It’s been about 4 months since I casually announced that I was de-Christianizing. In the wake of that bit of processing, predictably it has been an interesting fall and winter. Today is for discussing just how exactly it has been interesting. In brief, anyway:
#1 – Experiencing the outside, after being on the inside
Inside the Christian bubble, I remember feeling that those who wrestle long with doubt, or who experiment with liberal theology, or who eventually abandon the faith altogether, ought to be viewed with a scintillating mixture of compassion, pity, mistrust, blame, and quiet judgment. Now certainly there are many millions of Christians who do in fact respond to these kinds of faith transitions much more lovingly than what I’ve described above — but I am only describing what I remember feeling, and what seemed vaguely common to most of my peers.
It is simply interesting to now be the object of those feelings, rather than the subject. There’s a strange amount of comeuppance to it. Also ironically, it seems surprisingly incarnational, very Jesus-like, to now know how it feels to be judged as an outcast by the (I may be reaching here) dominant religious majority. When I was supposed to be one of them, that is.
Final thought: for a Christian who is wrestling with intense doubts, everyday existence is already painful to begin with; when confident Christians then tell the doubter that their troubles exist because they opted out of community, because they stopped reading the Bible, because they have little faith, or whatever other chosen rationalization, the net effect of the message is “this doubting is your own fault, because you are doing it wrong”. This message does not help the doubter want to return to the fold.
Edit: nobody said to me literally what is written above. Well, presumably nobody who is reading this blog 😉
#2 – Creating life meaning outside of a religious narrative …
…. is effin’ hard.
To this day I really don’t understand how some people function quite affably in life without a central story of meaning or purpose undergirding their existence — religious or otherwise. Whatever that gene is that lets those people do that, I don’t think I have it.
As a result this fall entailed a good dose of trying to regain a sense of meaning, in a world that quite easily hints toward nihilism.
On the other hand,
#3 – The world outside the bubble is overflowing with wisdom and laughter
The allegory I’ve been toying with is that the Christian world is like a beautiful and expansive castle or manor, situated out in the countryside and surrounded by vast woods — maybe like this thing:
I’ve been living on that estate, surrounded by a clear and safe boundary against the philosophical wilderness, since 2007. But over the last two years I started playing outside the walls more and more. Then this past September, I inferred it was high time to take a permanent hike outside, in those scary epistemological woods. I brought a tent, but it was scary.
But actually wait a minute … I grew up in these woods! And I was just fine — everything is fine people.
More importantly, it turns out the woods are beautiful and not aimless, and there are mountains and lakes and even other manors to discover (if you will) out in those wilds — wonders waiting to be mapped, all of which were considered dangerous no-man’s-lands from within the comfortable grounds of the castle.
To jump out of the allegory now, this fall I have:
- .. enjoyed a full relief from the burden of orthodoxy; I have been free to actually determine what seems true using my own head and heart, without the worry of sliding off a proverbial slippery slope, or of coloring outside somebody’s institutional lines.
- .. finally connected or reconnected deeply and truly, with old friends whom I had long felt were not totally safe, not totally on the level, due to being non-believers. Not that I couldn’t trust them, but I couldn’t fully relate to them. It’s unfortunate that the dynamics went that way, but I didn’t know how to help it.
- .. for the first time really begun appreciating the common currency of wonder, awe, and transcendence that exist outside the Christian sphere. There is overwhelming and authentic beauty to be found everywhere, and through every lens: Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, humanist, astronomical, and so on.
#4 – I love The Liturgists, Peter Rollins, and Richard Rohr
If anything about my journey is interesting to you (regardless of your philosophical allegiance), you’ll probably find much to enjoy in the work of any of those three. All of them would (I think?) either loosely or emphatically identify as Christian, and yet all three have very fruitfully written and spoken about all of the same struggles that I have been working through over the past two years, and especially this fall and winter.
And (most amazingly to me) all three have cultivated and preserved a profound capacity to deeply and honestly converse with the world outside Christendom. Bullseye, headshot, multi-kill.
#5 – This is a process, and I am a verbal processor
Sorry to any of my poor readers and friends who are simply more philosophically committed, or more cognitively stable than myself … who I guess may have quietly wondered what I’ve gotten myself into (or out of) this time, or who have skeptically considered whether I will ever settle down in one spot for long.
Despite the turbulence, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In that case it’s important for any spectators (and for myself) to remember: this journey is far from over. In fact, I think it doesn’t end until I’m dead — er, at minimum.
In case you think I’m going batshit, just calmly read the disclaimer on the left side of this page, which echoes this older wisdom from Flannery O’Connor: I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.
This means I’m not done. With anything here or otherwise. For that matter, there are already plenty of new / recent developments in this particular journey, beyond what I’ve written above, which I will share soon enough.
In the meantime, thanks for the love and concern, those of you who did happen to speak up (and no disdain for those who didn’t). If it is warranted, sorry for the late notice about this whole de-conversion thing. I’ll send a calendar invite next time.
Happy new year!