5 LIES ABOUT WHY CHRISTIANS WALK AWAY FROM THE CHURCH
All my life I was given ABSOLUTE reasons for why Christians walk away from the church. And being the trusting person that I was, I believed them. I mean, what child doesn’t believe everything they’re told from a trusted adult. Especially when those trusted adults believe what they’re telling you themselves. As I grew into adulthood, and well into my 30’s, I still believed the lies I’m about to expose about why a Christian walks away from church. I believed them until my personal experience showed me otherwise. Once you’ve experienced a loss of faith, your whole perspective changes and opens up to the realities of other truths, whether or not others see them as valid. You can’t deny experience. Below I’ve listed 5 lies that fundamentalists and evangelicals are taught is absolutely true when a ‘born-again believer’ leaves the church.
LIE #1 — You just want to sin/aka you’re a prodigal.
We were always told that the reasons Christians fall away and leave the faith is because there is sin in their life that they are caught up in. They give into their flesh and want to pursue a lifestyle of sin, and they cannot do this without guilt if they are committed to being a Christian. Or maybe they have selfish desires they want to pursue, and so like the prodigal son, they take all they have and want to go “live it up.”
This statement cannot be farther from the truth. From personal experience, I did not leave my faith because I wanted to sin. I did not leave my faith because I was running from anything. I did not leave my faith to experiment with what’s out there in the world. In fact, I did not leave my faith at all. My faith left ME, without my permission. As I worshiped and sought this God that I had been dedicated to my entire life, and as I researched and studied what was said to be “HIS HOLY INSPIRED WORD,” I watched my faith slowly disintegrate, without my consent, piece by piece, until even the foundation crumpled and disappeared into a deep, black hole. There was no sin I was running after. There were no selfish desires I was pursuing. There was only a broken woman trembling in horror as the God she worshiped all her life seemed to have played the final game of hide & seek.
LIE #2 — You’re mad at God.
This makes sense to a Christian, because if God is sovereign and in control of all things, and he put something in your life you don’t like, you may get mad at him (which is a sin, because you’re not even supposed to question him because he is God and according to the Bible, his ways are perfect — and does the clay say to the potter, “what are you doing?” NO!). However, say you do get mad at God and he doesn’t fix what you don’t like in your life, then according to the Christian still in the church, you may leave the church out of spite, or hurt, or just wanting to be “gone” from God because you are mad at him, and you have decided you do not want him in your life at the moment.
From my experience, I did not leave the church because I was mad at God. I loved God with all my freakin heart. I could not love God any more. I spent pretty much 37 years growing in my relationship with him. This growth was purposeful and intense. It was real. God was my entire identity. I don’t think i was EVER mad at God…I was taught he loved me and did so much for me. I was a people pleaser & a God-pleaser. I lived the motto, that “my life is God’s gift to me, and how I live my life is my gift back to God.” I took God very seriously. So when I eventually realized that the God I had been worshiping up until the moment “he” left me was not coming back…a piece of me died. My heart was crushed. My spirit sunk. My mind spun looking for answers and identity. I felt life-less. This was anything but anger with God. I couldn’t even find God.
LIE #3 — You’re bitter and angry at the church, because somebody hurt you.
“They’re not happy people — they’re angry — that’s why they leave the church. They were hurt by people in the church and so they don’t want to be around them anymore.”
This was not true for me either. I didn’t expect anybody to be perfect. I was harder on myself than anybody else. I gave everybody else more “freedom in Christ” than I gave myself, because I was taught to not do ANYTHING to be a stumbling block to my Christian brother — which pretty much limits everything you do…because you’re not supposed to offend ANYBODY. Regardless, I LOVED & ADORED the people in my church. They were like family to me. In fact, they were MUCH CLOSER than family. They were my life-line, my community and source of constant connections, the bright spot in my week, my help to fall back on, my friends who were always there, my people I went to for wisdom. I craved time with these people. I loved them to pieces! Being around them made my heart so freakin warm and happy.
LIE #4 — Their parents weren’t truly committed and genuine enough in living out their faith.
Holy Crap that’s a lot of pressure to put on a parent. And goes to show more performance-based fundamentalism. When an individual has strayed from the faith they grew up with, I’ve heard on more than one occasion, “I wonder where their parents went wrong…they seemed to be good parents.” The anecdote for raising children who grew up to be Christian adults was to be real and genuine about your faith, not just a Sunday Christian. It was/is assumed sometimes that when an individual leaves the faith, their parents weren’t following Christ enough.
