Thursday, January 03, 2008

I'm Back!

Happy New Year! I have been quiet for some time now, thanks to a busy travel schedule and, honestly, not a lot of thought put toward my faith crisis.

But I’m back, with a few musings and questions. Would love others’ input (assuming anyone still comes around to check things out here). :)

First, I think I have really underestimated my Christian friends. My recent entries dealt with my fear of "coming out" to various people who have previously known me as a dedicated Christian. So far they have all responded much better than I expected. The most recent conversation occurred just after Christmas, with one of my oldest high school friends. She is still a very fervent, conservative Christian and last year at Christmas we had a really rough conversation in which we argued about politics and homosexuality. This time around, I dreaded filling her in on my lack-of-faith and my atheist boyfriend who I’m crazy about.

But we got to talking, and she is one of my oldest friends so I wound up not really being able to hold it all in. I was pretty gut-level honest with where I’m at, and to my surprise she took it really well. No judgment, no criticism, some bewilderment and questions, but overall she took it in stride. My guess is that her current theology helped with that – she’s a “once-saved-always-saved” adherent so she doesn’t fear me going to hell. She just fears me missing out on a life of fellowship with Christ.

So maybe I am learning to stop fearing the reactions of these folks. Our friendships seem to be stronger than the faith ties that bind (or once bound) us. Maybe it’s my mom’s disappointment and judgment I most fear, and am projecting that onto all the other Christians in my life. So there's that.

Second, I have been reflecting a lot on the kind of person I have become since throwing off most of the shackles of my faith. There have been some really good things – like no longer feeling the pressure, guilt, and obligation of putting on the good Christian “show” when it no longer resonates. I am a much more relaxed person today with much less of a need to judge others for their own belief systems or world views.

But there is also a weird darker side: the fervent idealism that drove much of my personal and professional life as a Christian has also subsided. And with it, some of my sense of obligation to serve and sacrifice for others has gone away. I am a more selfish person today: I am not guilt-ridden when I buy an iPod or new clothes. I don’t tithe 10% of my income. I live a fairly comfortable life. True, I try to do some volunteer work and I do contribute to a few causes I believe in. But that gut-level desire to really sacrifice for my fellow man has dissipated. Maybe I’ve become cynical: I no longer believe God is going to swoop down and save Darfur. It is up to us, but beyond signing a petition here and there I am powerless to stop shit like that. So I have lost the thirst, the fire, to make major sacrifices when I know that those sacrifices aren’t going to turn the tide.

That shift in perspective feels like a real loss. I’d like to recapture the fire somehow… but how?


jennypo said...

I feel for you. I wish I could help, but I can't. I've run smack into the wall of helpless futility, too. Doing what I may do without causing inconvenience to myself is a mockery the very cause I seek to help. And yet, if what I do is not an act of worship demonstrated to one greater than myself, then can it be worth the cost to me? For every cause I sacrifice for, there are twenty more that I cannot serve. How much should I give, seeing the effects are so little?

I have come to see that it is not my work that will solve the Darfur problem, but the sacrifices that I may make are the expression of something far greater - Love. And Love is the only thing that challenges on any real level the hatred that causes problems like Darfur.

Any sense of purpose apart from real love must be based on my own ability to execute change. I have to respect anyone who builds their life on that basis. It's charming, even inspiring - but after all, naive and idealistic, I think. We can leave the somber grandfather and the pious preacher gods in the dust, but when we go looking for real meaning in life we run smack up against love - there is no meaning without it.

And what does God have to do with all of this? Well, nothing, unless he IS Love.

I no longer sacrifice because I'm going to 'change the world' but because I want to respond to a God who is Love. What I do changes me and what I am is something that is meaningful beyond the few dim years I plan to spend in this life. I can sacrifice my own comfort, my own pleasure, because I have seen what is greater than me, and the kind of loveliness that I will trade my own life for.

societyvs said...

Happy New Slapdash - hope you had a great holiday season.

