I wrote this as if I were going to post it on my public blog. Who knows, maybe some day.
I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while now. A long while. Part of me wanted to wait until I found out where I was going to land, but I’m starting to realize that the only time you land is when you stop growing. So I might as well write it now.
I am not a Christian.
Unfortunately even that needs to be clarified, lest you think I mean it in a quasi-spiritual Carl Medearis sort of way. It’s not that I don’t identify as a Christian or that I’m embarrassed by Christian culture or that I want to distance myself from the not-nearly-as-awesome-as-me-Christians. I am not a Christian by anyone’s definition.
The hows and whys and whens and whats are subtle and complicated and I’d love to talk about them, if anyone wants. If you know me you know how much I love talking about the big things. I’m open and approachable. I expect a lot of emails from this confession and I look forward to them. The best way to make progress in understanding the universe is to talk with others who are also trying to understand it.
This is a pretty big deal, I know. I’ve been a preacher since I was sixteen. I spent almost four years at an evangelical Bible college. I’ve handed out gospel tracts downtown, preached on the street corners, went to ________ to tell the Muslims about Jesus, spoken at missionary gatherings. I know exactly how big this deal is. It’s so big it terrifies me. But I had to remember an awesome conversation I had with a Christian friend back at _______.
We were talking about competing religions and, in a moment of surprising clarity, we started asking ourselves, “If Islam were somehow proven absolutely true, would we be willing to uproot ourselves and convert?” Neither of us were thinking that Islam was true, of course; moving from Christianity to Islam seems like a step in the wrong direction. But the heart of the question was profound. If I were firmly convinced that the system I have known and embraced all my life was wrong, would I have the courage and the consistent commitment to truth to walk out? It turns out, I do.
There are a few things that I’d like to clarify. Assumptions you might have that I’d like to engage.
First, my descent (ascent? /snarkyvoice) towards unbelief has nothing to do with my past interest in a more ecumenical Christianity. A few years ago I had some heated public and private discussions about the emergent church, red-letter Christianity and stuff like that. Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren had no influence on my loss of faith. If anything did, it was the anger I noticed against them from the evangelical community. And even that probably didn’t influence me much. Trust me, I was there.
Second, my beliefs about science and evolution have not pulled me from Christianity. I was an evolutionist before I became a Christian. I threw it away when the church told me I couldn’t keep it and Jesus. That has always been a difficult thing for me. If anything, again, it was not evolution but the church’s anger towards it that influenced me. And, again, even that probably didn’t influence me much. Trust me, I was there.
Third, my wife is still a Christian. Don’t worry about her. I’m not trying to covert her and she’s not trying to convert me. And (here’s the most important part) we are in no conflict over this issue whatsoever. Don’t assume I’m leading her astray or that she feels trapped and isolated. Drop her a line if you’re concerned and find out for yourself.
Fourth, I love you. I always did and I always will. In fact, my love is stronger now than it has even been. I don’t claim that my love is stronger because I’ve left Christianity. But it definitely is stronger. I have no desire at all to ruin relationships over my de-conversion.
Fifth, my kids are fine. When they ask my wife questions about God, I don’t butt in and my wife doesn’t indoctrinate them. Despite being the kids of an unbeliever, they pray more than I did at that age!
Sixth, I am not betraying anyone. A person can only do what their mind deems right. For all the talk about relying on God instead of on yourself, it’s your own mind that always has the final say. Even if your mind has decided not to trust itself, that’s still your mind’s decision. And as sad as this news will probably make many of you, I don’t owe anyone anything. Unless God is actually real. Then I’m kinda screwed.
Seventh, despite that last joke, I do understand how serious this is. Better than most, really. Because I was one of those rare people gripped with a realization of the gravity of damnation and salvation. I literally crossed over land and sea to save souls from hell. I risked my freedom to preach the gospel in a country where proselytizing is illegal. I know the seriousness. In the conversations I bet we’ll be having, I ask you to forgive my jokes and quips. I use them because I’ve always used them.
Eighth, please do not deduce what has brought me here and spread it around as a warning to others on a slippery slope. Unless you start a conversation with me first and I actually tell you. The things that have been going on in my head these last five years are not always reflected in the things I’ve talked and posted about.
Ninth, I am grateful for my time in evangelicalism. I learned a lot. I learned how important the big questions are. I learned to read things thoughtfully and critically. I learned to speak well in public. I learned the joys of working with others against great odds for a common, awesome goal. I learned all those things from the Church. Thanks, Church.
Tenth, I am grateful to Jesus. Jesus taught me what real love is. Others have shown me great insights into love and awesome living, but Jesus taught me first and, still, I think he taught me best. Because he said things like ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and ‘turn the other cheek.’ Sure, I had beef with teachers who took those awesomely simple words and turned them into something else, but the core message of Jesus is just about as awesome as you can get. And to top it all off, he died proving it. No greater love. No greater love.
Finally, I am sorry that you’re finding out like this. I am in the fortunate position of having lots and lots of close friends who deserve a visit or a phone call or at least an email notification about this instead of an impersonal blog post. This is how I had to do it, though. Because I’m weak and scared.
I’m out of Christianity, but that does not mean I want to say good-bye. The friendships I’ve created at church, at _______, at Bible Camp, those are real. The love I have for all you, my beautiful friends, is stronger than the binds of religion. And I mean that for all of you. Even if we haven’t been in contact for years. You know me. You know how much I love people. If you feel the need to pull away from me over this, I understand and I don’t hold it against you at all. But I won’t pull away from you.
Drop me a line. I’d love to talk. And if you’re ever in ________ and want to have a really awesome conversation, I’m always available. There’s nothing I love more than people.