Let me just say that’s a horrible responsibility to put on a parent. No wonder fundamentalist parents often feel the need to continue to control (be responsible for) their child’s life choices well into adulthood. And let me also say that I absolutely, unconditionally love my parents to pieces. It is nothing they did or didn’t do that caused me to lose my faith. My parents were amazing people. They poured everything that had into us kids. They invested all their time and resources to give us the best life possible with everything they knew how to do. They made sure we were in church Sunday morning & Sunday evening, youth group on Wednesday nights, Christian school Pre-K through our senior year of high school, Church camps starting in second grade, Christian college for 4–5 years, etc. They immersed us in Jesus. And they attended church with us too. They played Christian music at home. They made sure we followed the rules and did what we were supposed to do. They genuinely loved us and wanted the best for us. I will say it again it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with my parents, in any way shape or form, that caused me to move in a direction other than the faith I was raised in.
The TRUTH is, as children grow into adulthood, one particular stage of development in the teenage/young adult years is to form your own identity. Often, in fundamentalism, an individual is only given the freedom to question and explore within the confines of a limited box. Any questions outside that box that cannot be “safely” or adequately answered are shut down with “God’s ways are not our ways. His way is perfect. We cannot understand God. If we could understand God, he would not be God.” Perspectives/interpretations outside of the fundamentalist view of the Bible are not welcome, because fundamentalists believe that they have the MOST ACCURATE interpretation of scripture. It gets very black and white.
So in my case, late in my 30’s, while I was exploring different interpretations of the Bible, I realized that there were other options out there. That maybe my faith wasn’t as black and white as I thought. That maybe other people had right answers too. Like, how and why would I OF ALL PEOPLE, be privileged to know ALL THE RIGHT INFORMATION AND INTERPRETATIONS of scripture…and this continued my research and questioning.
This is a FAR CRY from blaming my parents for how they raised me. So you shouldn’t blame my parents. And you shouldn’t blame anybody else’s parents. Each of us get to explore and make our own decisions based on research and what our brain tells us from what we’ve researched.
LIE #5 — You weren’t really saved to begin with.
When fundamentalists witness somebody leaving the faith and not returning, they have no way to reconcile or make sense of that in their mind, other than claiming “they went out from us because they were not of us.” In other words, “well, they left the faith and didn’t come back because they were never really Christians in the first place.”
You know how Paul said things like he was the best of the best? Well, I know I wasn’t the best of the best. But anything I could say or do as a Christian, I did it. I led anywhere I could. And I led by example, even if I wasn’t in a leadership position. I was passionate about leading others to Christ. I was in the Bible all the time. I was constantly walking the aisle at church to make my heart right with God again and again. I worked at Christian camps and Christian schools influencing kids to passionately follow Christ. I led women both younger and older than me down the path of passionately serving God regardless of your feelings. I mentored people. I led Bible studies and Christian book studies. I was ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT SOLD OUT to Jesus, who was my complete and ONLY IDENTITY. I kept rules. I kept commitments. I apologized when i was wrong. I was constantly re-surrendering and re-dedicating my life to Jesus, trying to do better, knowing I always fell short. I was always looking for “what more” could I do for this God who loved me so much he died for me. I took my kids on a missions trip to Haiti. No risk was too great of a sacrifice for my God. Christians don’t get more genuine than what I passionately lived…
I can’t say I fully understand exactly what caused my faith to spontaneously disappear without my permission. That’s for another blog, another day, anyway. However, what has happened to me, I wouldn’t wish this pain on anybody. It majorly messes with your head, your identity, your community, your world, your REALITY…and there’s ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do to go back to where you came from…not genuinely anyway. Not without extreme cognitive dissonance. Not without faking it this time around. Even if it was real the first time. At the same time, I do wish people could understand the freedom and peace I am experiencing on this side of things. And it’s not from sinning or doing “wrong.” It’s because I have seen the box, and I have been freed. Not by choice, but when a glass box shatters, you can’t re-glue the pieces…you’re left to start over where you’re at. Piecing your life back together the best you can, but having to use new pieces integrated with some former pieces so that you can be whole. It’s a beautiful picture. Because it’s a beautiful life. Broken pieces are not the end. Instead, they open up a pathway for an incredible new beginning.
So there ya have it, straight from the mouth of somebody who used to be one of the most dedicated Christians on the face of the planet. It is possible to lose your faith, without choosing to do so, with NONE of these lies being true. And it’s possible to thrive on the “other side,” which really isn’t as scary or evil as “they” made it out to be. ♥
♥Life is good♥