibers in my core the pulsating, unavoidable thought that the last place I am bound to encounter Christ is in the dark and decaying catacombs of Christianity.

Now hold on, I know. I know there are so MANY beautiful examples of love, peace, truth and justice that come from the faithful who have and still do claim the name Christian. Yes, I know there are examples of thriving communities who claim the name Christian who are the antithesis to all the above named. Are they the rule or the exception to the rule?   Y’all, right here, right now are probably the most tangible examples of gospel gilded love that I can name. Y’all and a little UCC congregation in Kirkwood.

But I am tired. I am tired of begging for scraps from the table. I am tired of begging to borrow an ounce of grace from the money changers in the temple.  I am tired of being a pawn in the Christian culture wars.

And there is a deep and oozing wound in my soul.  I am devastated by a system set up to ensure and celebrate the failure of my marriage. The decimation of my family.

Leonardo Boff once wrote, “Grace and salvation are always expressed in sacramental form. They do not come like a bolt from the blue. They find their path to the hearts of human beings through all manner of mediations. The mediations can change, but grace and faith cannot.”

I believe in grace and I have faith in the Incarnation but I need to step away from the riot gear clad protectors of the faith who are pretending to be mediators of truth.  It is time.

So, Holy Week this year looks a little different for me as I take the first steps of a detour in my quest searching for Christ, seeking Sophia. It is with a heavy, conflicted heart and a sea of foamy worry that I  am called to lay down the name Christian.

I love you.

 


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86 responses to “Leaving church to search for Christ”

  1. I’m writing to provide knowledge that after reading some comments it appears you do not have. The oldest body of knowledge on Earth is the Veda. It explains everything about LIFE, in great detail. First, it explains the Life on Earth goes through two ages–kali-yuga and sat-yuga. A definition of each can be found on the internet. The first is an age when humanity is ignorant about the truth of what humans are and what our potential is. This age lasts thousands of years. The second age is when this knowledge returns and it has just started. it says that there are 7 states of consciousness, 4 more beyond waking, dreaming and sleeping and the way to develop them is by meditating and purifying the body of stress and “ama,” which is stuff in the body from eating the wrong foods and all the stuff that gets in the body because it’s everywhere in the environment, by which I mean all the chemicals that are sprayed on food, clothing, in cars, furniture, etc. Once the highest state of consciousness is gained, which has the name of Enlightenment, Yoga, Moksha and Unity Consciousness, one is a yogi. In the book The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali there is a description of the abilities a yogi has. They include being able to control the weather, walk on water, control of the elements, meaning one can change water into wine, mud into gold, communicate with others mentally and fly through the air or transport oneself to any other place in the universe. These abilities are called “siddhis.” It says the body is not the person. The “person” is the soul that incarnates in a body so that it can experience the physical universe so it experience which allows it to develop its mental, physical, emotional and spiritual qualities. Once the body gains that state, sickness does not happen and this is the basis for a world without crime and war. The soul also no longer needs to incarnate because it has achieved the goal. It also says that there are three genders, male, female and one in between. Books to read include the Bhagavad-Gita, commented on by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and others at http://www.mumpress.com. A major question that readers and commenters have is about God. The answer to this is that nothing exists except God. Life is God telling a story and we are both the characters and actors, and when we gain Enlightenment, we realize that we are also telling the story. There is a very telling statement that yogis make: I am That. Thou art That. All This (said while waving his or her hands all around) is THAT. That is the infinite field of pure bliss consciousness that is creating the universe out of itself. To find out more you can write me at forpeace at windstream dot net. Look at http://www.tm.org, http://www.invincibleamerica.org, http://www.istpp.org, http://www.tmeducation.org, http://www.tmbusiness.org, http://www.invincibledefense.org, http://www.permanentpeace.org. Laurence Topliffe

  2. Thank you…I completely get it and couldn’t possibly agree more. I am in the throes of finishing my Master’s in Religious Studies and understand more than you can possibly know what you are saying!

    For some time, I have been convinced that I am no longer able to manifest the change “the church” needs from inside the organization. Trying to do what I can simply by the way I walk in the world now.

      • Yes it was a hard choice. However, I found that the moment I made that choice, suddenly I found myself in the midst of more and more like-minded individuals. I found great comfort in that. I hope that is your experience as well.

