Deconstructing My Faith & Retrieving My Personhood

October 27, 2007 at 12:05 am 11 comments

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.

- MysteryOfIniquity

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Reflections: Where was God on 9/11? Does God love everybody?

11 Comments

  • 1. The de-Convert  |  October 28, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    MOI,

    Thanks for sharing. Your blog and your contributions here on d-C have been a source of inspiration to many of us who’ve struggled with our de-conversion process. Your honesty with the draw to return to certain aspects of the faith while rejecting others have helped put into words some of our own struggles.

    Looking forward to you new blog persona. Hopefully the new persona will also sign up to contribute here on d-C :)

    Paul

  • 2. mysteryofiniquity  |  October 28, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the encouragement! :-) I’ve got great respect for you and folks like HIS, Rebecca, and Stellar1 who have striven mightily for sanity in this contentious world and who provide a forum for honest expression. If I’m anything it’s honest, in my attempt to chronicle the journey and in laying it all out there for all to see, no matter where the journey leads!

    One thing I’m sure of: institutional Christianity needs to change if it will survive and not be lost in the sea of religions we are already awash in and in which good people are drowning. Blessings on you!

  • 3. marie  |  October 28, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    MOI!

    Hi, this was great to read. You hit it on the head so well. It is amazing the narrow interpretation of human life that those magazines suggest is the ONLY way to live. If life was supposed to be Christianity Today, then why didn’t God just make everyone speak English so they could all be enlightened in the American christian agenda that wouldnt be proclaimed for over 6,000 years (NOT my number) after creating the world?

    many kudos

  • 4. OneSmallStep  |  October 28, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    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.

    As humanity goes forward, future-wise, I’m wondering if Christianity will alter it’s claims to the ultimate truth. As you say, no two churches really seem to believe 100% alike. And I often find that when debating the logistics behind faith or any religion, it ultimately comes down to “I know it in my heart” or that they have faith in the little they know, and will find out the rest after death.

    Yet the very word “truth” carries some high expectations. If we say some scientific fact is truth, there should be a truckload of evidence supporting that truth, and being able walk us throught that path. Can we the same about any religion?

    So I’m wondering if Christianity will eventually alter itself to say that it has pieces of this ultimate truth, rather than *the* ultimate truth, since so much lacks answers.

    , but please, does anyone else EVER think this way? She mourns being first?

    The flip side to this is that if the husband already had one wife, it was probably a huge learning experience for him, one that he can apply to his second marriage. His second wife might be in a much worse situation if it weren’t for that first marriage.

  • 5. karen  |  October 28, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks for this, MOI. I’m surprised – though I guess I really should not be – at how backwards CT still is. I somehow got the impression that the magazine was rather “liberal” when I was a fundy. :-) Pretty funny, now that I’m looking at things from a completely different perspective.

    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. My. Goodness. From what I know of Piper, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was asserting that masturbation makes you blind with hairy palms, too. Piper is the guy who tucked his daughter into bed the night of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis with the assurance that god caused the bridge to fail as a wakeup call of his wrath on all the nonbelievers in the city. Nice bedtime reassurance, huh? ;-)

    As for the second wife, what in the world was the point of that article? How do her husband and kids/ stepkids feel about her airing her grievances about how unhappy and unfulfilled she is being “second-hand goods”? Isn’t it her own fault for not holding out for a man who’s never been married, if that was such a high priority for her? Weird.

    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.

    YES! That’s the ticket, finally realizing that you are strong enough, and moral enough to have survived All On Your Own! It’s so hard for us, because we immediately and reflexively reject that realization as “prideful” or “sinful” – and yet once we allow ourselves to embrace it, it feels so great and so “right.” It’s incredibly empowering to know that you did it all by yourself.

    Remember Dumbo, who was convinced he could only fly whilst clutching the magic feather? Once he dropped the feather, and didn’t crash and burn, he knew he’d been capable all along. This is a wonderful perk of deconversion. :-) My best to you in your journey.

  • 6. Suse A Doodle  |  October 29, 2007 at 1:36 am

    **Shudder**

    You know, I don’t believe any of that junk that magazine is trying to say is “officially” fom God. I’ll gladly reject that kind of religion — and I don’t care what name it gives itself. It can call itself “Christianity” — but it does not speak for all Christians. (THANK GOD!)

    There are some who can discern the errors in the teachings as clearly as you have discerned the grave errors put into print there. Unfortunately, there are far too many who have been told that to doubt or question the authority of their leaders is a sin. And all that stuff from that magazine is flaky; but I know people who will accept it as truth that must be embraced.

    I guess that by agreeing with you it might look like I am encouraging you to continue to reject God because of the necessity to reject those who claim to speak in His name. All I’m trying to do is say not all are blind to the lies, the inconsistancies; and I encourage you to use your ability to “divide” truth from error along with a desire to find the truth.

