Dear Christian Friends,
I want to make it clear from the start that many of you, my Christian friends, have treated me very graciously and have been an inspiration to me. I am writing to the majority of Christians who I have been close to in the past 17 years.
I wanted to bring this letter to church on a Sunday, but I realize I won’t have the energy to face you all in person for a while. But I know the news is leaking out–just like when I accepted Christ so many years ago. You who were in my circle of friends were so excited. I really loved how people were so ecstatic when I announced that I had committed my ife to Christ. I craved the feeling of belonging that I got.
But now I realize that my commitment to living the truth as I perceive it is more important than having a feeling of belonging, which is one of the most basic and driving needs we humans have. And really, I never did completely perceive that I belonged on the Christian path no matter how hard I tried to fit in.
I hope you will read my other post about my faith shift so you can understand better where I am at. For some of you, you may be shocked to know that on Feb. 1 I decided that Jesus is now my friend and guide, rather than Lord and Savior. I don’t have enough proof, even though I used to think I did, to believe that he is God incarnate and that Jesus is the only way.
First I want to thank all of you who have played your part in being a friend and trying to help me be a good Christian. I believe you cared about me and that you wanted the best for me.
For some of you who have challenged me throughout the 17 years that I have called myself a follower of Jesus, which really means Christian, you may be relieved that I no longer am identifying with your group. You may have been thinking that with all my strange beliefs, I was giving Christianity a bad name, or leading people astray.
Even though within my first year of being a “believer” I started questioning the foundational belief that Jesus was the only Son of God, I didn’t want to let go of my new-found faith.
As many of you know, when my doubts came up, I read a bunch of books by liberal Christians and freethinkers who debunked the idea that Jesus was God and all the miracles in the Bible couldn’t be true. Their ideas were not as logical as I wanted. It seemed like they had an agenda–almost a prejudice against Christianity.
I decided to pour my energy into reading Christian apologetics where the arguments for Jesus divinity and him being the only way actually were much more logical and factual. I was practically addicted to reading Christian apologetics during one period of my life because I so wanted to believe the correct beliefs. I had to keep reading to believe.
I really thought I had found the peace I was looking for and I was afraid that if I left I would also be rejected by the new community I loved so dearly.
I loved reading stories of atheists who tried to prove Christianity to be false and then became Christians. People like Lee Strobel and C.S. Lewis were heroes of the faith. I read Christianity by C.S. Lewis about three times. and devoured all of Lee Strobel’s books, including A Case for Christ.
I really did feel more peace in my life, but now I am thinking–maybe it was because I was deepening my connection with Jesus. I didn’t have a lot of peace when it came to interacting with Christians.
Every single church I was a part of rejected me in some way. I suffered so much. You might say it was my fault because in every church I was the common denominator.
Yet I have heard horror stories from countless people who didn’t conform to the “rules” of their church–some written, and some unwritten. I had my responsibility in each situation. I like to learn from every experience I have. But when people are not willing to help me see what I specifically did to inspire them to reject me, how can I learn?
The consistent thread in all churches I was a part of was that they had a very little capacity to resolve conflicts. I respect the intentional communities movement because this has been one of the lessons they have been working on ever since the 60’s commune movement, and I want to apply all that they and I have learned to the community I start.
Let’s face it. Most Christians value how people believe rather than how they behave. Perhaps you didn’t want to admit that you were uncomfortable with my beliefs and that is why you rejected me on some level.
Many of you Christians who I was closest to wanted me to believe:
- In eternal damnation for those who didn’t believe a certain way
- That Jesus was the only way.
- Homosexuality was a sin.
- Women shouldn’t be in leadership,
- I should submit to authority of the male leaders in the church
- Hierarchy is the only way to have order in the church
- The Bible is inerrant.
- That I should just accept all the violence in the Old Testament because “God’s ways are not our ways.”
I never could embrace any of the above beliefs no matter how much I wanted to fit in. For a short time, in the beginning of my Christian walk, I was concerned about all my friends who weren’t Christians because they were going to hell. But pretty quickly I figured out that God must create loopholes for everyone so they could get into heaven. Even fundamentalists agreed with me that at the last breath of life people would see Jesus as he really is and accept him as their Lord and Savior.
But that belief always felt so judgmental to me, especially when I saw exemplary people who were atheists, agnostics or part of another faith walk.
I appreciate that many of you finally realized that I was not going to budge in my beliefs, and when I was open about how I believed so differently, you did accept me. Thank you. But I couldn’t lead worship or have any position of leadership. And you know that not being able to use my gifts in the sphere of church was excruciatingly painful to me.
When I became Christian Universalist about 4 years ago, embracing the concept that all people will go to heaven, based on solid scriptural evidence, I knew I was in trouble. I was already weird, and many of you came down on me hard because of what I believed.