  3. I am both devastated and deeply encouraged by your statement “I am called to lay down the name Christian.” Like so many here, I have made a similar journey. I left organized religion two years ago when the bigotry and homophobia were finally more than I could take; I stayed for all the years previous to that, clinging to the idea that I was the loyal opposition, working for change from inside. It finally became apparent that they wanted my loyalty, but that my opposition was doing nothing. And I am left with the guilt of feeling like a collaborator in the repression I thought I was fighting against.

    A few months ago I realized that I could no longer describe myself as a Christian. My beliefs and faith have not changed, but the community bearing that label is no longer something I can bear even a superficial relationship with. After the genuinely wrenching experience of leaving the church physically two years ago, this final separation is not as hard. It saddens me deeply that it came to this for me – and for you as well. But I am encouraged, with your writing and those of the many comments here, in knowing that I am not alone.

  4. I walked away from organised church four years ago. It has done wonders for my faith, deepened my love for others, expanded my understanding of grace and massively reduced my judgemental tendencies. Along the way I have met many other church rejects, and become friends with a wide variety of people from many different backgrounds and faiths. It has been a difficult, wonderful, heartbreaking, amazing journey. Good on you for making your first steps on yours!

    • I wondered when I read this comment what we do with our faith and love for others when we are not part of a regularly meeting community. Where have you made/found community in your post Christian years?

      • In a number of different and unexpected places. I have seen my husband create an amazing atmosphere of support and encouragement at our local junior rugby club. So many single parents love how encouraging the club is to the kids and that there are so many positive male role models involved. I have made connections both online and through work. Turns out, us not going to church has opened doors for amazing connections and conversations with atheists, anti-theists, and disconnected believers alike. Because I’m not pushing a barrow, because I have no ulterior motive, because I’m simply interested in them as people, not potential church attendees/converts, there is an incredible openness to spiritual things. Community can be created anywhere, if we are genuinely interested in people for who they are – not what they can do. Leaving church has taught me that church often isn’t family and is rarely community.

  5. Thanks for your honest sharing here. I hadn’t seen this earlier, but I’m glad I found it. I think you speak for many.

  6. So you entered my thoughts today when doing the daily reading, Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

  7. One statement I have always remembered is “The final obstacle in our search for God is God.” Our minds are too limited to understand the limitless. Until we push past our concepts of God, we can’t truly start to commune with God.

    To my limited mind, you are much closer to God than those who try to use you as a pawn. Perhaps this struggle will bring you closer still.

    Good luck on your journey, and may you overcome any obstructions that keep you from growing into your true self.

  8. There is a wisdom in following the example of Jesus and not shouting your faith from the rooftops but letting it shine by your example. Those who make a spectacle of their faith are repaid for it in this life.

      • I was quite enjoying this overall thrust of this discussion, until the Catholic-bashing started.

        While Jasper0123 is, in my opinion, entirely out of line in blaming protestantism, I have to say that I find that cajaquarius and you, Kimberly, have made statements in response that are profoundly hurtful.

        While I am EXTREMELY critical of my church and many of its positions (including pretty much everything relating to human sexuality), I don’t see why I or anyone else should be mocked and belittled for our choice to remain within the faith tradition in which we were raised. If I remain active within my church (I actually head my parish’s lay pastoral team), it is because a) I see enormously more that is good than bad in the church and its adherents and b) I retain hope that change WILL come, even if it such change does not occur within my own lifetime.

        Writing off the Catholic church as a “house full of Pharisees” is neither accurate nor helpful. In fact, it sounds a lot to me like “denominational hubris.”

        We all have our crosses to bear. In my own case, in the province of Québec, the challenges tend not to come from the extreme brand of by-the-book “Christians.” Instead, it comes from an aggressively secular vocal minority that hides behind an extreme form of separation of church and state as a smokescreen to encourage institutionalized islamophobia, anti-semitism, and whatever hatred of Sikhism is called. (Happily, they got their collective ass kicked in a provincial election a couple of weeks ago.) Being active in ANY religious denomination here places one in an oddball minority, out of step with prevailing social trends.

        I take enough abuse, online and in person, from both atheists and conservative members of my own faith community. The last thing I need is to find myself being attacked by fellow progressive Christians because I choose to fight for change in the context of the faith tradition in which I was raised.

        • Shaun,

          I am sorry if this line of conversation has hurt you but I hope when you hear me our you will understand that it was not against the Catholic Church that I spoke but against ALL church, or the worship of church, that I spoke.

