So far I’ve walked through these major movements from Faith Shift here: the certainty, conformity, and affiliation of Fusing, the rumbles of Shifting, some of the reasons for Returning, and the losses of Unraveling as we move toward greater authenticity, autonomy, and uncertainty in our faith.
Reality is we could spend months processing through each of these, but that’s what the book is for! My hope was to get the framework up here so that it’s in one place for folks who find their way here.
Today I want to share briefly about a tricky stage that not everyone who unravels experiences–Severing.
In the wild ride of faith deconstruction, some people sever from their former faith, and some people don’t.
Severing isn’t right or wrong, good or bad.
It just is.
I’m grateful that my editors agreed on the importance of this stage and worked to include it in Faith Shift, no matter how hard it is to talk about in so many Christian circles.
I’ve caught a lot of flak for it over the years, but it’s worth it because whether we agree with Severing or not, it’s real for so many.
I feel passionately that it must be truly honored.
Also, trying to control people’s faith experiences will just not help; it always backfires.
It’s also important to honor that not every person experiencing a faith shift cuts ties completely with their former faith. My personal experience is that I never completely severed. That doesn’t make my unraveling less or more difficult or painful or valid. It just means that in my own personal story, I tried to shake Jesus, I really did, but I just couldn’t. His upside down ways just kept drawing me in despite all of my issues with the systems built on his name.
At the same time, I know that others have had completely different experiences and I completely respect that.
One thing I mention over and over in the book is letting go of looking at others and measuring our faith shifts against others or worrying about how others might be looking in on ours. That’s often not an easy thing to do, but it’s a critical part of owning our own unique story.
There are four specific conclusions that I touch on in Faith Shift related to Severing.
These are places that some people arrive at after Unraveling–even if they are temporary–to find some peace. I realize that some of these are part of the doubts and questions that come into play during Unraveling, too, but when I’m talking about Severing in this context, it’s important to clarify that I mean more of a landing place (of all possible lengths) than a quick cycling-through-process that happens in Unraveling.
Severing is deep.
See if any of these resonate for you, either now or in the past as part of your evolving faith.
- “Maybe There Is No God” / Atheism and losing belief in God all together, sometimes permanently, sometimes temporarily, is where some people land after Unraveling.
- “I Think Some Kind of God Exists, but…” / Many people become agnostics or spiritual but not religious (SBNR) after Unraveling, holding onto a belief in God but without the specifics.
- “I’m Done with Christianity, not God” / A lot of men and women don’t sever from God but rather from the conception of God expressed in their former faith systems. All ties with church systems are completely done.
- “To Save My Soul, I Need to Let Go of My Faith” / Spiritual abuse is real, and often severing completely is the best hope to find true healing. The toxicity is too great, and the tendency to end up “underneath” in another oppressive system is too risky (pp. 116-123).
From talking to a lot of people about Severing over time, one thing is clear–it can be really lonely.
It’s hard when others around us are rebuilding or never left and we’ve cut all our ties.
At the same time, it can also feel very freeing for some people, too.
I know people who have severed for all different reasons and intersect it with from all different places.
It’s also true that most unravelers and some who sever, too, do eventually feel a pull toward wanting something spiritually again in some shape or form. This is one of the reasons why I wrote the whole last section of the book on Rebuilding (that’s coming Wednesday and the second to last post in this 7 part series).
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Severing.
If you’ve experienced it, what was or is it like for you? What do you wish people understood about it?