Friday, November 16, 2007

Wish Me Luck: I May Be Coming Out Today

Today is the dreaded lunch date with my college discipler "Janet", whom I blogged about a few weeks ago. I am no closer to knowing what, or how much, I will tell her about my de-conversion. I will probably avoid the topic until it becomes unavoidable, and then say as little as possible. In that sense, I relate very much to Notabarbie's entry last month on Fear or Self-Preservation.

Speaking of Coming Out, last week I got two emails from college friends that I haven't been in touch with for years and years. They saw my Facebook profile in which I self-identify as "agnostic" and, naturally, out of Christian concern for my spiritual well-being, they got in touch. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, given that I have now publicly announced my lack of faith, but it was a bit weird to hear from people that I am not the least bit close to anymore.

To their credit, they weren't jerks about it. The first friend simply noted that she had seen it, and offered to chat if I ever felt like it (but no pressure to). She asked if it was related to me having dated a gay man (!). The second friend started blaming himself for my downfall, recalling a mailing list email exchange years ago in which some conservative Christian on the list made some obnoxious statements to which I responded, to which he responded criticizing me and defending his original obnoxious views. The friend who emailed me blamed himself for not stepping into the email exchange to confront the obnoxious guy, thereby letting me believe that Christians all believe the obnoxious tripe and driving me away from the faith. Kind of a sweet thought, actually, but it was truly laughable to me that he would think my faith could be dismantled by one unsavory email exchange.

Still, so far the Christians who have been my friends at some point over the years have been more gracious than I expected. As I mentioned in a comment on a previous blog entry, I went to a wedding last weekend with a lot of old Christian friends - and to their credit, none of them treated me differently or badly or tried to reconvert me or even tried to discuss faith with me. Then again, it was a wedding and not exactly the time or place for such conversation. I may not be so lucky next week when I see some of those same friends in a non-wedding setting.

I guess the only truly upsetting reaction I've gotten to my agnosticism--apart from my mom--is one I heard about second-hand: an acquaintance of mine (Jen) was chatting recently with a mutual friend. Somehow they got on the subject of me and the mutual friend, who is Jewish, asked Jen what her Christian faith makes of people like me, who were once devout but now question their faith. Apparently without blinking an eye, Jen said that I was being deceived by Satan. (This shocked the mutual friend, by the way.)

Jen's words hit me really, really hard. Had she seen the countless nights that I prayed, crying, for God to show me the truth, to reveal himself, to help me understand the things I don't understand, would she be so certain that it was of Satan? If she saw the number of books on my shelf; the hours upon hours I spent reading them, trying to find answers; the number of people I consulted and discussed these issues with, would she be so certain that it was of Satan?

It was doubly insulting when I thought about how disempowering the "Satan" card is. Do I not own my own thoughts? I came to God with as open a heart and mind that I could, and I still didn't get any satisfaction or answers. In fact, my questions only multiplied. When and how did Satan get involved in this?

But I guess Jen has been praying for me a lot, which I suppose is good. I mean, I'm pretty sure it won't do any harm. But I've come to believe it won't do much good either, as I've long since stopped believing in the efficacy of prayer.

Anyway: back to the lunch date. It's in 3 hours. Wish me luck.


Anonymous said...

nice blog... its a bit step, and a couragous one.

dont wanna sound like micheal jackson! but you are not alone...

Slapdash said...

Thanks qmonkey. I like your blog and plan to spend a bit more time over there reading up.

I'm just back from lunch with Janet, and I have to say, chalk up another one for the gracious Christian friends. It went much more smoothly than I thought it would. It did feel like the elephant in the room, but to her credit Janet only asked me a couple of questions on the spiritual end of things ("are you going to church these days?" "is your boyfriend a Christian?") but she didn't press it. I did as predicted, which was say as little as possible and then move on to a new topic.

It may not be my proudest moment in the sense that I wish I weren't so scared of sharing my truth (such as it is) with the Christians in my life. But I must give credit where credit is due: my friends so far are handling it much more graciously (and hands-off-edly) than I would have thought. It seems that the vitriol and judgment and assumptions I feared probably live more in the internet realm where nobody knows each other so it's easier to sling careless comments around.

Evie said...

Slapdash, I'm glad your lunch went well. I haven't "come out" to any of my Christian friends or family yet. I'm just sprinkling little hints of my discontent at this point. Oh, and I did quit the church choir this week, so I'm gradually curtailing my involvement in my church. Cowardly, I know. Still, it's all I'm comfortable with right now.

HeIsSailing said...

slapdash, I am glad your Christian friends are good friends, and everything is going well. Depending on how close they are, your beliefs will ultimately need to be expressed. I have had mixed luck, some friends leaving me, and some trying to understand. Great News for you, slapdash!!

Evie, the way you are expressing your loss of faith is smart, I think. I did not announce my departure from the church with a banner and bullhorn either!! I just sort of .. slowly and quietly.... faded away.

Nate said...

Hey Slapdash,
Got here from Jon Peres blog something else, that used to be exfoliations. Here is a statement that I made about the nature of God. It is something that many people can not assimilate into their own lives.

"I love theorizing about what God is like and trying to understand him. The only assuarance we have about God from the bible though, is that what ever we think, we are going to be wrong. You know why I love that? Of course you don't, I haven't told you. Because if we knew exactly who God was, belief wouldn't be necessary. Because we would have fact. No faith. Interesting. Definition destroys the thing most necessary, our faith."

If you need proof before you have faith, you will never get proof. Faith is a "pay it forward" action. Without faith, no answers to prayers. Without answers to prayers, no faith. Catch 22.

Also, my proof is here:

Sorry to have taken up so much of your time. But if you would like to engage in some heretical conversations expounding on those things churchs won't talk about, come around the neighborhood. We all are willing to roll around in the spiritual mud and find out what we can about those hard questions.


becky said...

what are you searching for?
what does GOD have to be in order for it to be GOD?

sometimes (and I am guilty of this) we can box GOD in thinking He has to answer for us how we want Him to answer us in order for us to believe.


Nate said...

How did your coming out go?

Slapdash said...

Hi Nate -

It went fine, after all. I kind of did as I expected I would do, which is try to avoid the topic, not lie but not elaborate if asked, and change the subject ASAP.

I wish I had more guts than that, but that's what happened. To her credit, my friend didn't pry or probe too much - she asked where I was going to church these days (not going to church) and asked whether my boyfriend is a Christian (no, sort of as atheist as they come). But my guess is that she didn't want a confrontation as much as I didn't want one... so she probably took what she learned back home, and is now praying for me.

Which is fine with me; I don't really mind if people pray. I figure that while it probably won't help, it won't hurt either.

Thanks for asking!

Nate said...

Well I am glad that you did not get the obnoxious christian reponse. there are many of us that know there is more than what the church has to offer. But outside of the church, what info is there? Well, there is some. I will not push anything on you, but give you some options. If you look into the, fine, if you don't, fine. It is up to you.

There is a book about the situation you and I find ourselves in. It is called "So you don't want to go to church anymore." It is downloadable for free at Jake Colsen dot com. Or it is available at amazon. it is not long, and is an easy read. I got through it in about four hours. If it helps great, if it doesn't, that's the way it goes sometimes.