          Our friend here has proffered up a line of thinking that is both racially intolerant of Protestants (it would appear that he is under the false impression that ONLY the Catholic Church is the true path to God) but there are homophobic and hateful comments of his that I have moderated to disappear.

          I am critical, especially at this point in my journey, of anyone who puts the law of the church above love of their neighbor. This post is all about that. What I am now clear about in my own heart, and at the feet of many a theologian, is that any church law that bars a seeking soul from the grace of god is indeed infused with the hearts of Pharisees. I have levied this charge against Protestants plenty in the past and this commenter who has too lmuch time and to too little love

          • Thanks for the quick and caring reply!

            I think you and I are pretty much on the same page, which was why I reacted so strongly to what I perceived as an attack on my church.

            I look forward to the day when people finally figure out that the term “progressive Christianity” is redundant.

            Happy Easter!

    • We aren’t all as comfortable on the wide and easy path of Idolatry of Tradition as some are, chum. You can only ignore the truth for so long before it becomes an exercise in futility. You want to follow that road, you go right ahead. Here is hoping the truth finds you.

      • what idolatry. You are delusional.
        Try >25,000 Protestant denominations….all making up their own rules as they go.. ‘ ah what church will confirm me in my state of sin’ . Talk about idolatry. Why don’t you all become your own gods…

        • Ah, and I suppose yours is better? You aren’t any different; your rules were handed down to you by men and your interpretations are your own. An entire Church based on a very specific reading of a single small line in the Bible to Simon Peter. Some authority you have. You may be the first of 40,000 denomination but, at the end of the day, your Holy Roman Church is just another feature of Idolatry. I was born, raised, and confirmed as a Catholic so I know firsthand. It was reading the Magesterium myself that made me realize something; the Church has added nothing of value to the teachings of Christ. Ever. Just convoluted legalism and idolatry of both tradition and flesh.

          You worship Constantine, Saint Paul, and the Council of Nicea. Given the dark, backwards past and the rivers of blood your precious Church has produced Protestantism was the natural result of the Church’s hypocrisy and wickedness, I think I will choose my conscience any day of the week. But then, I am no longer a lazy tradition worshiper who chooses my tradition over what is right so, you know, different strokes and all. I don’t expect people to change for me.

        • Sounds to me like you worship church, not God. Jesus is the Word, not any humanly created organization or even humanly tainted theology. The church is far more a barrier to God than the door. A house full of Pharisees these days. But you are cute with your devotion.

  9. I’m sorry for your pain… no one should celebrate the hurt that others feel… the decimation of a family.

    Find love and faith– on your own terms. I’ll be glad to listen to your tale some more as you go on this path!

  10. I have great admiration for your journey and what you have written – it is truly inspiring and I can resonate much of what you say with similar experiences for myself and many friends. But – yes there’s a but – I have a problem with the title and your intention of ‘leaving the Church’. If you are Baptised and remain a follower of Jesus the Christ, then surely you are the Church – as much as any pew sitter in any denomination one can think of !?

  11. Thank you for your post.

    We, us Christians, are coming out of the closet; learning to come out from Churchianity. We have been seduced into accepting what the Church told as as real. The Church has proceeded down this path initially for good reason; its congregation could not read or write, including most of its priests and bishops. The problem is that the Church still thinks most of us cannot read let alone write.

    This is a revolution the Church has yet to confront. And it poses some problems.

    You and I can read the biblical texts quite differently but the Church cannot understand why this is so. So it still pretends that you and I can only read those texts in the way that it teaches. It takes a while but I think the Church is actually trying to catch up.

    Unfortunately, in the process of ignoring reality many of our top theologians have gone off elsewhere and many have become agnostic or atheistic in the process. Their personal beliefs aside none of this has stopped them writing and teaching in the secular academic universities. The result is that we have now a confusion of texts about which the Church is struggling to digest let alone confront. Things were so much easier when people could not read.

    What you are experiencing is not unexpected. In fact, it is a process that is inevitable given the context. So, expect pain and frustration; I did. But perhaps I can make a pointer. Seek wisdom and maturity and two who might help are Rowan Williams and Walter Brueggermann; they have seen it all.