I thought that maybe I could belong to the Christian Universalist crowd, but there are very few of us, and they still believe that Jesus is the only way. So now I became more of an outcast with many of you, including vegan Christians who got pretty upset with me when you found out didn’t believe in hell anymore.
I believed in reincarnation from the beginning of my Christian walk–and there is quite about of Biblical and historical and scientific evidence that this is true. Again, my more conservative vegan friends and almost all of you did not like that belief one bit.
I witnessed countless times how you would use the scriptures out of context to prove your points. When I tried to use scriptures out of context (which I rarely did because I knew we would just have an endless battle of scriptures) sometimes you would criticize me or even say I didn’t have a right to quote scripture because I didn’t think the Bible was inerrant.
I tried to tell some of you, “The Bible has been used to justify terrible things like slavery and witch burning. So let’s not use it to prove things that we are not totally sure about.”
I was met with blank stares too many times.
I still love you, my Christian friends and family. I hope you will continue being my friends. I have confidence we will treat each other kindly as we have done for the most part. Maybe you will treat me even better in hopes that you will win me back into the kingdom. I would like that!
I doubt greatly that I will ever come back to calling myself Christian. Your kindness inspired me to become a Christian, but unfortunately, the kindness came with some baggage. You were actually a lot kinder to me before I was a Christian. When I became a Christian, many of you had expectations of me because you wanted me to represent Christianity a certain way. That resulted in so much pain that was never completely healed because most of you refuse to go back into the past and see how things went wrong. So many of you Christians like to quote
Many of us live in a neighborhood where we help each other in very beautiful ways. I want the Ecovillage (which will no longer be called Jesus Vegans) to be supportive in helping our neighborhood be more cooperative and sustainable. I hope you will attend our events even though we may have different beliefs.
I am actually grateful for the past 17 years where I did my best to be “good” Christian and fit in, as hard as it was. But I was never good enough for most of you.
During the past 17 years, I had to learn to rely on Jesus rather than other Christians and the Bible in order to maintain my sanity. I have in my life depended on the approval of people way too much. I had countless opportunities to share my truth knowing that I would probably lose some friends or some privileges. I am really happy for all that practice!
And some of you respected me for that–even if you didn’t agree. Thank you!
This close relationship with Jesus has yielded much fruit, and I am committed to continuing my relationship with Jesus. I sense that Jesus is saying to me, “Go for it. I approve of what you are doing.” I do a lot more listening to Jesus nowadays, than seeking approval.
In fact, I find many scriptures supporting my stance that I don’t have to call Jesus “my Lord and Savior” and “the only way” in order to have a relationship with him.
Of course, if I shared those scriptures, I would be “cherry-picking” the Bible, as one ex-evangelical vegan pantheist guy told me when I was trying to persuade him a few months ago that Christianity is not so bad. But I decided that cherries are good, tasty, and healthy. So cherry picking is really good!
Most people, when they “deconstruct” their faith, go through a torturous time. But since I have been deconstructing me faith slowly over the past 17 years, this final decision has been easy and for the most part pretty painless. It really does feel like a revelation.
No, it is not completely easy to do this. But I keep getting support from friends I haven’t connected with in years. And I feel so hopeful going forward. I am part of a growing group of people who care more about living the essence of Jesus teachings–love God, love people, and love yourself. I just wish more Christians would understand how important the foundational teachings are.
I am happier than I have ever been in my life.
Now that we can welcome people of all faiths to the Ecovillage, the many non-Christians who I have met and who have loved me in spite of the fact that we had different outlooks, might be open to either living here or referring people here.
We are going to have really wonderful people who go through a pretty intense application process because we want only people who have a high degree of integrity and personal responsibility to join our community.
I know that you might be concerned that there will be non-Christians living near some of you. But I think you can agree that people like Cliff, my former husband and neighbor to the Ecovillage, is a great person to have in the neighborhood. And he definitely is not a Christian.
I really hope you will not try to talk me out of my decision. I think it is a waste of time for you to use scriptures that are taken out of context to persuade me that I am wrong. I am coming to a place in my life where I am finally, at 63 years of age, solid in my beliefs.
Remember, I still love Jesus. I consider him my friend and guide. I read and meditate on the Bible which is still my favorite scripture. I believe in Creator God. I do spiritual practices which help me to connect with God and Jesus. I just don’t to call myself Christian anymore because to be in integrity (one of my core values) I just can’t.
Thanks for reading this. I’m doing my best to forgive all the Christians who contributed to me feeling a lot of pain in the past 17 years. I yearn to be in a place where I can whole-heartedly say, “I love you, I want the best for you.”
I’m not quite there yet, but with Jesus help, and continued prayer and processing, I know I will be.