    You say, “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.” The definition of Christianity is so messed up these days. Let’s just say that I agree with you to the extent that “Christianity as ‘they’ define it is not normal for any life.” The loudest voices out there, trying to define Christianity and morality and how we should all live — are a very small minority. However, they are loud, they are intimidating enough (through fear tactics) that they have built up a following who support them financially, so they can be louder and more intimidating and more fear-mongering. Even so, they are a minority who have convinced far too many that they speak for the vast majority. It’s time for the majority to contradict them with actions not words. The crazy wackos are great ratings draws; the quiet doers are not. I expect the “definition” to keep getting skewed further and further into the loony arena; I expect more and more, both inside and outside the cicus tent to reject it all. How sad.

  • 7. Oxysmoron  |  October 29, 2007 at 3:39 am

    I am 52 yrs old and for the first time in my life I now am learning who God is and desire to know the WHOLE of God; not just what many others try to tell me God is.

    There are things about Him which scare me… and yet I believe Him.

    There are things about Him which makes me so glad to know He is on my side.

    I loved my earthly father and I had a great respect and too a great fear of him.

    Guess you could say I do the same with God… greatly respect and yes I do fear Him.

    On both accounts I am still not intimidated by either one, because I know my earthly father was not a religious man and is neither is God. God doesn’t want me to be intimidated by Him, He wants me to ( just as my father had done), come and talk it out with Him… pay no attention to what others tug and pull and dictate to you… who the heck are you following anyway… them or Him? My dad I did not always agree with, but I respected what he thought and while in his house I did accordingly… the same applies with the Lord… I don’t have to agree with Him, but I believe Him… and take His word for what it is. I ask Him to help me understand His reasoning and too ask Him to RENEW my thoughts; for I had been so conformed by the world and honestly it made me ill…

    the renewal process is gaining on me and not due to following in the steps of another, but listening to what He has to say and in this I see a different me.

    I like the change and I don’t miss hanging out with the “in crowd”; even when it is disguised as christianity. .

  • 8. mysteryofiniquity  |  October 29, 2007 at 7:24 am

    Marie,

    Lovely point! We are all not only anthropocentric but Americocentric as well. I think I made up that second word? :-) I’m glad you liked it.

  • 9. mysteryofiniquity  |  October 29, 2007 at 7:30 am

    Hi Karen,

    Yes, the magazine did used to offer to good “alternative” Christian thinking at one time, but I think it’s only a token gesture to the liberal crowd to show they can focus on “all” sides. I thought it was strange as well, but the whole issue seemed kind of a slap in the face of current culture, which I’m sure it was.

    Yes, the little blurb by Ginger was creepy and it was in a small sidebar, again tossed out there to illustrate the point that divorce and remarriage are NOT GOOD. How to explain then the many wonderful second marriages? We all make mistakes early on, but in Christianity these are never forgotten or forgiven. Oh, we may be forgiven “in Christ” but in Christian circles you are always the divorced one, or the homosexual, or the girl who “lost” her virginity before marriage. Talk about pigeonholing you!

    I think one of the biggest hurdles for me was to see that I didn’t grow stronger through the church. I grew stronger in SPITE of the church.

  • 10. mysteryofiniquity  |  October 29, 2007 at 7:37 am

    Suse A Doodle,

    You wrote:
    “I guess that by agreeing with you it might look like I am encouraging you to continue to reject God because of the necessity to reject those who claim to speak in His name. All I’m trying to do is say not all are blind to the lies, the inconsistancies; and I encourage you to use your ability to “divide” truth from error along with a desire to find the truth.”

    Then you and I are on the same page. I’m not rejecting “God” whatever that may be. I’m rejecting Christianity, the cult that grew up around Jesus. To me that is the ultimate division of truth from error. Some Christians assume that because I question and criticize, that automatically that makes me an unbeliever. On the contrary, I am a committed agnostic who believes that Jesus may change some people’s lives, including my own, but the institution of Christianity kills the soul.

    However, I do appreciate your understanding of the differences between genuine faith and the need to control others, of which position the magazine takes the latter.

  • 11. mysteryofiniquity  |  October 29, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Oxysmoron,

    It’s interesting that you equate God with your father so much. I truly believe that our culture’s ideas of a punitive God come directly from our anthropomorphizing God with our human fathers’ traits. NOT a good thing. Sure, it’s great if your dad was the best dad in the world, but it sure does suck when God is a tyrant who punishes capriciously, says He won’t hold our sins against us but does anyway, or anything else we find in the Old Testament and preached about by Paul in the new.

    Jesus may have come to challenge that image, but the father equation is too ingrained in people’s hearts and minds. And why must that be? Who decides that God is “father?” Every cultures’ god or gods resemble the cultures from which they spring. There seems to be no universal consensus about the characteristics of God except that God is a punisher of bad deeds which feeds our desperate need for vengeance in hard times. (why is there never consensus on good aspects of God? It’s always “God is good, but….)

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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