Friday, May 26, 2017

I can't be what you want.

This post is going to make a number of my friends look at me sideways, probably lose me a few, almost certainly hurt several, and for that I'm sorry, but I just can't anymore.

I no longer identify as a Christian.

Haven't for a good three years at this point, and if we're being totally frank, I've been dodging this desperately since I was about fourteen. Twenty years. I saw the problems, had the proper apologist speeches and debate rhetoric memorized, and I was good at it, but in the back of my head I always knew I was singing for my supper, so to speak. I hurt a lot of people over the years, reciting those canned arguments, and I look back on that with shame that I couldn't walk away sooner. But I'm a coward at heart and social anxiety is a bitch. So now that I'm safe on the other side of a computer screen (told you I was a coward)...

There is so much toxic, abusive bullshit in the world of "The Church". Command-performance ecstasy. Emotional manipulation and outright brainwashing disguised as leadership and instruction. So much maneuvering people into speaking words they don't understand, expressing emotions they don't feel, and lining up behind philosophies, dogmas, and perhaps most tellingly, political positions that directly fly in the face of everything their own holy book instructs. Never mind that exactly *which* ideologies are enshrined changes every time you walk through a different church's doors, and each individual group is absolutely certain that they and they alone have The Real Truth.

Oh, certainly one is permitted to quibble over the nuances of Calvinism versus Arminianism(1), play word games with "a thousand years is as a day" to give the Earth another 7,000 years, even debate whether Paul really means that women should cover their hair and not speak in church, but the Really Important Stuff (abortion is murder, sexuality is 100% a choice, etc), these things are not negotiable. Yet somehow the Bible is inerrant and infallible and totally clear. And if you don't toe the line and shout Hallelujah with sufficient fervor, no matter your actual feelings on any given subject, then you're not really a good Christian. I can't do it anymore. 

I have spent most of my life in that world, where no matter what you actually know in the core of your being to be true and right and good, only this constant hyper-emotive religiosity is sufficient proof of the state of one's soul. Despite specific prohibitions in the Bible against exactly that sort of "praying on street corners" performative faith. I have yet to encounter any Christian church that does not create the precise social environment which encourages such displays of useless virtue. Indeed, practically demands them, if one is to reap the benefits of being in the group at all. And my give-a-damn is all used up, folks. I'm done.

My core beliefs have not changed, and my spiritual path is as active as it ever was. I've simply let go of the idea that Christianity as an organized religion knows what the hell it's even talking about, much less has a hard-line to the Almighty. I'm full of the realization that those core beliefs just don't line up with what the Church teaches in practice, and never did. It doesn't mesh, and I can't keep on buying a place with my voice and my talents when at a fundamental level, what I am cannot be resolved with what the Church tells me I must be, must do, must put out into the world. Please know, those of my friends who still find worth in being part of the Church, this is not a personal criticism of any of you, but of the Church as a whole, of its culture and the problems therein. I still love you, I don't think you're bad people, and I certainly do not expect anyone to alter their beliefs or expression thereof for my comfort. I'm just done pretending adherence to a religion I no longer believe does enough to deal with its internal flaws, instead of just white-washing over them to make everything pretty for Sunday morning.

And I'm going to try really hard to stop being such a chicken-shit coward about it, so at least the people I love can know where I stand.

So this is me... owning my shit. I will never experience "faith" the way that Church culture requires, and I am out of spoons to keep trying. "Fake it 'til you make it" is a fine philosophy for artists and entrepreneurs, not so much for spirituality. But I will put my shoulder to anyone's load if they need my help, just like I always have. Yell if you need me, people. Just don't expect me to pray with you.


(1) "Bad Ecumenism:The American Culture Wars and Russia's Hard Right Turn" by Chris Stroop, of Not Your Mission Field

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