As part of an ongoing online conversation, I was recently asked what “inspired” me to leave institutional religion. I actually get that question, and ones similar to it, a lot. One thing I usually do is have people read an article by Wayne Jacobsen. (If you’ve not read it, Click HERE.)
The following is (with a few added statements) what I had to say in response to the most recent inquiry:
I can’t pinpoint at what part in my journey I started having the inklings to leave the institution. I know that in part it was affected by books like “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” “Pagan Christianity,” “So, You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore,” “The Shack,” and “Velvet Elvis.”
But these books often just put words and clarity to what was already happening in me.
Anyway, yeah, it doesn’t feel good to have old friends and “church family” see you as having strayed, or being deceived. I have to keep remembering I used to think the same way.
But I’ve learned this for SURE: You can’t argue people into agreement.
Arguments are usually only to convert the “other,” and never really intended to find agreement. There is a “winner” and a “loser.” Plus, fundamentalism is steeped in an “us vs. them, I’m right you’re wrong” mentality. The mere idea of agreeing to disagree is enough to send many of them into tirades. It’s happened to me more than once. It’s amazing how their focus is on a list, rather than on knowing Christ, or living in harmony. The discussions are usually “Is this a sin? Is that a sin? What can I do or not do and still get to heaven?” What a ridiculous way to live.
I have both friends and family who I know I can’t have those kinds of discussions with. In those cases I try very hard to steer clear of theological topics, and do my best to just share our lives together.
No one “convinced” me of my different (and ever-growing) beliefs. It’s truly a God-thing. There’s so much that I’ve learned that could only come gradually, as God knew I was ready for it. Look, if our understanding of God is growing, then our beliefs will change. Change is inherent with growth.
You really have to get to a place that Brian McLaren describes this way:
“I gradually learned to simply share with those who either “got it” or wanted to get it and not to bother – or look down upon – those who didn’t.”
That’s usually not as easy done as said, but it’s the best way I’ve found so far.
Of course, some people only want to “fight,” and it may be best to end, or at least limit, contact with those people: The kind who love debate, but couldn’t care less about conversation. I know I don’t need that kind of negativity and stress. We need people who will lift us up, not tear us down. I wish I had more people like that, but for now, most of that “gathering together” has been online. But God is good, and it’s all part of the journey.
I hope this has addressed some of the issues you raised, and maybe brought a little bit of encouragement your way.
In His Love,
For more about my journey, growing understanding, and some personal info,