This post was inspired by a note I received after the last blog ….. and since I know that at least a few of my post-Christian friends read BTG, I thought I’d put this in an open letter.
To my post-Christian friends,
I wish I could say I understand some of the tension and residue that tugs on your mind and heart ….. because I really do want to understand and enter in and be present with you. But it would be presumptuous in a big way to suggest that I do understand. I’m not gay. And I have not disrobed myself of a worldview and system of faith. And while I know the pain and disappointment of judgment, rejection and hypocrisy in the Body of Christ, my life still had enough connection with majority privilege that I could find enough of a place to feel that I belonged. I know that some of you at a deeper and more intimate place absorbed a distorted message from the church that you did not belong – and I know that this wounded you in a way that goes beyond words, beyond explanations or excuses, beyond feeble attempts to fix. When I ponder this, I am deeply grieved, outraged, overwhelmed and so very sorry.
I know that your path away from Christian faith is a complex weaving of your experiences, your hurts, anger and understandable resentment, and your intellect. I know that most Christians you encounter feel anxiety about your autonomous decision to leave the system of Christian faith – and that you can sense this anxiety directed at you in a number of unhelpful ways. I know you’ve been made to feel like a project. That it has been dehumanizing to you to feel like people only care about a transactional reinstatement of peculiar belief to ensure that you are saved and others can breathe a sigh of relief.
And I know that there isn’t a simple way to resolve this paradox that emerges in every relationship you have with a follower of Jesus. The nature of Christian faith is to want others to share it with you. The idea of loving a friend means to do everything you can to invite (which can also read persuade, convince, or sometimes even manipulate or coerce) the ones you love into your system of faith. And with post-Christian gay friends – this can become even more complicated by the way a system of faith suggests that such same-sex sexuality ought to be stewarded. This paradox makes some friendships essentially impossible – conversations don’t feel safe or free of agenda, experiences can’t really be shared or celebrated because the gulf is too great. I know that this has spelled loss in a multitude of ways.
I can only imagine what it is like to feel like you have to fight every moment you are with Christian family members or friends ….. fight in the sense of standing up for yourself, standing up for your self-acceptance and sense of identity, standing up for your relationship choices and the one you love, standing up for your worldview, philosophical foundation, personal values …. and perhaps to constantly feel like all of these things are under critique and under pressure to change. Gosh, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
I can picture the ways you feel disrespected at times. Your intellect questioned. Your values judged. Assumptions made.
And while I have not left my faith, I have wrestled deeply, questioned outrageously and at times wondered if the thread by which I was continuing to hang on to faith would sustain me. I know the bloody carnage of butchering my own personal sacred cows – and longing for the church at large to have the guts to throw a good ‘ol beef bbq. I know a sense of hopelessness that the system is broken and there is no concrete remedy on the horizon. I know what it is to feel the fear in the pit of my stomach that others would reject me if they knew the cyclone in my mind and heart. And I know what it is, at least to some degree, to feel like I don’t fit, like I’m an alien in the church.
As I connect with others in ministry, particularly pastors, I inevitably find occasional kindred spirits – those who know well what the dark night of the soul is, those who can’t always reconcile the dissonance of God’s character and sovereignty with all the crap they encounter in people’s lives and the world around them. It seems this used to be quite the secret club replete with passwords and ritualistic hand-shakes …. well ok not really ….. but hidden none-the-less. More and more, however, I hear people daring and risking to air these questions, these doubts and these struggles. More pastors realize that their humanity, transparency and vulnerability are a vital part of authentically serving and walking with others in the journey of faith. These conversations meander from doubts about God’s existence, to personal disappointment and anger with God and the church, to cognitive quandaries regarding science, miracles, interpretive labyrinths and yes, homosexuality. There is no doubt that agnostics step into the pulpits of many churches each Sunday …..sometimes cynical, sometimes grieving, sometimes genuinely wanting to love and serve, sometimes just hanging on for the paycheque to feed their family. We don’t often talk about this stuff – but maybe if we did, some folks in the pews would feel a little more understood. (Of course, others would demand certainty and confidence and security. And there are certainly pastors, leaders and Christians who truly don’t have doubt or questions.)
What I would want to say to you, my post-Christian friends, is that it is my heart to simply love you. It is my heart to simply trust that if the God I continue to be in relationship with is who I believe he says that he is, then he is more than able to make himself known to you in a manner that is perfectly tailored to who you are and how you might be most able to receive him. So, I would want you to know that I do my very best to not have an agenda for your life. I’m not perfect in that, of course. My mind cannot fathom all the mysteries of humanity, eternity, and love. I am not free of my own anxieties. I am prone to cling to control – even though I think I am letting go. But despite all this, I want to know you – and part of knowing you is accepting where you are right now – as I hope that you will be able to accept me where I am right now. I want to have honest and authentic conversations – conversations that are meaningful. I want to celebrate your humanity – though it will, inevitably, be filtered through my sense that you are created in the image of God, highly valued and valuable and simply and completely the Beloved. Through our friendships, our conversations and connections ….. my deepest hope is that in the end love will triumph. Indeed, that love will win. And if along the way I can be a small part in healing the rift with the church or with Christians, or in experiencing some sense of community and belonging, or in restoring hope in some particular sense …. for that I will be deeply humbled and grateful. Because the rest, I truly believe, is God’s gig – and he sets me free to befriend and love you right where you are.