I’m always a little scared to write these posts. Thankfully not in terms of my physical safety, which might actually be at risk were I to live and publish in some other, less accommodating parts of the world. I’m not scared of writing about myself for the public, either. I like writing, I think I’m pretty good at it, and creative nonfiction has always been my forte.
What I’m scared of writing about is this, a subject so dear to so many people who are themselves so dear to me: the church. With every post I publish on this blog, I worry about offending the people I love who love the church. I worry about what they think of me and whether they’re hurt. As I’ve mentioned many times before, and as is stated in the “About” section of this blog, I don’t write with the intention of riling anyone up but rather to speak to and comfort those who are already feeling what I’ve felt. Still, I know that religion--and Christianity in particular, it sometimes seems--can be a sensitive subject to breach.
Maybe I’m the one who’s being sensitive by feeling the need to write this, but I want to be clear that I don’t begrudge anyone their personally, thoughtfully chosen faith system. That is, I think if a person actively believes in the Christian narrative to one extent or another, they should go ahead and be a Christian. If a person finds more resonance with the church than dissonance, then they should participate. The reason I write these posts is because I don’t believe that story, and I'm not okay with church, and I think each person should be allowed the option to walk away just as they are allowed the option to enter. On the other hand, if your response is indeed a resounding ‘yes’ to all the Jesus stuff...well, I’m happy when others are happy, and if that makes you happy, go for it.
Though I write about a particular brand of Christianity and a particular kind of journey through (and away from) it, I always want to be the first to acknowledge that my experiences are not those of every person affiliated with the church. The truth is that I know many very educated, very intelligent, very compassionate, and very open-minded people who are devout believers. Interestingly, in my observations these tend to be people who came to the church of their own volition (as opposed to growing up in a religious household), usually as teenagers or older. Perhaps this goes to show that being “born again” can go in either direction--into or out of the church--and it is really just a matter of breaking through the boundaries of the worldview one was raised on, much like the concept of enlightenment. Either way, when a person says they’ve found something good, barring situations of abuse and manipulation, I think that it’s important to believe them, and I do try to stick to that tenent. I want that kind of respect from the people who see the world differently than I do, and thus I strive to give it out as well.
I’m not out to get the church, to expose fallacies or malice--though, to be honest, if it happens and it’s true, that’s fine with me. What I want is for this site to be for something as much as it’s against anything. As I wrote about in my post about The Unbelievers, one thing I appreciated about that documentary was how the atheists and free-thinkers it followed sought to create a safe and loving space for those not interested in religion. Similarly, the main reason I started this blog, despite all that worry and fear over the potential for offending, was to let people know they’re not alone--people like me who don’t want to start a fight but also can’t go on pretending that, for them, Christianity means much of anything anymore. Sometimes people stay with a religion because they feel they have nowhere else to go for community and support; in my opinion, that is not a good enough reason to be affiliated with anything, including (maybe especially) church.
I’ll probably always be worried that these posts are upsetting someone I have no interest in upsetting. For better or worse, the overly-concerned style is part of my personality in just about every context. That said, it does seem that something in me has decided that the significance of articulating a pro-non-Christian option is worth the risk of eroding the good thoughts with which I might previously have been regarded by some. Then again, maybe I’m not putting enough faith in these people, the believers with whom I have contact; maybe I should get over myself and realize we’re all adults here and of course they’re mature enough to hear a different, perhaps opposing, perspective and not take it personally.
I don’t know the answer; I just know I want everyone to be--or perhaps more importantly, to feel--free. Feel free to stick to the religion you were raised with, but also feel free to try on some others for size, or maybe slough them off all together and see how it goes. Do not believe the lie that when you do something new and scary for yourself, you’re somehow doing something that takes away from someone else. The decision you make with integrity will not diminish what anyone else has. On the contrary, your honest whole-ness only makes this world more beautiful. Maybe--just maybe--it will give others the courage to follow their inspiration over others’ expectations, too.