    In Peace

  12. Ever since Constantine claimed Christianity as his religion and required it to become part of the Roman Empire’s political propaganda machine, most followers of Jesus who once were a broadly diverse community that embraced vigorous dialogue among varied viewpoints about what it means to follow him have become social conformists in stark contrast to Jesus’ social nonconformity. To escape persecution the leaders of the Church became defenders of their
    persecutors. The Church espoused not a vitally flourishing faith in Jesus but a deadening faith in Caesar and the rule of Law. In sum, the Church abandoned Jesus’ radically nonconformist paradigm and relapsed into the paradigm that bound Judaism to Rome in order to survive. Once again it became better that one (or a minority of people) should die than that the mainstream community of people might perish (or, heaven forbid the shame of it, have to question its values and priorities – a fate worse than death). The Church has succeeded in the passing
    centuries to render unto Caesar what is God’s and abandon faith in Jesus except
    to whatever extent it remains socially approved by the then prevailing powers
    that be (Caesars in disguise). Believers have been taught to become addicts of social approval so as to “belong to the right group” and fear all other groups as threatening their social status (falsely characterized as being the same as their status before God).

    Jesus espouses a developmental view of humanity, encouraging us to be constantly transformed by renewal of our minds rather than ever settling for conformity to the social norms of any group. The outcome of this development he
    modeled: “fully human and fully divine.” The Divine Mystery is thus a paradox. How do we be both and all that is? The Western mind entrapped in ego’s fears
    will never know the answer. For the Answer is in oneness with God not in separation into competing camps as if fear must divide us rather than allow the Presence of Perfect Love to cast out all fear. To know this truth we must emerge beyond caterpillar and chrysalis and free the nature of the butterfly within us.

    In the developmental view of humanity, we are like rockets assembled in components of spirit, will, mind, body, relationships and emotions – the elements of human wholeness. These elements are erected progressively with the aid of a design structure that functions like a gantry functions for a rocket. The religious upbringing(s) we’ve encountered may to some degree compliment the gantry of our divine design and to some degree (or entirely) not. Most religions, as skewed by their addiction to social approval and in service to socially powerful elites, point their immature, developing rockets in cockeyed directions or even downward. Through a series of experiences and studies, some of us manage to overcome the influences of our primary religious upbringing and, by the grace of God, get our rockets assembled well enough and pointed more generally in the direction of our Divine Designer’s intent. As a result, we begin to sense the scary feeling of powerful engines of compassion thrusting beneath our feet and lifting us upward. To hold onto the gantry risks destruction of the rocket that is us. So, we have to let go and let God take over. Then we discover within us the inner navigational guidance system by which we are empowered to receive internal guidance
    in allowing our engines of compassion to lift us into orbit. We are being moved by compassion as Jesus was moved – to work miracles of healing grace by which all humankind will reunited within awareness of God’s welcoming love for us all!
    We are learning to not merely walk by faith in order to do justice and love mercy but also to soar by faith beyond the reach of conformist societies everywhere to spread seeds of justice and mercy worldwide and cultivate them into fullest fruitfulness.

    We are finally gaining personal insight into that it means that “those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” We are mastering the artful law of levity after having been so long bound by the science-bound law of gravity. The blending of East and West, of art and science, of left brain and right brain and of all other fictional divisions of our wholeness as individuals and as a human race are falling behind because we are lifting off into Wholeness and Oneness beyond which even the sky holds no limits. Such is Jesus’ prayer (recorded in John 17) come true, the fulfillment of his earthly ministry so long delayed by the Church’s excursion into politics. We are feeling empowered to co-create a new world based on a new paradigm in which Perfect Love does indeed cast out all fear. To see divinely engineered rockets soar free to carry our payloads of Truth and Love to share with the entire world is to see the Divine Answer to the threat that rockets bearing payloads of hate in the form of nuclear warheads might blast off instead. We are the messengers of hope that the world wants to see as we are who God intends for us to be. No will enslaved to seeking political advantage is sufficient to thwart the will of God.

    • “a broadly diverse community that embraced vigorous dialogue among varied viewpoints about what it means to follow him”
      Whatever happened to ‘vigorous dialogue’ art – where did it go?

