Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Are You Sure?

20 Comments

The Easter Cross at the Southern Baptist Church I formerly attended

On the Thursday afternoon before Easter every year the Southern Baptist Church I attended for the last twenty years constructs this cross of white and red gladiolus.  It is erected in the darkness so that early on Good Friday it is in full display in all it’s glory.  Many times I’ve helped to construct this beauty.  It is still beautiful to me.

For the first time in at least the last fifteen years I didn’t attend church on Easter Sunday.  In fact I probably haven’t been to church but once or twice since last Easter.  That was an odd feeling for me.  It was so strange to sit back and watch and listen, struggling with my faith, knowing I didn’t believe exactly as those around me any longer – yet not knowing what it was I did believe.  It seemed surreal.  I felt like an outsider even though no one else there had any idea of the thoughts running through my head.

I’ve noticed in many of the writings of my fellow travelers of this path of doubt and changing belief a theme that runs throughout Evangelical Christianity.  There are those who litter their posts questioning, or better yet, diagnosing their condition.  “You were never a real Christian,” they say.

What these naysayers cannot conceive of is that there are folks like us.  People who were dedicated to the Cross of Christ.  Those of us who were Sunday School teachers, preachers, music ministers, deacons, and devout lay people who ate, slept, and breathed our Savior.  We studied our Bibles, prayed without ceasing, listened to sermons, home schooled our children, took every Bible study course we were offered and sincerely chased after the Christ. He was our Christ and we were His.

That is, until we weren’t.  There wasn’t one cause, one event, one disappointment. Most of us weren’t even disappointed or hurt or disgruntled.  It was a crack in the claims of Christianity here, and gaping hole there.  It was a process of accepting what was staring us in the face and grieving the loss of what we’d once held so dear.  Even if we haven’t completely decided there is no God, we’ve learned that Christianity isn’t as black and white as we believed and we’ll never be the same.  Christianity wasn’t just a part of who we were, it defined us.

What I’d like to say about all of that is that I know what I believed.  I know that I loved Jesus.  I was sure that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and raised on the third day. So you doubt whether or not I was a real true believer. *Shrug* If your God is real He knows what I believed.

If I wasn’t saved, how can you be so certain you are?  I was certainly convinced.  Was it a deception of Satan?  How do you know you aren’t being deceived? Maybe that’s what makes you so uncomfortable with the idea that there are those of us who insist we were Christians and that now we are not.

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20 thoughts on “Are You Sure?

  1. — “You were never a real Christian,” they say. —

    I’ve heard that line before as well, from a Christian who could not process the idea that I was an ex-Catholic.

    Your final paragraph hit the bullseye. Devout Christians use the “you-were-never-a-real-Christian” line because they cannot handle the possibility that they too could begin to doubt and lose faith.

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    • It certainly makes them uncomfortable. I know of that which I speak – I was one of them. It never dawned on me why I’d get so angry or defensive. I always thought I was defending my religion as if it were under attack. Looking back on it now I realize that it was my own faith being shaken that scared the bejeezus out of me.

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  2. Thank you for a great post. It really hit home with me. ” grieving the loss of what we once held so dear” is exactly how I felt. Thanks again.

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  3. Indeed, well said. I had a “cheap” version of Christianity compared to people like you, but I never doubted that I was a Christian. I can understand people belittling my history in that manner, but I’ve now encountered to many “real” Christian de-converts, such as yourself, for that argument to hold any water.

    Their objections may be at a deeper level, like challenging a world view. Like if you were one of the first people to realize that the earth was spherical when everyone else still thought it was flat. With verses such as those about the Elect, to think that an Elect person became lost would be as hard to figure as the earth not being flat back in ancient times.

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    • “I had a “cheap” version of Christianity compared to people like you, but I never doubted that I was a Christian. I can understand people belittling my history in that manner, but I’ve now encountered to many “real” Christian de-converts, such as yourself, for that argument to hold any water.”

      I’d never dare to presume anybody else’s devotion or lack thereof. As for “real” Christian de-converts, I guess I’d have to agree with the evangelicals to a degree here. According to the definition of “Christian” that I held, if I could walk away I was never a Christian to start with. The difference between me then and me now is that I’m not sure there are any “real” Christians. How can there be if it’s all false?

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  4. DMA, you may have missed Easter services for the first time, but I nearly… *nearly* attended Easter Mass for the first time in 3 or 4 years. Turned out we did not because… well long story. But I did sit in the Catholic Church on Dead Saturday and view the corpse of Christ. A statue of course. It was a chance to sit and contemplate for several minutes. It is mythology, but sometimes the mythology, as MYTH, overwhelms me with its power.

