Deconstructing My Faith & Retrieving My Personhood
DISCLAIMER: What follows is my personal opinion and in no way represents anyone’s scholarship but my own.
Painting courtesy of Christine Vaillancourt
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Christianity for the last 20 years. It’s been a long, long time since I fully, truly believed in its tenets or its “authority.” At one time I would have defended it to the death if I had to. But, things started going downhill for me when I first discovered that there were hundreds and thousands of different beliefs and doctrines and sects. Most of the differences were within the Christian church alone. I should have taken my first clue from the fact that no two churches believed 100% alike, even the Catholic Church which claimed to be the ULTIMATE truth. I think when I first realized that there was no unity of belief or doctrine, it set the stage for everything that followed.
The next sacred cow to be murdered was the doctrine of the inerrancy of the bible. Once that stranglehold of “faith” was broken, I could think clearly for the first time. It’s as if a breath of fresh air descended upon me. Some say education truly begins when you can step outside of your binding beliefs and see the world from another’s eyes. Don’t just imagine it. Truly step inside another’s beliefs and LIVE it for a while. Only then are you attempting to learn. So, university showed me that looking at an institution from the inside is not the only picture of the institution. You need to step out of the building and walk around it and peer in so that you get the whole picture. Observe it, take notes, interview others. Those who are peering at the world through the pages of a book will never get the whole picture. They need to close the book and start looking at and experiencing the world directly. They need to quit forcing something upon themselves and learn to live from the inside out.
All these steps were vital in forming my world view AND for simultaneously deconstructing my world view. (I’m not using the term as literary theory uses it (nod to Derrida), but as a literal unpacking and examining of contents). In fact, I think the prepackaged world view Christianity offered to paste over my personality was beginning to self destruct the moment I first began believing in it. I just didn’t realize it at the time. Well, how much I truly disagreed with Christianity came to the fore this morning when I cracked open the cover of the October issue of Christianity Today. The entire issue was devoted to Christianity’s chief bugaboos: the sexual “sins” of Divorce, Homosexuality, and Masturbation. Yes the old DHM, the trinity of sins that dare not speak it’s name. Oh there were other things sprinkled throughout the magazine on a variety of prepackaged subjects, but the offenses against my beliefs were almost too numerous to mention. First there is a wishful thinking article called “The Death of Blogs” by Ted Olson. Olson wants to believe desperately that the democratizing internet and the art of blogging will fall by the wayside soon. I suspect because atheism and the subsequent blogs about atheism are making huge inroads in challenging Christianity and exposing the charlatans of the movement. They sooooo want everyone to get back in the closet and keep quiet. Fortunately, this won’t happen soon.
The next offense was a series of articles about divorce and remarriage. While it may have been a good analysis of biblical ideas of divorce, I was totally put off by Ginger Kolbaba who writes that she is pretty peeved that she is second in her husband’s marriage career. She says it’s like being the Runner up at a beauty pageant. You “win” but nobody knows about it. She then says,
That pageant is the story of my marriage. I’m a runner-up wife, I’m not a first in my husband’s life. I’m a second. And, technically, I’ll always be second. Yes, I got the crown and all the privileges; the parades, the photo-ops, a great trophy husband. But I never got to experience the applause for being announced as first. His ex-wife experienced the firsts with him: first walk down the aisle, first love, first sexual experience, first house, first child….There are moments when I mourn that, when I mourn the loss of my dream to be the first (33).
There are so many things wrong with this statement and the rest of the article, and on so many levels, that I’ll let you sort it all out for yourself, but please, does anyone else EVER think this way? She mourns being first? It sounds to me like someone living in la-la land, not to mention that what she imagines are his firsts, probably really aren’t! I wouldn’t care if my husband married me after a disastrous first marriage. I could care less if he had sexual experience “first” with someone else. I do not worship or idolize virginity. It’s irrelevant to any future relationship. I could go on, but you get the idea.
The next set of articles spoke of the ex-gay movement in Christianity and the very few Christian “researchers” who are trying desperately to disprove that homosexuality is genetic or deny that it is something so innate it cannot be changed. Never mind that more reputable scholars have proven them wrong again and again. They still search on and try to convince themselves that it’s the unforgivable sin. (Oh, wait, the unforgivable sin was divorce!) The usual father and mother blaming is implied, as well as the refusal to see the opposite stance, that homosexuality is not in some dichotomous dance with heterosexuality. They refuse to see that all beings have the ability to be omnisexual. There aren’t just two sexes; that indeed some are born both sexes. What are they? Nor do they explain why some people are bisexual. Again, they assume that what is the norm for them is the norm for the whole world. Even then it’s only focused on men. Why? Because the reasons they give for male homosexuality do not jibe with the reasons for lesbianism. The mish-mash of theories goes on. Yet, they use language that alcoholics use when they say, “the urge never goes away.” Excuse me? I thought it was curable. Hmmm. Sounds like heterosexuality to me. Can we change that? The senseless demonization goes on.
After making my way through a specious article by John Piper about the sexual “failure” in the act of masturbation, I’d had enough. The only failure is such medieval views of sexuality exhibited in this issue. Oh and don’t forget this gem of a quote from Chuck Colson’s closing column, “We worship at the altar of the bitch goddess of tolerance.” On that note, I was done. It never occurred to me all at once before, as it did at that very moment, how much Christianity tries to force you into a particular mode of life, regardless of your genetic makeup, your background, your hormones, or your brain activity. The cult of Christianity appeals to our emotions first by offering itself as a panacea for all problems. It sentimentally offers Jesus as someone who will stand invisibly by your side and LISTEN to everything you have to say (and conversely watch sternly everything you do). But after reality sets in, AND IT WILL SET IN, we are offered a panoply of further teachings to try to “explain” why people consistently fail to live up to the Christian message. I know I failed at it consistently. Then I realized something.…I didn’t fail. I realized that Christianity is not a normal way of life. I realized that it wasn’t Christianity that got me through the hard, hard childhood and teen years. It was me. And I did it through my strength and through my experience in life. Christianity is based on 1st century concepts and morals that were never meant to explain to or provide for the 21st century audience. It is a theory imposed from the outside onto people who are so different and so wonderfully complex that to force us into prefab jell-o molds of philosophy and thought is the height of absurdity. Most people come to their senses and realize what they’ve been trying to do with yet another world philosophy. But sadly others don’t. Like me they hang tenaciously onto the “fun” times, like a divorced couple who remembers all the good times and not the bad, and who keep reconciling. Only to realize that it never worked and will not work again. It’s irretrievably broken. It’s time to move on.
I think, for me, it’s finally time to move on. To stop trying to force my life into what Christians say it should be. It no longer fits and I have grown out of the desperate need that precipitated my move toward faith to begin with. There’s nothing like reading about something and hearing your inner voice saying, “No, no, that’s not what I believe. That’s not me” to make you realize how much it no longer fits. How disagreeable such a hateful and narrow faith system really is. I think I’m finally ready to lay it down for the last time.
Finally, I think it’s time to retire this blog persona and, like the chameleon, morph into someone who doesn’t cause so much consternation to others.