I woke up this morning, and realized that I’m grieving. I can feel the heaviness in my body, and the emotional anguish as I watch religious communities of which I was once a part.
As anyone who is familiar with my work knows, I have been on a long trek away from home and into the post-Christian landscape. I have explored atheism, Satanism, Buddhism, occultism, and about a million other isms. I’ve loved my time away from the doctrinally sound, and I’m finally free to explore and ask questions to my heart’s content.
But, there is also a sadness, and I can’t help but think that many other people must be feeling that sadness as well. I’m not the only one who has departed into the post-Christian frontier, and while that frontier is extraordinarily liberating and beautiful, it can also feel deeply lonely. I offer these reflections to you, my fellow wanderer, in the hope that we might be able to share some empathy.
I still move through Christian communities, and many of my dearest friends are still Christian. I have utmost respect for their intellect, their integrity, and their compassion. I still occasionally go to an Episcopal church, if only because I think the liturgy is beautiful.
However, even within the most progressive and welcoming of Christian circles, I find myself feeling like an outsider, like an interloper. A subtle shift has taken place over the past two years: I’m no longer part of the tribe, but an outsider welcomed with hospitality. That is a wonderful thing in itself — that so many Christians are still willing to welcome me into their places — but the shift is jarring. I’m looking in from the outside. And, it chafes my pride to admit it, but that hurts. There’s also nothing I can do about it.
I feel the most acute pain when people I love and admire feel conflicted and concerned over my loss of faith. They tell me how much my Christian writing impacted them, and with a certain measure of sorrow they tell me goodbye, as if someone they loved has died, or moved to a far away place. I could tell them that it’s my integrity that has led me out of the fold. But I don’t, because they already know that and it doesn’t make it any easier for anyone. All I can do is accept their love and pain, and move on. And, it fucking hurts.
It hurts the most coming from the LGBTQ Christian community which probably saved my life. They were the ones who walked me through the tumultuous years after leaving the ex-gay world, they were the ones who invited me to their churches when I was compulsively hooking up in a dangerous manner because I felt like unworthy filth, and they were the ones who got me into recovery for my addictions. They are my family, and it’s hard to feel separated from them.
All of this pain is simply necessary. All of it is part of growing, learning, and finding my own identity and beliefs. This is what we are here for, and it is only when we lean into the exquisite ache of grief that we can embrace the full spectrum of living.
If you are in a similar place, simultaneously liberated and grieved by your walk away from doctrinal belief, I share that space with you.
Do you relate? Please share your thoughts below.
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