Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

The Hunt for a Tribe – Part 1

28 Comments

There’s no denying it.  When we begin to question our faith, moreover, when we lose the faith we formerly knew, we can also begin to feel isolated.  People can scoff at cults all they want to, and they are harmful, but going your own way has it’s down side, too.  Marching to the beat of your own drum can seem trailblazing and brave, but it can feel scary and…well…lonely isn’t exactly the right word.

No, I can’t really say I feel lonely, but I do miss community.  When I was an integral part of church I saw the same people week in and week out.  We had fellowship and a like-mindedness.  We could share our lives, the good and the bad, encourage one another, rejoice with one another and sometimes even cry with one another.  We “lifted” one another up in prayer and sang together.  We helped each other with physical needs and emotional needs.

That all comes to kind of a screeching halt when you no longer share that like-mindedness.  When you discover that sharing the good and the bad doesn’t include loosing your faith.  Well, then you become somewhat of an outsider.  It’s not the brethren’s doing either.  I could go into church and smile and pretend like I haven’t had a crisis of faith and no one would be the wiser.  Now I feel like I’m infiltrating their camp.  I feel out of place, like I don’t belong.  Like I’d be a tare among the wheat they’ve so carefully cultivated.

I used to desire to be a part of that community because I truly loved God and Jesus.  Now I’d just like to be a part of it because I’ve lost my tribe.  I’ve got no like-minded friends, outside of The Tour Guide(who is absolutely great), that I can sit and share a cup of coffee with and my thoughts about what I believe.  That community wouldn’t get it.  Even if I did try to fake it I’d still feel like an outsider because I couldn’t be who I really am.

You see, I’m a weirdo.  I’m shy, but a social butterfly at the same time – if that’s possible. It’s a bit difficult for me to meet new people, but once I’ve warmed up I’m in hog heaven. In my church I had a built in community.  A group of people who already knew me with whom I could fellowship and break bread.  I’m used to having a large social circle. One of my spiritual gifts* is hospitality.  I love a good dinner party.  You know, those really cozy ones.  Better yet, I love to host a good dinner party.  I love to cook.  I love to make others feel comfortable and at home.

When this first happened, when I first began to lose my faith, I felt invisible.  I felt like someone could just blow on me and I’d disappear.  Like a dandelion blown in the wind.  But I’m stronger now.  More confident now.  And so I’m on a quest to find a community where I can just be.  Where not only the dinner guests are comfortable, but so am I.

*When I was a TrueBeliever we took one of those little tests to determine our spiritual gifts.  Now I realize it was just an assessment of the stuff you’re good at.  Because if you’re good at it, it must be a spiritual gift, right?

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28 thoughts on “The Hunt for a Tribe – Part 1

  1. Yep. A huge hurdle in deconversion. (The biggest for me.) But as hard as it was for me, it was even harder for my wife. As I am the extrovert, we obtained most of our friendships through me. With few exceptions, it was me inviting people over, me having the party, etc.

    When I was cut off, she was cut off as well, but through no fault of her own! Indeed, she still felt a part of the group, still being a Christian, yet without me she was lost. People justified cutting off her with, “We don’t know what to say, so we don’t say anything at all.” Like not saying, “How about going out for a cup of tea?” even.

    I hung on to church hoping to maintain the social aspect without the spiritual aspect for far too long in retrospect. Eventually it became evident we needed to find a new set of friends with interests other than spiritual to share. Luckily we happened upon our group of soccer buddies, and at this point we have re-established friendships. (Although none as deep, due to lack of history.)

    My wife spends a great deal of time on Facebook—it is her continual search for community.

    I wish I had an easier answer to this, but I never found one.

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    • “I hung on to church hoping to maintain the social aspect without the spiritual aspect for far too long in retrospect.”

      I feel quite fortunate not to have felt that obligation. It became difficult for me to sit through Sunday School classes and church services and not feel ill or not have crawled out of my own skin while listening to some of the topics and not be able to say what I thought.

      I did the Facebook thing for a while, myself. But it’s served it’s purpose and I just don’t really enjoy it that much anymore.