      • Based on my experiences, I’d say that the vigorous dialogue became a black market in ideas smuggled around beneath the noses of conformists who view it with utmost suspicion and weed it out as rigorously as possible. There’s a song from my childhood days that was sung on Captain Kangaroo about “a lonely little petunia in an onion patch.” Any petunia that dares to speak up and identify itself as other than an onion risks being exiled or weeded out as non-onion/nonconforming. Peer pressure to remain silent about how one may differ from others in the group is strong because we much prefer to belong than to stand alone. (Even God said of Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.”) Similarly a person who is honestly wrestling with his or her uncertainty about how to be true to his or her identity as a child of God will experience massive resistance from conformists who are absolutely clear that their group’s definition of what it means to be a child of God (follower of Jesus) is the only God-authorized way. Imagine how a person who is openly and honestly uncertain and wrestling with the Holy Spirit ends up being rejected by all groups who are certain that their way is “the” way! As these various groups fight with each other to “prove” which is right and the others wrong, the honestly uncertain, earnestly wrestling person appears to be wrong in everyone’s eyes except those who value honesty above all else and recognize the humility in such wrestling as being what Micah 6:8 honors. How ironic to be marginalized and excluded from the body of Christ for being too honest. Hmmm . . . Back to my theory that fear-mongering, power-hungry conformists have taken over all groups and that they cherish opportunities to fight and not opportunities to reconcile and find peace. That’s the ego in action, ever seeking to find reasons to stir up conflict over differences rather than discover the common, humble ground for peace. It’s why Jesus spoke about straining at gnats and swallowing camels. By the way, it’s relevant that the term “heretic” means “one who thinks for oneself.” How dare you! Off with your head!! One last comment: 12-step groups have harbored vigorous, humble dialogue and earnestly honest wrestling with issues and with God for years to a large extent. Perhaps that’s where it is hiding out most successfully.

  13. Thank you for the article. I am a
    Christian and feel the church does have a deficiency that can be filled with
    solitude and silent meditation. The Soul inside everyone is the nurse, doctor,
    teacher, and the body and the mind needs to be sustained by
    the soul. It seems many Christian leaders are leading their flock away from
    this self-discovery using fear as a whip. Meditation and spiritual practice does not
    negate the world, but brings it into focus so people can’t be mannipulated. Christianity needs to center and
    focus so as not to be a burden to others.

  14. Wow. Literally just got back from breakfast with my husband where we made the big decision to not go back to church for all the reasons you named above and to seek Him directly. So Holy Week looks a lot different to us as well. We serve a big God and he promises to be there if we seek Him. We are. Directly, purely and authentically, shedding the politics, the business of church, the expectations, the Americanized church that has somehow gone astray. My husband and I went from being scared and guilty at the prospect to being thrilled, challenged and feeling free to go where God will lead us. We are followers of Christ, not followers of the church. May He bless us all.

    • You see, this is the bit I cannot get my head around: if one is a follower of Christ then one IS the Church.

  15. I am so with you, Kimberly. Just know you are not alone as you follow Christ away from the church. He is there and so are we…

  16. Awesome! Resonated deeply…all of it…although the life experiences that ‘broke me wide open were different…went through a traumatic shock at the severity of the sudden change, got up, learned and continue to learn that the Lord is always with us…does best when we are at our lowest and most vulnerable…

    As RevBill says below…Jesus had the followers in that time that the organized church did not accept either and for so many of the same kinds of reasons. Our backgrounds and experiences…while formed at different times and in different situations are awesomely similar. Can’t wait to see more of your writing and you have fellow journeyers…so know you are accompanied and celebrated and lifted!

    I have come to believe that we are made of the material of those who Jesus healed or who Jesus called in discipleship…put down your nets and follow me…and perfect and easy was never promised…and they followed and so do we.
    The journey may be a bit less understandable and clear than it was before awaking to more reality than is sometimes digestible in the moment…yet it is definitely authentic and worthwhile!!!

  17. For me the question whether to keep using the name ‘Christian’ has to be settled less through our intuitive reactions to contemporary events like the week of World
    Vision and more on a determined effort to meet the historical Jesus. I want to turn outrage into motivation to make it through the entire “Christian Origins and the Question of God”. Isn’t our hope that what actually happened is becoming so clear and well documented and then widely known that ‘eternal truth’, ‘incarnation’ and ‘process’ blaze their own way? Telling the fan club they suck better be the reflex of sustained attention to the best resources and methods to get to the historical Jesus.

  18. I hope you choose to remain christian, Kimberly. If you go, your powerful voice is absorbed by those who pervert and misuse christianity. It’s possible that I can’t imagine your pain right now, but I can identify with your struggle. And as corny as it sounds, if you give it up, the terrorists win. We are living in the backwash of a christianity being redefined, a paradigm shift for the churches, and we need your voice! Love to you my sister!