    Anyway, as you know I am writing my seemingly never-ending de-conversion story on my site. I have invited two former church friends to read it – both of whom claim I was actually never a *real* Christian. Neither seems anxious to read it – actually I will be surprised if they ever click on the link I sent them. They have never asked for my story. They are not curious about my story despite their claims that I am an old friend. They already “know” my story. I was at best a carnal Christian, who gave it all up to live a life wallowing in selfish sin. End of Story. That is all they need to know.

    It used to bug me. It still does to some extent, but not as much as it used to. Sadly, their importance in my life has shrunk as I have met other people who are not quite so constipated in their narrow views. Sad, because I do love my ex-brothers and sisters. I simply cannot relate to them any more.

    Anyway…

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    • Yep, HIS, we were just carnal Christians and we’re just whoopin’ it up now…what with all this sinnin’ we’re doin’. 😀

      Many of my friendships have faded as well. When you realize about the only thing you had in common with your “friends” was the same church and your faith and that goes by the wayside so do the friends. I’ve tried to keep in touch with some of them, but, like you, I find it hard to relate to them when all they want to talk about is God. Oh, I could talk about it, but it wouldn’t be what they want to hear.

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      • I had a similar challenge with a fundamentalist friend. It can be difficult to find common ground with someone when religion swallows up his entire life.

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  5. I usually have a strong emotional reaction eleven years later. In fact, I will even say that I hate Easter. (Harsh, I know.) I look forward to the day, if it ever comes, that I can just accept that it is what it is and envelope myself in the bunny fur and pretty eggs. A couple of grandchildren might help me along. 🙂

    I will never get over someone telling me I was never a Christian because it seems to be dismissive to the very essence of my being. It for me, translates as, You don’t exist and never did. I am invisible. In turn, this triggers an emotional reaction that attacks at the core of my identity. (Heavy stuff, I know.)

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    • Heavy, but true….My wife recently got the “Dear John” letter from my in-laws. It essentially accused us of being followers of Satan and having no real reason for leaving the faith other than being deceived.

      Sigh….this, after spending hours being totally honest with them as to why we left the faith.

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      • I’m sorry christianagnostic. You were totally honest, they weren’t listening. They heard you though, and they only have one option . . . deception. Hopefully, as time goes on it will get better.

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      • Thankfully I don’t have in-laws to have to tell and since my parents are gone I don’t have to disappoint my mother. Maybe that didn’t come out right. I’m not thankful my parents are gone, just that I don’t have to disappoint them. I’d rather disappoint….I digress.

        It’s a tightrope walk with family and friends who feel so obligated to pull you from the burning fire that they’d lop off your head in the process. That kind of faith is tormenting. HeIsSailing touched on that in his last post.

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      • I second Zoe. It sounds like they didn’t hear a word you said, or they filtered your words through Christian-tinted lenses.

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    • I get what you’re saying, Zoe. I have good days and bad days with it. Sometimes I might think, “Meh…..who cares what you think? You don’t really know me.” Others it would be that deep emotional reaction you’re talking about. Mostly because being a Christian was who I was, not just a little bit part of my week. It permeated all my thinking from marriage to children to business to even my leisure activities.

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  6. I’ve heard this several times as well. The one that hurts and bugs me the most came from my mom. She once told me I was always weird about God and that I must have not ever really been a “true” Christian.

    As a side note. I’ve checked your page on and off and never saw a new post. I had to refresh and there was a whole slew of them! Also for some reason, even though I subscribed through email, it does not send me your new posts. A WordPress glitch I suppose.

    I always look forward to reading your insightful words. 🙂

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    • The point really is, no one can know what you really believed but you. It must be terribly hurtful for someone you known and love, and who should know and love you, to make such comments. I can see how it would feel so dismissive. 😦

      I’m not sure what’s up with with not sending you my posts through email. I don’t see any specific setting that would prevent that from my end. I did go for a few weeks without posting anything. Life got busy and this took a backseat. It’s still in the backseat, but I needed to resume some semblance of normalcy.

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  7. Is anybody else having trouble seeing my posts? I have two more since this one.

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  8. There is much in the theology of Christianity which seeks to explain what simply cannot be explained. A thousand years of Western pragmatism has foisted on the “church” the idea that everything can be and has been explained, and any soul who dares question that is heretic at best. Ignorance will always raise its ugly head violently against all who expose it. The fact that there is mystery, there is myth, there is symbolism and parable and paradox that can never be fully explained will forever haunt fundamental simpletons. The fact that one can have doubt and confusion and still believe even when at a loss to explain exactly what is believed will never sit easy with those who cannot withstand the withering glare of Light upon their own ignorance. The greatest loss I feel is the loss of those who question joined together with me in pursuit of the divine mystery – thrust out of the “church”, we have lost the infinite value of their honest examination and the true, deep humility of admitting “I don’t know, but I believe”.

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