      Alas, there are no easy answers. Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or, at the very least, somewhat interesting.

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  2. There is this too: many of those in the cult (that calls other beliefs cults!) are genuinely fine wonderful people, apart from what their mistaken belief causes them to think and do. It is the latter clause that is problematical, but their friendly support (unless you believe wrong) is missed. But talk of unconditional love (I think borrowed from new age thought) is a joke if entry to heaven depends on the condition of belief and obedience. If the big honcho don’t love unconditionally, how can sh/h/it’s minions? On a small scale the tribe benefits, but on the large scale tribe vs tribe is deadlier that person vs person.

    I consider you and some other bloggers to be my friends. The remoteness of a keyboard friendship compares unfavorably with genuine face to face. Pretty strong deterrent to thinking freely. Some of the sects use shunning quite effectively, but there is abundant discomfort even in self imposed alienation.
    Ah, good old peer pressure.

    I have rambled a bit. Sorry you are almost (but not quite) lonely. Affectionate wishes for a more riant reality 🙂

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    • Part of my self-imposed alienation is to cut off at the pass the certain shunning I would receive were I to announce my newfound position on strongly held beliefs. I don’t want to deal with it. The shunning, the whispers, the prayer lists I’d be placed on. Ugh! Just.don’t.want.to.deal.

      Anyway, yes, moreso than being shunned I’m cutting myself off before they feel the need to. Just makes it a bit less messy.

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  3. I have a few friends from my former Christian community. Most of them just think we’re more liberal and less evangelical, which is true but not accurate. Maybe I have had an easier time meeting other people because I have kids and because I live in a slightly less religious city. That same feeling of recognition and belonging I used to get when meeting other Christians I now feel when meeting other cyclists, artists, hippy mamas, nerds or dance-walkers. Don’t lose heart, church is an easy supermarket for instant community but I bet it took you time to build up a circle of close friends. In time you will have that again.

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    • Sure. I’ve just had a really hard time coming up with places to make those new friends. Now I think I’ll just have to experiment a bit, but in time lankybrit and I will have a new social circle. Maybe I’ll try out a civic club, or a book club or something. Maybe lankybrit and I will take up some hobby, cycling, or jogging, or maybe even dance-walking(have never seen that here). Who knows? The options are endless. Its just figuring out how to insert myself in there. That’s always so awkward for me.

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  4. New Paths = New Opportunities .. New Opportunities = New Openings ,, New Openings = New Circles .. You have an abundance to look forward to 😉

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  5. You know, a somewhat similar blog post has been simmering in my mind since last weekend. Maybe I’ll be inspired to write it down now. I really resonate with everything you said. I believe we can develop community again where we don’t feel like an outsider. However, I personally would be hard pressed to develop the sense of community I found in church where everyone subscribes to the same belief system.

    I certainly see how you are skilled in hospitality. I felt comfortable right away when we got to meet. You have a gentle, easy way about you. That will no doubt help you a great deal in building new friendships. I wished I lived closer to attend one of those dinner parties. But, with luck, we can enjoy another meal again sometime.

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    • I definitely agree with not establishing a group mentality. Being part of a group doesn’t have to mean being one of the Stepford Wives, surely!

      I thoroughly enjoyed our outing. Even the part where we had to run not to miss our show! Luck, shmuck! We’ll have to make it a point to do that again!

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  6. I’m more on the shy side myself, but I was never really in a position to lean on the church for community. Yet I can understand it, because it seems to be a very common thread of the human experience. It is tribalism.

    I think most of us have a fundamental issue identifying with everybody, so we instinctively pare down our little world to a tribe we can bond to. People are all the same (in their different ways!), so we don’t really need a pre-defined tribe, but yet we do. There’s some sort of great comfort factor we find in starting from a common “faith,” be it a church, a sporting team, a shooting club, a book club, an online gaming forum, etc.

    So I think that may point to where to start if you are missing the tribe… socially pursue some other passion. 🙂 Not that every organization or club will have that same sense of community, but it at least should provide some different soils which you may thrive in.

