Posts filed under ‘friendships’
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to rend, and a time to sew… Ecclesiastes 3:7
I would like to introduce a new visitor to this site, she will go by atimetosew, at least for now. She is a lovely individual, a committed Christian, a mother of four beautiful children, and my long-suffering wife of over 13 years. I have been sending her individual posts for a while, but she has recently started reading here directly. Which has, to say the least, been an adventure for both of us!
If you have read anything of the angst of deconversion here, you can be assured she has suffered through as much or more than I have this past year. And we’re still in this thing together somehow. Now I get to see how much my own thoughts I write about here line up with reality… ;^)
Following is her first guest post.
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Guest post written by atimetosew (my wife).
To all of you who are faithful (or sporadic) readers of my husband’s blog, I write this post to thank you and to introduce myself. Thank you for your comments, your listening “ears”, and your support of my husband through what we would both consider a “messed up year.” ATTR was up and running some three or four months before I knew about it. Even then, my husband was reticent to share his posts with me. Ouch! That was hard for a wife to take. I remember saying, “I thought we were friends.” Yet, some things were too hard to work through at the time. Thanks for being there for him when I couldn’t.
As for blogging, Mr. ATTR has been after me for several months. I’ve been a journaler all my life, but exceedingly private about it. The thought of a worldwide community of anonymous readers is extremely intimidating. I’ll give this a try, but make no promises. I don’t think or write as well as Mr. ATTR. If you wish to follow our marital journey through this mess, my blog will be located at atimetosew.wordpress.com. I’ll warn you, though, that I’m much more of a “rambler” than Mr. ATTR. I imagine that my posts will be a bit more practical…but perhaps more whimsical as well. Time will tell.
As for me…who I am…where I belong…that is harder. Even with all we’ve been through, I still am, or would like to be, a follower of Christ. I’m on a journey to seek out what that means. It’s a journey I’ve been on for 23 years or so now. Sometimes the more I travel, the less I know. Nevertheless, I’m very seriously seeking.
I am thankful for many things this Thanksgiving, but would like to take a moment here to thank every single person who has posted a comment on this blog. I am grateful for the support, challenges, care, and friendships I have experienced through your contributions. Also to those who read and do not comment, I am thankful you find something worth visiting for and that you take the time to do so. You are AMAZING, the godless, the God full, and everyone in between.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
A little while back I found out I had been used as a sermon illustration by a pastor I had recently become friends with (a pastor at a different church than the one I attended). Quite a surprise ! I was able to download the sermon to see what it was about.
His sermon generally spoke of being friends with someone who questions the bible, being gracious and understanding, really listening and respecting. It was a good message. I had previously met with this person while still in the process of leaving my old church and had spoken about some of the difficulties I had working through things there. The part where I came in was to illustrate how someone can be ostracized by Christians when they voice their questions.
The illustration needed a bit of clarification about how people treated me at the old church. I was afraid the pastor (at the new church) believed people had treated me badly at our old church (they had not). I tried to clear things up by sending the email below (minimally edited, and names have been changed):
I heard through the grapevine that I was an illustration in a recent sermon of yours, which I just downloaded. On one hand, it is a bit embarrassing to be a sermon illustration, but on the other hand I’m honored, and deeply appreciate the way you care about these issues. And to be sure I have no objection with what you said in the sermon, you did an excellent job of conveying the need for compassion and care.
But after listening to your sermon, I do want to clear up something which I believe I miscommunicated to you, because I don’t want to misrepresent the church I just am leaving (Conservative Evangelical Church) by making it seem I was ostracized by them. The members of Conservative Evangelical Church do respect believers who question the faith, just as you taught in your sermon, and showed me nothing but love and charity. Working through my understanding of the bible there was difficult for me because in general the people there lack a framework to deal with those who question the bible.
I recently had a conversation with my pastor [at my old church]. He didn’t seem to be able to engage the questions I had, though I think tried to. For whatever reason, he couldn’t answer a question I thought was straightforward with a “yes” or “no,” it seemed to me he was dancing around the issue.
So while *feeling* ostracized, it has been more of a functional separation than an unwillingness of people to want to care for me. I wasn’t kicked out, but there doesn’t seem to be room there theologically for questions about the inerrancy of the bible. I see it as something built in to the fundamentalist/inerrantist view of the bible that prevents people from engaging in those kinds of questions, other than to seek to reinforce their own perspective. On top of that, there were certain dynamics in my relationship with my wife, and her relationship with the church, which certainly compounded those problems. And on top of that, I am sure my own anxiety and discomfort working though this whole process has contributed significantly.
Again, I have no problem with the sermon illustration personally. I just want to clear up any misconception I may have caused about Conservative Evangelical Church. Thanks for taking the time to read all this.
I have read a lot of stories of people facing a terrible backlash from friends or family when leaving Christianity, or even just a particular church or ministry. Many feel, or actually are ostracized by those around them. I have been blessed that has not been my experience in the church at all. While in some ways I believe the doctrine of the church does not provide an adequate framework for dealing with issues of doubt and asking certain kinds of questions, I have never had cause to doubt the sincerity of friends of mine as they have sought to help me.
Last week we had dinner with a family who are among our closest friends from church. Despite the changes in beliefs that I have experienced, we enjoyed and benefited from our time together. As we were driving home I remarked to my wife that, “Friends are more important than doctrine.” Not that doctrines may never be relevant in friendships, but often doctrines are unneccesarily divisive. That should be a no-brainer for me, but it is something I am learning more lately.
