Sunday, August 01, 2010

Leaving Christianity

Finding out that one of my sons was gay sparked the beginning of a long and difficult journey that has been full of spiritual introspection. I am wracked with so much doubt and so many questions. And I am angry that so many of the people whom I had spent much of my life believing had all the answers were nothing more than sanctimonious frauds. I feel completely duped. It has now been 6 years and the seismic shift in my entire belief system has turned everything I once thought was true upside down. I am realizing that I will never find stable ground within the Church I once believed in. I am realizing that so many of the people who call themselves "good" Christians are also the ones who are preaching anti-gay hatred and working diligently to ensure that my son and millions of others are denied the dignity, respect, and rights everyone else takes for granted. The word "Christian" evokes nothing but a very negative connotation for me. And I now believe that Christianity is providing a convenient cover for too much bigotry, exclusion, and hatred.

This journey has been a mixed bag. It has brought my husband and I much closer together. It has brought my family much closer together. It has confirmed my unconditional love for all of my children -- no matter whom they choose to love. But it has also forever damaged my relationship with one of my four brothers, and rocked my faith in Catholicism, organized religion, and those who scream loudest about being "good" Christians. It has humbled me and brought me to my knees. And it has left me more confused than ever about my faith. Where I thought I had answers, I now know I have none. But one thing I do know for sure is that I cannot and will not call myself a Christian right now. That word, "Christian", for me, has come to represent too many painful things. For me that word has become the face of exclusion and bigotry. For me that word is homophobia and hate. For me that word is hypocrisy and faux self-righteousness. For me that word is permission to be hateful and un-Christ-like while hiding behind cherry-picked bible passages. For me that word is permission to single out one of my children and treat him as though he is a monster unworthy of respect, dignity, and the same rights everyone else enjoys.

Am I painting a whole swath of people with too broad a brush? Yes. But I do not claim to be the voice of reason right now. And in fact I know for a fact that I am not. No, I speak strictly as a mother, a mother of 3 kids who are my life. And as that mother, no one will single out one my children and demonize, dehumanize, or deny them rights in the name of their God and their religious beliefs. And right now, it is that segment of right-wing Christians who have the bullhorn and the national stage. And I cannot claim membership to that. Do I still believe in God? Yes, I think so. But I am not a Christian --- not by today's standards.

And apparently, I am not alone:

Gothic author Anne Rice has had a long and difficult road in search of religious truth and it is doubtful that her travels have ended. But she has made a significant change of course recently. She has left Christianity for the second time.

And later in the same article Ms. Rice is quoted as saying:

For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten ...years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.


As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

The article ends:

While Anne Rice has quit Christianity, she has not yet returned to atheism and secular humanism. But this is at least a strong step in the right direction and may inspire others to re-evaluate the morals that Christianity indoctrinates.

All I can say is this: the catalyst for Ms. Rice's journey may be slightly different than mine, but it's comforting to know I am not alone.

Hat tip JMG



Jarred said...

Wish I was there to give you a big hug.

Seething Mom said...

You know Jarred, I have wanted to give you a big hug for years now. Thanks for the thought.

atimetorend said...

Hi, I know this is an old post...

My wife and I chose not to attend my aunt's wedding to another woman. I wrote a letter affirming my sincere love for both my aunt and her wife, but said we could not attend the wedding in good conscience. There were those around me who thought I did not go far enough in condemning their relationship, or in explaining in clearer terms why I was opposed to it. But to be honest, I was not opposed to it. I just didn't feel I could celebrate it.

As you describe the spark of your journey, that was the spark that ignited mine. Well, not that, but my aunt's wife's strong negative reaction, as she was very hurt and offended. I have since left Christianity (conservative evangelical), and made amends with my aunts, but it still pains me to look back and see that I was willing to identify with conservative evangelicalism to the detriment and pain of others.

I am encouraged and challenged by your bold example of speaking out the way you have.

Seething Mom said...

After going over to your blog, a time to rend, and reading a number of your postings, and then re-reading the comment you left here on my blog, I simply must respond. I have so much respect and admiration for anyone who can revisit a firmly held belief and even admit a possible mistake. It could not have been easy to recount this story of your aunt's wedding, something that obviously still causes you pain even today. And that your aunt's wife's negative reaction provided the spark that started your reexamination of everything you'd believed in speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. You were obviously deeply affected by this incident and rather than entrenching yourself more deeply into firmly held beliefs, as many do, you chose to do some soul searching. Thank you for sharing this with me and the community who comes here. My heart was touched by what you've contributed to the discussion here.

atimetorend said...

Thank you very much for reading, and for your kind words, they mean a lot to me.