One day I’m going to have to let everyone know I’m not a Christian anymore. it’s not healthy to go through life lying to people who care. So I drafted a letter than might show up on my real blog someday. I’ll post it here first, maybe some of you have some feedback or will at least find it interesting:
For most of my life I have been keenly interested in matters of the spirit. I’ve often told people that I can understand someone not believing in God, but I can’t understand someone who doesn’t care. I was raised evangelical, strayed from it for a brief time, then returned with a passion. I went to an evangelical Bible College—which I still consider one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was a preacher. I was a street evangelist. I was a missionary to Pakistan. I made a bit of a name for myself in my own little circles.
Today, I am not a Christian.
I do not believe in heaven or hell. I do not believe in a cosmic lawgiver who sends people to either one. I do not believe the Bible is a revelation from God any more than any other book is.
I do not believe in a personal God.
I don’t know if this will come as a shock or not. A year or two ago many of my friends started emailing me with concerns about some of the things I had been saying online. I had been encouraging Christians to social action and quoting Christian leaders who, I didn’t realize at first, were the wrong kind of Christian leaders. I was still an evangelical back then.
The online push back was so strong that I decided it was best to keep my journey to myself. So while I stopped trying to stir things up on Facebook, I still searched and grew, and eventually I found myself in a place where I had to admit there was nothing left to allow to keep the name Christian. So while this all may seem sudden, it’s really not. I haven’t been a Christian for a long time.
Most of my friends will be concerned about this. Five years ago I would have been more than concerned if any of my friends posted something like this. And I’m not going to try to talk you out of your concern. Of course you would be concerned. From an evangelical point of view, I am straying from the right path. From that point of view I am denying the Lord who bought be and am now either a backsliding Christian or someone who was never truly part of the faith to begin with, depending on how you view the Gospel.
But I do want to give out something as a reassurance. And this is not an attack. It’s just my story.
I’m happy. All the time. Oh God, I’m so incredibly happy. I would describe it as having rivers of living water flowing from within me. Ever since I started stepping away.
Since leaving Christianity my heart has exploded with free, unconditional love to everyone I met. I rejoice during good times and bad. I have the thing that I used to tell others they would get if they became Christian. That thing I had preached about, but never experienced myself. That thing I had worked so hard and prayed so long and abided in Christ so much for. So please don’t think I’m in a difficult crisis or I’m trying to ‘figure things out.’ I love the road I’m on.
I know I’ll get lots of responses from this. And I won’t try to convince anyone not to question me. I’d love dialogue, in fact. I just ask that you all remember where I have come from. I have watched others slip away from the faith and I remember what I used to say about them. The Bible verse I used to quote about them. Lean not on your own understanding. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no god.’ And I know how horrible it sounds to hear me say that I have chosen to rely on myself rather than God. I understand that point of view completely because it was my point of view. And I held more passionately than most.
I hope that you can understand me, too. And if you cannot, please drop me a line. I still hold to what I used to say: I can understand a person who believes or doesn’t believe in a God. But I can’t understand someone who doesn’t care. I still care about spiritual things more than I care about anything else. That part of me will probably never change. I look forward to a lot of great conversations about this.
To everyone who is working through doubt, I have a few things to say, too.
First, don’t worry. Truth is more important than whatever social pressures you have. Be free to trust your reason and your spirit. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to trust your reason. Remember, if the things you were taught are true, there will be good reasons to believe them. If there are no good reasons to believe in a thing, you can either use some arbitrary faith to believe it anyway, or you can let it go and search.
Second, don’t judge people who push back against you. It’s not persecution to face opposition. Hopefully anyone who is trying to keep you on the orthodox path is doing it because they care about you. Don’t fight them. Don’t hate them. But don’t submit to them if your conscience and reason won’t let you.
Third, remember the world is huge. The things you grew up with are not the only ideas out there. The universe is so huge and complex that there are countless metaphor to describe it. Yours isn’t that special, really. Oh, they’re all special. They all have wonderful ideas. The self-giving sacrifice and undeserved grace in Christianity. The complex and infinite godhead of Hinduism. The subtle mind-science of Buddhism. They are all unique. They all have value. Staying in the one you were raised is not a bad thing. Neither is leaving it. Whatever serves your mind and soul best.
Fourth, remember it’s all a journey. I’m in a certain place right now—a place I can’t even define because by the time I get the guts to post this, I may be somewhere else. Your mind will change as you grow. If it doesn’t, you should worry. Because there is something terrifyingly and blindly arrogant about being young and already understanding the cosmos.
Fifth, you are not a coward. I was reading a book by a famous evangelical pastor about issues of hell and the emergent church. He suggested that Christians who believe there is no hell are cowards and spineless (his words). Frankly, that’s a dishonest attempt to scare people into orthodoxy. There is nothing cowardly about leaving the system you were raised in. It’s terrifying. I should now. It took me six months to post this stupid letter.
Well, that’s it. That’s what I wanted to say—what I’ve wanted to say for a long time. I desperately hope I don’t lose friends over it, and deep down I’m confident that the true friendships I’ve made with so many awesome evangelicals will hold without being shaken. Because real love and friendship is stronger than confessions.
I look forward to hearing from you.