“I would be willing to give up Christianity.”
This was the thought that went through my mind at age 19.
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion – R.E.M.
I know that I was in the middle of a series about heresy, but I am taking a break from that for this post. I was reminded of this past week, as Joshua Harris who wrote a popular book on Christian relationships in the ’90s and was the pastor of a megachurch, made a statement about his faith process that he is on right now.
Here is his statement:
I have read response after response about this news this week. I sat back and watched as the Christian community, for the most part, blasted him. Some responses accused Joshua of saying things that he didn’t even say in his post. Some have said, “he never really was a Christian!” It has been crazy!
A few years ago I started a project that I never fully finished. The project was to share my story of almost walking away from Christianity and helping people in similar space to where I have been to be able to process healthily. Our current Christian circles don’t naturally give healthy and non-judgmental space for someone to wrestle with their faith.
Learning about Joshua Harris’s process this week, and watching the Christian community respond trigged something in me, where a part of me was recalling this past season of doubt, struggle, and pain that was lonely as I saw Joshua’s announcement play out.
I opened up my project that I was working on years ago and the last part that I wrote was dated to 2017. I feel compelled to share a portion of my project with you.
Faith, doubt, and deconstruction is real and not simple. It is painful and lonely. Normally, the Christian community hasn’t and doesn’t know how to walk with someone without throwing out judgment.
Here is a clip of my project, but more personally… here is a bit of my story:
I was willing to let go of my Christian faith that I grew up until this point. I was willing to lose my religion.
If Christianity was legitimate, what I seemed to see and what I was raised to believe holistically (or lack thereof) was a dumbed down, mutated, and a less than version of what Jesus intended. It seemed to be an impostor. If Christianity was the truth and hope for the world, I’ve been unknowingly off course, heading in the wrong direction.
Looking back on it now, I resonate with the words of Brian Zahnd:
The unease I felt came from a deeper place than a mental file labeled “theology.” I was wrestling with the uneasy feeling that the faith I had built my life around was somehow deficient. Not wrong, but lacking. It seemed watery, weak. In my most honest moments, I couldn’t help but notice that the faith I knew seemed to lack the kind of robust authenticity that made Jesus so fascinating. And I had always been utterly fascinated by Jesus. What I knew was that the Jesus I believed in warranted a better Christianity than what I was familiar with. I was in Cana and the wine had run out. I needed Jesus to perform a miracle.”
― Brian Zahnd, Water To Wine: Some of My Story (purchase here)
During my freshmen year in college I went on a road trip with my friend Jamie. Jamie is one of those people that you hang out with once and want to invite to the next party. He is such a warm and funny person. The college that I was going to was in Omaha Nebraska. He was in Colorado Springs where I grew up. We wanted to go to Wisconsin where I had some friends and where he was raised. He drove from Colorado Springs to Omaha, picked me up, and then we drove the rest of the way to the Milwaukee area.
We spent time in Wisconsin seeing both his friends, family, and some of my friends. After a few days, we had to start heading back so that I can be to class to next day.
If ever you have been to Wisconsin and have headed south to Rockford, IL, you may know that there is a beltway system that wraps around the city. If you miss your turn to keep heading south the highway will shoot you back east toward Chicago. We didn’t have GPS. We just had a road atlas that we would refer to every so often, but we were having such a great time listening to music and telling stories! Before we knew it, we were almost to Chicago. We had gone about an hour and a half in the wrong direction and had not realized it until we saw a sign. Before we knew it we were very far off course.
Was my faith direction off course?
Was the faith system that I was raised in and following up until this point heading off course? Getting off course is sometimes a slow movement that over time will take you fully away from where you need to be. Sometimes you are journeying and realize this and make adjustments. Sometimes if you are in a position of influence, you may know you are off course, but do nothing to correct your direction, because you may loose people who are following you or what you have built. Unfortunately, there are people who will head off course and never know or never want to know about it. They will defend their direction, even though they have not checked their map or compass in a long time for themselves.
A famous theologian and psychology professor named Dallas Willard said:
“Recently a pilot was practicing high–speed maneuvers in a jet fighter. She turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent – and flew straight into the ground. She was unaware that she was flying upside down.
This is a parable of human existence in our times – not exactly that everyone is crashing, though there is enough of that – but most of us as individuals, and world society as a whole, live at high-speed, and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right-side up. Indeed, we are haunted by a strong suspicion that there may be no difference – or at least that it is unknown or irrelevant.“
― Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (Purchase Here)
I had two options at this point. I needed a course correction or I needed to get off the Christian faith journey that I was on all together. It was a matter of integrity and being true to myself, and the God that I still believed in. Something needed to change! I didn’t know how, but I was willing to take my time, be responsible with the Bible and history, and really weigh everything that I believed, was taught to believe, or experienced with care.
I began to unpack and reexamine everything that I had been raised to believe. I still remember how it felt to tell myself that “I would be willing to leave it all behind and walk away, if that was the conclusion that I would come to”. I was beginning to and willing to lose my religion, but I had to do this in order to have any chance of finding a faith that I would be willing to live and die for. Little did I know that I would have to dig really deep and many hard and painful thoughts along with past experiences would come to the surface. I would find moments that included rigid religious environments and spiritual trauma that had affected my view and direction up until this point.