I was freshly reminded of this lesson when I received the email below a couple of days later from the same friend:
Subject: did you catch me?
J., I hope you’re not quitting [blogging] on my account. C. found your blog (you might say randomly) last week as she was looking for back yard bible club info. I sat down tonight and read most of it, except for your June posts. If you are uncomfortable with me looking at it I will stop. If you feel or think you cannot be blunt or honest because one of your conservative christian friends may read it and be offended I can stop reading. You have not offended me. I am sad of course. I understand your need to express what you are thinking and feeling and blog world seems like a good place to do that.
In the beginning of all this (beginning for me) it was a bit shocking. I don’t know if I know many people that have so clearly deconverted. Of course I wouldn’t want you to be someone you are not or believe something for the sake of those around you. It’s o.k. to be you J. I’ll still love you. I’m still going to pray for you and C. If I ask you corny or seemingly shallow questions about when was the last time you were at church it’s not so I can notch it on the wall and pray that somehow you make it to another service. We obviously differ at many levels and on many points but we can still interact right? I’m looking forward to Wednesday when we can talk about what we can talk about. Does that make sense? Again, if you want me to get off your blog, I will. I’ll understand. I might even still buy you bkfst. C.
I told him, “yes,” he could continue to read, as long as he is willing to comment from time to time, call me on the carpet if needed. It’s worth the trade off for me, sacrificing the relative freedom of writing in anonymity to be able to live a less anonymous life. And how could I say no to an offer like that anyway? ;^) I have a lot to be thankful for; I can’t imagine a more understanding or gracious message.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)
I attended church this past weekend. I was not initially unhappy to go, but walking into the service I realized I was not as happy to go as I had thought. As I sat unmoved by an actually lovely sounding song, I thought about what it means to have a hardened heart. And tried to consider if my heart could really be hardened, my conscience seared to the truth of the gospel…
I am frequently warned by Christians to guard against hardening my heart to God. They feel that though I may be in a dangerous place spiritually, things will turn out OK as long as I don’t harden my heart. The problem is this tricky definition of hardening my heart. What is hardening of the heart? How can one believe differently than what orthodox Christian doctrine teaches? I think a lot of unorthodox thoughts now, so my heart must be hard, right?
And there are signs of my hardening everywhere. If I don’t spend time with my Christian friends, it couldn’t be because I make them uncomfortable and they make me uncomfortable, I must be hardening my heart towards them. If I don’t want to read the bible during my “quiet time” in the morning, it couldn’t be a due to a rational decision about its content, I must have hardened my heart to God. And if it would be as difficult for me to believe the bible is literal history as to believe Aesops’ fables are literal history, well, that might be OK, as long as it doesn’t affect my belief in the “essential core doctrines” of the bible. But if I question those core doctrines? Right, hard hearted…
What other reason could there be to reject the clear and obvious revelations God has provided? I think that is the only logical conclusion left for conservative Christian doctrine. That’s why Christian doctrine equates disbelief and doubt with moral failure. If the bible really is all true, and you are going to hell if you don’t believe it, rejecting it it couldn’t be a rational thought process. Could it?
I do not think it really is a process of hardening my heart. Rather, it is a process of allowing my mind to rationally process things on my own, not being forced to interpret things through the lens of certain presuppositions. Conservative Christians maintain it is essential to have the presupposition that the bible is all true, and that presupposition must supersede and dictate all other thought, any examination of evidence. They can be quite proud of maintaining that presupposition without wavering.
Over time, as I have cast off that presupposition, yes, I have become more convinced of what I believe. But it is not accurate or fair to call it a hardening of the heart. If it is the only way conservative Christians allow themselves to think, it would appear they have hardened their hearts (or minds) by making a choice to only consider themselves correct.
For a OneSmallStep’s take on a cold, dark heart, click HERE.
My last post discusses how some Christians find faith in God through a bible they consider errant yet divinely inspired, communicating God’s word, but written by fallible men. This post looks briefly at the skeptical side of that view.
Kenton Sparks sees inspiration and inerrancy in the bible, it being God’s Word, but is also honest about the errors and inconsistencies it contains. While I appreciate his perspective, it still leaves me a far cry from faith in the God of the bible. The errors seem to point to the bible being a child of man rather than an inspired book. Like I am.
Once you take away the magical inspiration of the bible and try to view it through the lens of being an inspired book but written by fallible men, how is it distinguishable from any other book written by fallible men? Unique, yes, more valuable and commendable than some other books, yes. But like theistic evolution, if the processes observed can be largely explained by naturalistic processes, they become indistinguishable from what we would expect to see if there were no God involved. The observations themselves are no longer evidences of God’s existence. One can have faith that God is somehow involved, but if he is so divinely hidden, what sense of interaction and relationship is there?
That’s pretty much where I am. If God is so hidden, I don’t have to worry too much about it. But what I appreciate about the form of Christianity espoused by Sparks is that it provides a way for committed Christians to look at the bible and the world around them honestly. They might not draw the same conclusions I ultimately draw, but it opens up relationships for honest debate, discussion, and mutual respect of opinions. And ultimately that is the most important thing for me in studying the bible, being able to relate to those around me.
I enjoy the conversations, and enjoy looking at the bible to understand it, to understand it’s history, to understand what it really is, to satisfy my own curiosity. Some might see that as disingenuous on my part, but I don’t think so. I honestly try to consider what Christians have to say, and seek to encourage them to think for themselves, not to deconvert. For me conversations like these are part of the joy of having left the faith, being able to consider and conclude whatever I want.