  19. Hi Kimberly. Here is a poem I wrote just over a year ago, while trying to sort through much of the same crap you’re facing. I had to strip everything back down to atheism, and start again, eventually finding safe haven in a panetheist appreciation of the Gospel (as Marcus Borg seems to have done). If this poem in any way resonates for you, or others, please consider it my gift to you. Sorry, the formatting has been lost in the copying. but it’s the words that matter. Blessings.

    Letter to Richard Dawkins, friend

    (1)
    Friend,
    There is
    much to free
    The shackled
    mind
    in what you say,

    You set a
    place of reason
    As your fare;
    knowledge
    As the grace
    you pray;
    For I stop’d
    by your table
    for a while but
    could not stay.

    You fed me kindly of
    Your board;
    refused
    The offering
    of mine.

    For presumption spoil’d
    your bread
    and anger turned your wine.

    I make no
    plea to learned men;
    My plea is
    to the poet
    And of the poet’s pen.

    (2)
    I too, made
    pilgrimage to
    An empty
    tomb and found
    No risen
    saviour
    effulgent there,
    No sacrificial
    avatar
    more radiant
    Than sun;

    Only a
    fallen lamp unlit,
    Its oil spilt
    as slime
    Down perished
    walls;
    And the bones of
    Propitiating
    fools
    long dead,
    In sediments
    of time.

    (O what a sorry shroud
    is woven
    of truths proclaimed,
    but never proven.)

    (3)
    For I found
    no salvation
    In Christ’s corrupted
    tomb;
    Nor in the
    lies of faded writ,
    Not in superstition’s
    cloying mire;

    But in a
    newborn infant’s smile
    I found
    the universe
    entire.

    (4)
    I too, sought
    communion
    Of those gilded
    saints;
    Their jewel’d
    chalice
    Held naught
    but dregs
    of effete creed;
    And I, who
    begged one
    drop of truth,
    Was offered vinegar
    upon
    a broken reed.

    (What vain tapestry
    we weave
    of corruption’s lies,
    for our reprieve.)

    (5)
    Did we too, not
    stumble friend,
    Our eyes dim-seeing,
    Our thirst
    unslaked,
    On some unlit
    Emmaus way?

    We sought the
    salve of dew sweet
    upon our tongues;
    And for our sight
    The healing
    counsel
    of a star-strewn bay.

    I make no plea to saintly men;
    My plea is of the poet
    And the poet’s pen.

    (6)
    For here we drank
    At last, of
    truth;
    That we are anvil’d
    From the dust
    Of stars once crucified
    And
    resurrected,
    As all stars must.

    Let us rest
    friend, here a while,
    In this dew-graced
    glade;

    (7)

    Look!
    A sweep of
    stars uplifts
    The chalice’d bay where
    we as children played;
    The linen of
    an evening tide
    Spreads along
    a shore
    slow swung by time;

    And the wafer
    of a gibbous moon
    Breaks through
    the tapestry
    of cloud above
    a sea as dark as wine.

    I make this plea to you my friend;
    My God is of the poet
    And the poet’s pen.

    Raymond J. Watchman 1/2013

  20. The
    Bible is not the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. the Bible is an
    editorial review. The End of Time has already occurred for followers of
    the Word that is Jesus. It happen on Good Friday and Eternity began on
    Resurrection Day! Basically if you understand these two facts you are
    in a good position to refute the bullshit that is counterfeit
    evangelical American “christianity” and see the anorexia that is
    consumerist deism that passes for its opposite in much of the mainline
    Protestant Church! If we decide to disown the word “christian” becuase it is hijacked by the counterfeit religion of evangelical America I suggest the term (which I use more and more) “Jesusphite” pronounced with Spanish pronunciation.
    I believe in the essentials of “Catholic” teaching and becuase I do I believe in inclusivity, gender equality, marriage equality, socialism, and peace. It is becuase of the Person of Jesus the Christ I believe these characteristics are some of the marks of those who try to follow him!

  21. The church – the universal Church – is supposed to be work of the Holy Spirit on earth. If you don’t like what you see in it, maybe it’s because what’s lurking behind it isn’t a “truth” worth believing in at all.

  22. I don’t know if this will make you feel any better, Kimberly, but a couple of years ago, I had a similar experience with the label atheist. There has been a groundswell of atheist activism since 9/11. Sadly, that groundswell has been rife with Islamophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and classism.