The whole 'fire' thing is a tough one for sure - I have tried to define what that will mean for me 8 years removed from church. I boilo it down to being the person you are and using your life for the good of society around you. Help where you can (and when asked), develop your life to succeed so it is possible to contribute to others in their times of need, care about those around you, etc.

Basically be the exact opposite of things you don't like and be a semi-remedy for the situation. I am not sure we are here to solve the problems as much as we are to care for those in need - the difference in sanity and stress. We may not be able to stop Darfur - but we are also in another part of the world and can only act as agents of peace where we are (which in it's own way is part of the solution).

There is no real answer to this dilemma except for deep decisions on your responsibility on this planet and how you feel that should look. Either way - I hope you the best on that end of things.

OneSmallStep said...

Slapdash --

I don't ask this to be accusing, or to tell you why you really did something, but just for clarification, based on what was stated in the post.

Would you say that your self-sacrificial drive was because the people really needed help, or because it was a "requirement" due to what God did for you, or an outpouring of gratitude or love for God, which was also expressed towards behavior to others?

Again, I'm not trying to say that you weren't compassionate towards others, or weren't moved by their plight. But as you say, it seems this drive was very much tied into your belief in God, and not due to the situation itself: as in, the people needed help. It's just oftentimes the way that some Christians present the reason for doing good work is to please God, or to demonstrate gratitude for what God did for them. I tend to see that answer more than, "The people need help, and I can provide it." I hope that makes sense.

To answer your question, maybe you're thinking too broad? I agree that Darfur is a problem, and requires global intervention. Signing petitions is helpful, because if enough sign, then it will get to those in power who can make the decisions that help Darfur. Individually, I think there's little we can do, just because of the scope. But even doing something locally is both a help, and a sacrifice. Maybe focus on that for a while?

Exevangel said...

There are many good humanitarian causes that could use your support... Amnesty International and Stop the Traffik are just a few examples. Give them a percent or two of income and enjoy your ipod. As for everything else, keep exploring, being bold, and enjoy the process. Life is about learning. Getting out of indoctrination and coming around to your own view is magic, whether you end up in a Christian place or not. Enjoy the ride!

Jared Funderburk, SIM CP said...

I can soooo relate to what you are saying. I don't do alot of what could be considered "sacrifice" for the well being of others. But since leaving the church, I haven't the slightest urge to do those things anymore. And what is really weird is that I don't have a moments guilt, or conviction if you prefer the language. Is it a bad thing? Not for me. Someone commited on here that these urges to "sacrifice" were based on church attendance, etc. and I believe that is the case. Subjected to constant...anything will drive you to participate in whatever it is that is being subjected. If I am wrong, sorry, but that is the way I feel.

Nate said...

I did not read all of the comments. They were too long. From what you said, you went to a behavior church. Those say if you are a good person you act like this. Now that you have thrown off those shackles, (I see them as shackles too.) you are beginning to wonder what God thinks about you. He loves you, and you are moving to where he wants you. Into freedom to be who he made you, not who the church you left behind (CLB) tells you you should be. The fire you seek can now come from you, not them. Put your efforts where you choose. Then you will be where God wants you to be.

Valorosa said...

God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.

There is no fear in love

Your friend loves you your Mom loves you but you are loved by God more than you can fathom.

Break with tradition and with the world's and the present day church's idea of God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and find out for yourself who God is.

You will not be disappointed


single/certain said...

nate and valorosa and jennypo had good comments. i've read along some, and am curious to know how you're doing as of late?

you walked away from church. that doesn't mean you walked away from god. you walked away from judgementalism, legalism, and a bunch of other guilt-inducing things that are not godly, but are totally of man.

make your faith your own.... decide what it means for you. it seems like that's what you're doing, but i guess maybe just remember that it doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing, you know?

and by all means keep writing about it! it's interesting and cool, and i know there are a zillion other people on journeys similar to yours. you never know; this could be a book someday!