This post is hard for me to write, but it’s a long time coming.
I’ve spent the last several years on a spiritual journey, and I’ve ended up in a lot of dark corners, dead ends, and places that feel suspiciously like Knockturn Alley (from the Harry Potter universe.) I always enter a new part of my journey hoping with a sincere heart that, this time, I might find the answers I seek. So far, though, I only end up with more questions or, as I’m facing now, total disgust in the journey itself.
I’ve made many posts about my spiritual journey (here, here, here, and here just to select a few) so I’m not going to rehash all of it. To boil where I’ve been so far down to a single sentence, let me just say that I’ve been from one end of Christianity to another and, through all of it, I have continued to try to be a good Christian because that’s what’s expected of me. I’m from the Midwest, where conversations about Jesus flow as frequently as discussions on corn prices and the state of the summer crops. Being a Christian is expected. Asking someone where they go to church is as normal as asking about the weather. However, the reality is that I’ve reached the end of the line now and it’s time to make some changes. To put it simply: I’m out.
American Christianity today is disgusting. The state inside American churches isn’t one of hope; it’s about personal agendas derived from however that particular person has interpreted the Bible. People live with their heads in the sand, clinging to the particular verses of the Old and New Testament that supports their discrimination while rejecting the passages that convict these same people of their own transgressions. Pastors are, in my experience, largely uninspired. In the last year, I’ve listened to dozens of sermons, both in person and online, that were about as memorable as my grocery list from three weeks ago. Five minutes after they were over, I couldn’t remember a word of what he/she said. There’s no heart of passion coming from the pulpit – it’s all just words for the sake of saying something without actually saying a single word of consequence.
Politics and politicians are playing a big part in why I feel like I do, as well. As gays fight for equality, I’ve seen nothing but vitriol and hate spew from people who claim to practice a religion of love. I’m horrified that every Republican presidential candidate out there wants to legislate from their own personal religious convictions, meaning basic rights to certain segments of society – immigrants, women, gays, anyone who is a non-Christian – are threatened because those lifestyles don’t marry with the white bread world in which these delusional people reside.
And then there’s my personal self. I’ve been focusing on reading the New Testament for the last year because it is the definition of Christianity, right? But I read it and I feel… nothing. I’m not moved, I’m not inspired, I’m not shaken to my core. I don’t want to fall to my knees and weep from the joy like so many people I know at least pretend to do. I don’t feel the passion and strength from those words. To be honest, I’m not sure I even believe them.
Now, let me just add in the caveat that I know that not all Christians are bad. St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis will always be a beacon of charity, hope, love, and faith for me. That church was my true north for a decade and is, to this day, probably the only religious institution that I trust. The problem is that the good Christians are far outnumbered by the bad – by people who want nothing more than to suppress or oppress those around them for various lifestyle practices or beliefs. I used to have to spend holidays with my extended family, listening to hateful talk about gay people or minorities. These words were flowing from the mouths of practicing, proselytizing Christians.
Since I’ve made the decision to push the “pause” button on my involvement with Christianity, I’m letting the dust settle. Do I believe in God, a larger, greater force who created this world and who loves us, His people? Absolutely. Do I believe everything else I’ve been taught these past 37 years, either through familial indoctrination or through my own exploration? No, I’m not so sure that I do. The more I study and explore, the more I find myself aligning with Native American spirituality and, in a lot of respects, I’m finding answers within Judaism.
Where I will end up, I have no idea. I know that for this year anyway, it means that there are no Christmas tree or Christmas decorations in my house. No lights, no crosses, no happy little signs of the season. I’m not pretending anymore. I’m no longer going to call myself something that I’m not sure I am or going through the motions of celebrating a holiday that leaves me feeling emotionless. Will my family be happy about my decisions if they find out? Probably not, but I don’t care. If I’ve made the wrong decisions, I’m sure I’ll answer for them on the other side.