This’ll probably be a shorter post than what normally goes up here.
I was doing some thinking the other night while commenting on a blog post about a pastor being fired from his church for posting (yes, just posting) an article about the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal. Naturally I jump on this topic as yet another proof of how Christianity’s a sham and a fraud. There was a mix of opinions and perspectives, but one woman, “DR,” stood out. She posted this reply to one of my comments:
I can’t imagine a reasonable person who cares about good things, possesses a sound mind and character and who’s gay would ever choose “Jesus” as a result of what the church offered you (nothing but abuse). I’m a Christian – that you rejected what we offered to you was probably the healthiest decision you could have ever made for yourself spiritually and emotionally (maybe even physically).
I’m sorry. An apology or a thousand apologies will never be enough to repair the damage we’ve done. And it’s our fault we allowed this to continue, even those of us who didn’t ever buy into that nonsense taught. We weren’t loud enough, we weren’t strident enough. We weren’t brave enough to stand up for you. I am now but it’s too little too late for so many of you who experienced such rejection and devastation as a result of what Christians did. But it’s our responsibility now to clean up this mess that we’ve caused, to try to repair the damage these beliefs have done to our country – and hopefully, just leave you alone in peace.
I nearly cried reading and re-reading that—but, of course, I’m a man so I stoically held them back. (Kidding! I don’t have a soul, that’s why I don’t cry!)
It made me stop and think why I’m so angry at the Church, and at God. I have to wonder just how much of my anger is really still at Seth. After all, his final rebuffing of me, on my birthday no less, was the final straw in my haystack of doubt that led me to walk away from Christianity. And I want to be totally honest in my reasons for being a non-theist and do it because it’s what I really believe.
I’ve written about this before, but part of my reason for sticking with Christianity for as long as I did was because of Seth. He was a Christian and future pastor, and frankly I’d never met a guy like him before who seemed to think the way that I did about faith and what the church should be. He was radical and passionate, and loved people, and I loved all of that about him. And I wanted to be a Christian because it meant being part of him and what he was doing. So when he rejected me and my feelings for him that night on my birthday, that whole identity was shattered. It was already falling to pieces by the time I met Seth, but that second rejection was the coup de grâce. If there was to be no Seth in my world, then there would be no more God in my world; and if no God, no religion.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there hadn’t been God in my world… for some time. He’d gradually slipped away piece by piece over the years as I’d studied the bible in an attempt to (ironically) better understand my faith, and to reconcile faith and homosexuality. And God was a part of the past that I was holding on to, like a security blanket.
And, truth be told, there is also a bit of a mean-spirited, bitter component to my ire towards religion—a part of me that doesn’t want anyone else to find happiness and contentment in the church. “They are all deluding themselves! There is no God. It’s a façade, a fiction!” And I am angry that I can’t be part of Seth’s church, as I’d hoped to. And not just his either—my friends Adam, Jenny and Joe are all in it too. My roommates Mark and Emily are probably going to join too, and I can’t join them, so yet again I’m the perennial outsider, and the only role I know to play is the Satan character. (I’m usually cast as the villain in a show, partly because I’m good at it.)
Part of me wants to still believe in God—the part that longs for transcendence, that hopes against all hopes that this world isn’t all there is and that there is a larger purpose and design for it; that no matter how dark it gets, or how lonely I am (which is too often these days) that there is someone compassionately listening, understanding, comforting.
And then I see those words and realize how I’m falling for the emotional bullshit all over again. I’ve never had a direct experience with God. I had religious experiences as a teen and young adult, but never ones that couldn’t be explained rationally afterward. I’ve never been healed, or known anyone who has been healed. I’ve never heard a voice, or had a vision, or whatever else counts as a “religious experience.”
To the best of my knowledge, that is all we have of God—a sense that He exists, that we are not alone, that He’s hearing our prayers. But wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true.
Seth was only that catalyst that tipped me over the edge, in a direction I was headed when I met him. Between how my parents raised me and the lack of answers from the Christian community, it’s surprising I didn’t become an atheist sooner. Doesn’t mean the old familiar ache doesn’t spring up from time to time, and make me miss Seth, or God, or the church, or the community and fellowship that I once enjoyed.
Still doesn’t necessarily make any of it true.