    It has fostered an ahistorical understanding of the Middle East and Muslim cultures. It has been blind to the impact of Western nations’ gutting this region of the world in the process of its pursuit of political control and energy resources. In doing so, the movement has embraced imperialism-driven ignorance and prejudice over skepticism and understanding. Ironically, the movement prides itself in it’s progressiveness but sadly, it has unwittingly served as yet another cog in a geopolitical machine which chews up and spits out people who don’t have the good graces to be born as white Westerners.

    So, yeah. I stopped calling myself “atheist” a while back because of the values and behaviors of the loudest, most prominent members of a social/political movement gone terribly awry. It’s really hard to feel a healthy sense of connection with the larger world, the people around you, and the universe when you center your definition of self upon a group that is far too populated with clueless, prejudiced jerks.

    And the thing is, my atheism has had a spiritual component for longer than I can remember. I’ve always thought there was more to the universe than meets the eye but I’ve never seen that “extra something” as having the shape of a deity. In recent years, I’ve found the identity of “atheist” to serve as a hindrance in exploring that “extra something”. Relinquishing the label has enabled me to continue along my path of exploration in ways I simply couldn’t until recently. Sometimes the voices of the “collective other” that come with a particular label can drive an unwanted, unaware conformity of mind and path. A shift in label so often comes with a shift in identity and with that change, new paths and understandings open up.

    So, I’m wishing something similar for you, Kimberly. I’m hoping that your spiritual travels will take you to new and fulfilling horizons with the relaxing of a label that has come to bind and chafe.

    Best wishes.

  23. I SO relate with your story. I took my faith apart, brick by brick and it has been several hard years. I have landed in a Progressive Christian church called Lakeside, in Minneapolis, Mn and discovered so many others like you and like me. It feels like home, without the nonsense.Progressive in Faith, radically welcoming, passionate about Jesus and highly thought provoking. It wasnt easy getting here, and I wish you all of the best in your journey. Hang in there Its painful and tough and so, so worth it.

  24. I am so glad I discovered this, explains my attitude about the church since just after 9/11 when the intolerance and hatred in my long time church eventually drove me away and led me to try and find my own path to Christ. Living in a very small rural town I have never found another congregation to call my home, but I continue to try and understand the bible and it’s context as relates to our modern lives on my own, sometimes successful, but most times I am still baffled by so much of it. I will continue to read your words, I take comfort knowing there are so many others out there like me. Sometimes it’s difficult when there is so little support and understanding locally.

  25. Perhaps we need to use the term “Christian” as it is used in the New Testament – as a term of derision. The New Testament term for believers is saints; it’s always used in the plural and always refers to living people.

  26. Many years ago Mr. Jaymes Morgan, my teacher at Fuller Theological Seminary said something I’ve never been able to forget: “Jesus attracted the kind of people the church repels and repelled the kind of people the church attracts.” I think right now the church needs you more than you need the church.

  27. This resonated so deep within my core, I can hardly BREATHE. I thought there was something WRONG with me for not wanting to be in church. I still crave the fellowship, but it’s so hard to get past the hypocrisy of God and Jesus saying “Love the people around you” and the people of “God” saying “Nonono, wrong person, don’t love THAT person!” I wake up on Sunday, get dressed to go to church, then just…sit in my living room thinking “Gosh, I really don’t want to do this…”
    It’s not about being lazy, it’s about wanting to find TRUTH. And I rather desperately feel that truth isn’t within the walls of church anymore, but within us.

  28. Church has always been a cage for me. When I was there, I squirmed in the pew like a two-year-old who would rather be out to play. When I left, I was angry at God because I couldn’t figure out what He wanted. Didn’t He want me to go to church? I don’t think so. I learned that He wanted me to BE church. He wanted me to be an altar regardless where I wandered. Once He showed me that simple truth, I realized that calling me out of the church wasn’t a curse, but rather a beautiful blessing.

  29. It’s funny how things work out. Yesterday was the second anniversary of my father shuffling off this mortal coil. Because of that, memories of him are occupying a rather prominent place in my mind right now and I was trying to find a way to turn them into a blog post. Then, I read this and, voila, there it was. My old man, who “spiritual, but not religious” long before it was cool had traveled this road and he’d have put his arm around you and said “Shug, you aren’t leaving the church, the church left you a long time ago.”

