As I navigated the uncertain waters of my deconstruction from religion, I went through a season of despising all I endured. For years, I felt like all the time I spent in church and ministry was a complete waste. I vacillated between anger and bitterness and desperately wanted to “reclaim my time.”
Now I think about all the wonderful relationships I made. I think about the passionate dedication to study. I consider my time in prayer to be moments of introspection and reflection and I realize now that I am a better human being for the experience.
I like to believe that I could have learned about God without the trauma of religion and the drama of church. In retrospect, though, it was the love that I saw modeled and personified in Jesus that supercharged my learning.
I’m grateful for all the hours of intensive search and inquisition. I’m grateful for the people whom I was able to reach out to as a sounding board for my theological questions. I’m actually grateful for all the meetings, all the sermons, all the revivals, and all the conferences.
But, most of all, I’m glad that I learned that I really didn’t need all of that.
I remember once attending a church service where the visiting revivalist laid hands on me and I literally passed out. The folks in this conservative Baptist country church — taken aback by this spectacle — said, “It doesn’t take all that.”
They were very right. And very wrong.
They were right because the venue we call “church” shouldn’t require a show. There should be no theatrics or histrionics; it should simply be a gathering of like minds and hearts. They were wrong because everyone approaches this differently. I have always been the kind of person that needs an experience. Or, as my Wife is wont to say, “You’re one of those folks that has to find out that fat meat is greasy for yourself.” I have always been a very teachable person but, in my perspective, the best teacher is always experience.
So I’m grateful for all the altar calls. I’m grateful for the times I was “slain in the spirit.” I’m grateful for all the healing and deliverance — both real and imagined — that I experienced.
Because I’ve reached a point of true spiritual freedom and the knowledge I never needed any of this, I’m grateful that I experienced it all. It would be easy to dismiss my spiritual journey as mere theatre for the mind but I understand that where I am on this journey was made possible by these experiences.
I frequently call BS on religion because I know the hold it can have on people. Detoxing from religion can be just as physically challenging as withdrawal from drugs or alcohol and just as dangerous. But I also know nearly as many people who have survived religion as have drugs and alcohol and they understand that their perspective is shaped and framed by what they went through.
That said, just because I call BS on religion doesn’t mean I discount the journey of others. We are all at different waypoints on our respective spiritual journeys and if we are to truly operate in love — that is, empathy and compassion — we will respect each other where we are, as we are. In other words, I honor your journey. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to both manifest and appreciate the freedom to enjoy where I am without envying or decrying the positions of others.
My goal in all this is not to convince anyone of their wrongness — or rightness. I am hopeful that in sharing this journal of my travels helps readers understand that we all endure and go through things. Perhaps, some will benefit by living vicariously through my experience will save them some greif. Perhaps some will identify with my milestones. In any case, it is my hope to help shed some light on the difficult journey of deconstruction.
I am simultaneously grateful for — and grateful in spite of — all my religious experiences.
I don’t aim to make people think like me; I aim to encourage people to think, period.
I’m also grateful that you took the time to read this.