The “best” Christians I’ve ever known were my grandparents. They were active in their church to the point of beatification, and positively affected the lives of many people.They read the Bible in its entirety every year. My grandmother became very upset if someone ate anything without praying and giving thanks. I am having a hard time trying to capture their spirit and their faith as I write this, so perhaps I won’t even try, but trust me they were inspirational.
They died in a car crash.
One very tragic night that lives with me forever, two people who meant the most to me in this human world gone forever. No matter how much time elapses, the raw pain of this ordeal does not seem to decrease.
My life has never been the same. In some ways, it was the best thing that could have happened to me, which sounds odd and certainly twisted. They were my best friends on earth–a 60 year age difference did not matter at all. As soon as I got my own car aged 16, I started driving the 60 miles to visit them more often. I brought all my puppy-love boyfriends to meet them. They served a unique purpose in my upbringing–my parents were pretty unstable and frankly unsuited for the task at hand, so my grandparents were in some ways more like my parents.
When they died, my parents became more religious. When they died, I walked away from Christianity…
I struggled as a youngster to unite Christianity and Science. I wanted the two things to agree. I wanted these two aspects of my life to gain consistency. I did silly things, like conscientiously objecting to the teaching of evolution in my 10th grade science class, and instead did a self-study courtesy of the Institute for Creation Research which makes me blush to this day. As an older, college-age Christian, I was enthralled with Hugh Ross and hoped that it was all starting to fall into place. But in the end, the dichotomy crumbled and my de-conversion took place. I managed to escape before Intelligent Design took over as the creationist model of choice, although my poor parents keep buying me books on the subject.
I am a scientist first and foremost, and my life is defined by the concept of falsifiable hypotheses. Religion is not falsifiable, and therefore it can never be consistent with science. We can try to explain things, either in a Christian sense or an Atheist sense, but they will never be proven. I disagree with Dawkins in some aspects of this, as I don’t believe we can claim the non-existance of God any more than we can prove it. I am not interested in fundamental research trying to “prove” the origins of life are purely biological any more than I try to prove that they are not. I am mystified by the fuss over “Expelled” right now since anything designed to preach to the converted is destined to do only that. I don’t believe that scientific evidence is the key in the religious debate…
One of my biggest mistakes as young uber-Christian, although clearly not my only one, was in misunderstanding the role of sex in a happy romantic relationship. I don’t think it’s that unusual for this crowd: frankly the irony is that abstinence-based sex-ed seems to translate into “we never talk about sex except to say ‘don’t do it!’ Well, don’t do it until you’re married.”
My only parental guidance on this subject was Josh McDowell’s book from the “Why Wait” series. My youth pastor at church referred to losing one’s virginity as analogous to a baseball crashing through a plate-glass window: you were left to pick up the pieces and you could never reclaim what you once had.
The problem is, and I’m far from the first person to notice this, that it is then hard to turn overnight from an angel to a vixen. The whole thing is tainted–and I don’t buy the Born Agains who claim that they can get the guidance they need to make this transition through prayer and study of the gospels. Yes, you need to study. No, I don’t think the information you need is in the words of Paul. Nor is it in pornography, another Christian favorite (for reasons that boggle the mind).
I know this one far too well and from painful personal experience. I was the good girl who got married too young as a dressed-in-white virgin, in a wedding doomed for failure involving another (technical) virgin…
What exactly does faith provide in a secular world, and what is the future of the church? These were issues addressed in a recent talk I got to see by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and head of the Church of England, who was accompanied by his second-in-command the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. I walked away from the experience wholly unsatisfied. There were a number of real questions that I found problematic in the dialog.
Question 1: What is the point of the Christianity in secular society? In a world where neither morals nor ethics require a religious connection, where atheists exhibit both, and where laws exist to keep a society in check, where personal fulfillment is associated with achievement in the workplace or otherwise, how does the Christianity fill a necessary role?
The answer presented (and I apologise that I cannot recall which Archbishop said it) was that a Christian faith presents the “forgiveness of sins” and that this was fundamental. It immediately brought to mind the idea of a snake-oil salesman, uttering the conversion tactic used by evangelicals, “you have a problem… SIN! But I have a cure! Christ.”…
I was in line at my local mega-chain bookstore last night when I realized the person paying at the register in front of me was a man, wearing a long wig, make-up, long painted fingernails, a number of flashy rings, earrings, and a diamond-ique nose ring. It is not the first time I have run into a person who was cross-dressing, but my immediate reaction was pity. Oh no, the poor guy, so uncomfortable in his skin that he feels the need to walk around in public assuming another identity.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. How was I any different?
I stumbled upon, and was drawn to, this particular community because it’s been hard for me to “come out” as an agnostic to my family and to some of my friends. Many hours of my life are spent dressed up as a good Christian by implication and in the absence of evidence to the contrary. I simply have not been able to face them all with the, “I’m sorry, I don’t believe what you believe anymore” line.
What makes it so difficult to truthfully acknowledge a new agnostic view to Christians around you? Obviously there must be a strong fear of judgement that is all-consuming…
Why do people make a big show of praying before meals in public, at restaurants? This is one thing about dining out with my family that makes me crazy. As a recovering former Evangelical I find the public prayer thing about as comfortable as when people embark on public displays of affection at the “get a room” level. Restaurant prayer is like a piece of performance art. If it was really just about the prayer itself and the need to appeal to God before dining surely it could be done silently and to oneself.
Given that this little ritual seems to be quite popular in some circles, it becomes important to consider what to do with your status as a conscientious objector when the time arises. How should you conduct yourself if someone in your dinner party assumes that it’s time for public prayer and does the “grab hands bow heads start reciting” thing in your presence? There is substantial peer pressure to participate. Yet, I really want to not participate.
At some basic level, I postulate that it relates to another issue which I find is quite pervasive in my family of Evangelicals. There is a tacit assumption that everyone in the room always agrees. There are a set of suitable beliefs, including megachurch-style Evangelical Christianity and a deep admiration for George Bush, and everyone is expected to have these beliefs. The participation in public prayer is just another of the unwritten behavior rules that govern the pack. Nod your heads, don’t question, vote as you are told…