  30. Oh sweet friend. I do understand. I still worship within a progressive baptist church (one that is welcoming to all) because like you “Something in my core tells me there is an eternal truth to be found in the Gospels (as we now have them). No matter how I try to be otherwise, I’m a believer.” like you I am also exploring my faith and belief in a broader context…and it scares me…our friend Pete Rollins says the opposite of faith is not doubt the opposite of faith is certainty. And the common background it sounds as though we share markets certainty as the truest mark of the faithful. To walk away from that certainty is a scary thing indeed. But I am finding Jesus much more frequently out here in the margins. I wish you nothing but joy and truth on your journey by whatever name you chose as you travel.

  31. Well, I’m reading this desire to drop the Christian label a lot lately. Young men and women full to the gills of the crap that goes on in the church. Perhaps I’m jaded by my age but I look at it and see the same crap that I saw 40 years ago. It’s packaged a bit differently but trust me it smells the same. Back in the 60’s my white parents adopted 4 black kids. We had a cross burned on our lawn. I am white, I married a black man. We exercise a kind of vigilance that is unknown to others. Stupid and sinful attitudes in the church continue to this day…with a dramatic shift to gay marriage recently. I will no longer claim the “evangelical” name, but Christian…well it’s even in my name. I don’t like the way a whole bunch of white people behave, but I can’t change the fact that I’m white. As much as I’d like to sometimes. Perhaps I see myself as a unique body part in the Body of Christ. I think I’m the pain in the neck. But if they don’t have me to call them on their shit, then it only gets worse.

    • Christine, I admire your insight and forthrightness. Back in the 60’s – the 70’s even – there were congregations who banished people for marrying someone of another race or colour, ( of another denomination even ). Knowing that you moved outside the square I am surprised that you feel same gender marriage is a problem? ( Please, not ‘gay marriage’ – there is no such thing ).

      • Sorry Michael…I’m not sure how you concluded that I see same gender marriage as a problem. Certainly not my intention. I see it as a clear issue of civil rights. But my vocabulary on the subject is lacking! I fear I’ve used a label that I’ve commonly heard, but am happy to change the description to same gender marriage. Perhaps with time we won’t have to attach adjectives at all and can simply use the term marriage.

  32. ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! — Matthew 23.37

    You’re in good company, Sis. And our Best Companion still goes the road with you, as do your many friends and fans. Keep us posted on your journey. Love, Peace and Hugs…

  33. Thank you for sharing this. There are a lot of us wondering about our identity in following Jesus. Like Cassandratoday, I think that seminary ruined me for church. At least church as I had known it. I don’t have answers. Just more questions. You stay strong. And, know that you are very much appreciated.

  34. Last year, I somewhat freaked out my dad – a pastor, mind you – by posting something similar on FB. I can’t remember now what church-based hypocrisy or brouhaha it was that sparked it, but it’s just a frustration for me that in my life, it’s hard to openly claim my faith because as soon as I do, I have to quickly amend “…but not *THAT* kind…” and call out the latest list of people or organizations that claim to believe the same thing but act the opposite.

    His claim was that regardless of association, because the word just means being like Christ, he’d never want to give it up, and I get that and respect him for it. And I haven’t exactly stopped calling myself a Christian, but there are times I want to.

    There are times I read ugly rants on Facebook or Reddit, or times that I read articles written by supposed men or women of faith that just make me want to shake my head and say “Who ARE you, and why should I let myself be associated with you?”

    Basically, what I’m trying to get across is that I understand your frustration (to a degree – I mean, you definitely have had more first-hand problems with it than I have), and I can’t blame you at all. Some people will naturally be horrified, and some may even stop reading your posts, but you’ve got an avid fan in this guy. More power to you!

    • Unfortunately today the word Christian means layers and layers more than being for Christ. Thank you Ando for being at the table even when it gets rickety.

  35. Once again my heart is broken but for me that is what it means to follow Jesus. To believe in Grace is to open your heart and have it broken by the injustice and hate around us. If anyone asks you to beg for scraps, they are not sitting at God’s table.
    God loves you as do many of us who have never meet you.

  36. “…a crazy mix of liberation, feminist, queer and process theology as the
    closest thing to understanding That Which Cannot Be Understood.”

    You and me both, sister.

    Sometimes I think seminary ruined me for church. Not for faith, not even for worship, but for The Church.

    I haven’t given up the identity word. Yet. We’ll see.

    Blessings on your journey. …but it’s already blessed.

      • I guess that’s what I’m saying — that two years of seminary opened my eyes to it. And I was even at a liberal seminary — the Presbyterian seminary that’s so liberal that the other Presbyterian seminaries call it the Rainbow Seminary. :)