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    • I really like serving others and the community so it may be time to look into something like Quota Club or some similar community organization. A dinner club sounds like a fantastic idea, too. So when lankybrit ever does finally get here, we’ll make some other couple acquaintances and try that out, too.

      I just had to get my thinking cap on! 😀

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  7. “He drew a circle that shut me out —
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But Love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle that took him in.” – Edwin Markham

    I try to approach people first and foremost for what they are: human beings much like myself. I find lots of common ground there. As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to stop thinking so much about finding truth as I do examining different ways of looking at things. Now I only feel lonely among the closed-minded, because we all mostly see the same things just understand them differently.

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    • That’s a great approach, DougB! Exactly how it should be. But you know, being from the Bible Belt, that about the first question you get when you meet someone new is, “Where do you go to church?” Then I get the deer in the headlights look. Because they expect you to have an answer and they expect that you do go to church somewhere. I’m still in the process of thinking up a really good answer that doesn’t leave room for some kind of “comeback”. :mrgreen:

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  8. I was so relieved to be out of the community that my distance from them was immediately welcomed. But for me it was because I removed myself to a place of safety. I was dying in that mess.

    Because we were well known in the community we found we couldn’t even relate with anyone anymore and so we withdrew in every way so as to avoid any discussion regarding the spiritual abuse at the church. We trusted no one. After that any attempts at what might be new friendships were simply hindered by the fact that I had developed PTSD-like symptoms on top of earlier PTSD and I developed social anxiety and panic. It was awful. It’s such a deep traumatic thing with me that any hope of me relaxing into normalcy wasn’t possible.

    After all these years and reading so many stories, I see how this change in tribe is so real and sincere and well, life-changing. I’ve learned so much over the years and hanging out on the internet that I wish I had had this resource earlier.

    Looking forward to part two and sending cyber hugs.

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    • Thanks for the hugs. Can never get too many.

      I felt the same way at first, minus the PTSD. It was a relief not to have to answer any questions or ruffle any feathers. But, admittedly, I’m missing the community, not the belief system or the badgering about particular beliefs. So I think it’s definitely going to be a positive experience being friends with people who have more in common that just where they go to church or what denomination they belong to. If that’s all there is there’s not much substance anyway.

      The internet has definitely been a lifeline in what would have otherwise been pretty lonely. It’s helped me keep my sanity knowing there were other people out there who’ve gone through the same things.

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  9. Hi Ruth, it’s Kotales, remember me? I’ve been following your blog with interest but not having much time to comment. I just saw this post today and LOVED it. I too am a weirdo who is very reserved but loves people. I’m too quiet, shy, and tongue-tied, especially in large groups or with strangers, but I really love having friends! I used to miss church so much until one day it hit me that I didn’t miss the sermons, or the prayers, or anything else about it–all I really missed was the fellowship. I wish we lived closer because I would love to have dinner with you! I had to laugh when you mentioned those spiritual gifts assessments. I always had a weird feeling about those, they were so…dumb. The categories didn’t really make sense. And yes, it seemed funny that God seemed to give everyone the gift that they already had a natural talent for.

    And it always, always, came out that I scored lowest of all in the gift of hospitality! haha

    I’m still trying to piece together the history between you and the Brit. In 2012 he was your friend the Tour Guide, and now he’s the Brit that you make piroshkis for. Hmmm. Sounds interesting.

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  10. I grew up Wesleyan, later went to a nondenominational church that evolved into a charismatic mess that eventually disbanded, went over the to the fundamentalist Baptists for a while, then back to your basic nondenominational evangelical church. Yeah, I’ve seen the whole spectrum, from being glared at for wearing pants to going to demon deliverance meetings.

    Hey, I read the story of TheBrit! Sigh!! So romantic! I was supposed to be working (work at home and set my own hours, but still…) I just couldn’t stop reading. Kept saying, “just one more chapter, just one more chapter” until I reached the engagement. There’s nothing that says “next post” so I guess it leaves off there?

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