sent in by sightedone
I posted here a while back but didn’t really tell my story. I feel like the time has come for me to really put my thoughts and experience in writing for my own growth.
I grew up in what seems to me to be a pretty classical evangelical family. I spent the first 20 years of my life in the “Covenant” denomination and then from college on tried several other churches. I went to bible camp every summer for years, was a model youth groupie and went on two different month long mission trips to south America by the time I was a freshman in college. I went to a Christian college where I received a degree in psychology, and got married with one of my professors giving the message at my wedding. Not long after marrying, my wife and I went into the mission field for a half year in a third world country. For the next 10 years I refined my beliefs and got to the point where it was really all making sense to me. However, whenever I was really honest with myself and admitted I had doubts I would hit a wave a depression that sent me reeling deeper into radical obsession and, as I call it, my “Jesus drama.”
My wife and I moved across the country to go to a “Ministry School” that was part of a local church. Even at this point in my journey, I can still look at this church and honestly say that the theology and practices (though still fundamentalist and evangelical) were very different than anything I had ever heard of. The main thrusts of their efforts are on grace and peace and teaching people that God has already provided everything, literally everything, that he has to give and that it is Jesus’ faith that got us what we need, not our faith. So, we don’t get God to do things, we just open up to letting him do things. God wants what we want, he doesn’t force his will on us and he works with our desires to do his will. Its all a lot more complex than that, but what I intend to say is that after all my years of searching scripture, discussing deep theological issues and experiencing a huge variety of Christian environments, this one really worked for me.
But I was still plagued with guilt over my ongoing “sin” of lust (which I poured into pornography). My wife is an absolutely amazing woman, but I was so controlling, self-absorbed and egocentric that I just used her to meet my emotional and “needs” and fit her in my objectified view of women. I was very subtle in my control however. In the midst of it all, I have still always had a very sensitive side, and it was easy to come across to everyone as such a loving, “saved” man.
Well, she had enough. She kicked me out of the house saying that I needed to decide what I wanted (eventually I was very thankful for this move – it taught me a lot and I am even more proud of her). I was of course devastated and confused. On top of it all, I had two beautiful boys whom I missed terribly and felt I had failed them and could never make it up to them.
While I was on my own decided what I wanted first of all was Jesus, and second that I just wanted to “be.” Some of you out there may know what I mean. I wanted to drop all the things I was expecting myself to do, be it to get closer to God, to get my life in order, to make more money, to meditate more, etc. I just wanted to be. I wanted to be me and just live, without all these extra demands. I expressed this sentiment in a men’s group that I had been attending and the leader looked at me blankly for a moment and then said, “You mean you want to labor into rest, right.” I think there was a turning point there. Of course, I just tacitly agreed with him, but inside I was thinking that this really wasn’t what I meant. I began telling myself that all the extra stuff I was doing to get closer to God and to myself was not helping and that I needed to just live and let God affect me.
Well, eventually he did, only when he did, he wasn’t a he, he was a she. I read a book my wife had received called “Dance of the Dissident Daughter.” This book is about the male dominated church and society as well and about one woman’s own personal journey away from Christianity and toward her own spiritual beliefs. I began to notice essentially how arrogant Christianity is in nearly all of its beliefs and practices (no matter how much they vary from one person or church to the next) and I began to open up to ideas outside of my usual proverbial “box.” Primarily at this point my main idea was that, according to the Bible, God created man in God’s image, and made them male and female. So, I didn’t figure there was any harm in calling God she. So, I began to pray to her. I even prayed to mother God when I was praying with my son. He is at such an impressionable age that he didn’t think any thing of it. Just the act of praying to mother, drew my attention to all of the other possibilities if I would allow myself to learn from new sources outside of the Bible and Christians.
So, I began to read and watch many other things(by Echart Tolle, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Don Miguel Ruiz, Neale Donald Walsh, Amit Goswami, Joseph Campbell, Movie: “What the Bleep Do We Know”), and my wife read most of the same things and came to many of the same conclusions. It has taken probably a year and a half or so for me to fully let go of my attachment to the title “Christian,” and, to let go of the major fears (going to hell, being made an outcast, losing all of my friends, upsetting my family, etc.). I still lean toward some sort of spirituality, but I am not attached to any particular belief system. I am just learning, exploring, and living. I love it. I am so open and receptive to so many things. Life is so big and rich and I am slowly letting go of my restricting, mostly unconscious beliefs about myself, God, life, everything. I would say at this point that my spiritual ideas tend toward what Amit Goswami terms “monistic idealism,” which is that the universe is one consciousness. There is one energy, one existence, etc. Of course, this echoes the underlying principles of many religions and philosophies, but it seems to fit very nicely with the developments of science over this last century as well (namely quantum physics). I also have to say about it that the terms spirituality, God, religion, etc. don’t fit this idea really at all. The whole point is that “spirituality” is really just about living life and living it in a very conscious manner; experiencing it fully and directly (such as is taught by the Zen Buddhists).
My wife and I have slightly different views on all of this. But, in fact we are closer in belief and experience than we ever have been before. We have both participated in some self-awareness programs that have opened our eyes even further to stop judging the world and ourselves and to stop trying to figure it all out. My marriage is absolutely phenomenal now and we are in sync. We flow together in life in ways I never would have dreamed of (largely because of our old rigid beliefs).
Now the big challenge is what to do with my son. All of this certainly doesn’t matter to my youngest, but my seven year old still goes to “children’s church” at the church I mentioned. I am very much not happy about this, but I am in the process of talking to him about how his mom and I don’t agree now with most of what they teach there and that if he wants to keep going I want to talk to him every time about what they learn and how he can use the information but be very discerning about the specifics. I am astonished by my son’s ability to understand some extremely deep concepts, and so I think this is possible and have hope that eventually he won’t want to keep going either. However, if he continues I am beginning to see that I will still be okay and that I don’t have to force my beliefs on him anymore than I wanted my parents to force their beliefs on me. On this whole thing I am very torn, but my wife and I have been talking about it a lot lately and are together on it, so I am fairly confident that we will work it out for him.
There is so much more I would like to say, because life just isn’t that simple. Also, there are many other experiences I have had that others would maybe identify with and learn from, just as I have learned from all of you. But I will be satisfied with this, and hope that I can contribute to someone out there as you all of contributed to me.
Joined: 5 or 6
Was: Evangelical, non-denominational
Now: Spiritual and open-minded
Converted: It was the only thing that made sense
De-converted: It didn't make any sense
email: dejteach at juno dot com
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)