How I Became a Heretic (or How the Evangelical, Conservative Church Lost Me)

I wasn’t always a heretic. I used to be as Religious Right as they come, raised as I was in the 70’s and 80’s in a conservative, evangelical, James-Dobson-loving, Christian home.

I went to Awana and learned Bible verses for candy and badges when I was little.

I know the Four Spiritual Laws by heart, and I attended Evangelism Explosion training so I could lead people away from the Fiery Pits of Hell where their souls were bound if I failed to witness, and I learned to shove them into the arms of JesusChristTheirPersonalLordAndSavior (one word).

My parents became missionaries, so I lived with pagan tribespeople in the jungle, sacrificing for Jesus, and I went to missionary boarding schools where I took Old and New Testament classes and memorized Scripture because it was a shield against the Devil.

I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992, my first American presidential election as an eligible voter, because he was the Only Godly Choice. I was appropriately, emotionally destroyed when Bill Clinton, that Lackey of Satan Who Proved He Was Evil Incarnate When He Squidged on Monica Lewinsky’s Dress, was elected in his stead.

I went to conservative Christian colleges — two of them — and I majored in Church History. I know the nuanced differences between the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, and I’m geeky enough to have an animated conversation about them.

I bought books at the Christian bookstore about the dangers of Drug Culture, Hedonism, and Sex, and I hid those books deep in the couches of my nonChristian friends so they’d find them eventually, read them, and be saved. Coercive Couch Conversion, YEEHAW!

I was sure to tell my friends to Never Have Premarital Sex with their boyfriends (I didn’t even consider they might have girlfriends) and to remain pure so they didn’t transform into Chewed-Up Gum; used and wrecked and never able to pristinely fit back in their box. I knew, after all, that being Outside the Box was the Most Dangerous Thing that could happen to us. I didn’t mention to my friends, of course, that I was having premarital sex, because saying so would’ve meant I was deliberately doing it, which I was definitely not doing, since what I was doing was falling on my boyfriend’s penis — accidentally — over and over again.

All of which is an extremely long way to say I have street cred, man. I was a good Christian once. I meant well. I was very sincere. I have all the training. I prayed all the prayers. I asked Jesus into my heart at least 46 times, and I meant it every one of them. I was baptized twice, once as an infant and once as a teenager, so I have all the baptismal bases covered. I’ve studied Scripture, and I’ve committed it to memory so it is writ upon my heart, and I love Scripture still. I believed All the Things about Hell and how to scare people away from it, even though very few of those beliefs were based on the Bible. And I was extremely scared to hit the “like” button on questionable Facebook posts, sure I’d be found out for giggling at swearing, or loving the gays, or Being Political, or Thinking My Own Thoughts, which is, of course, the Worst.

I am, in short, not the person you would’ve picked to become a heretic. Not the person you would’ve picked to abandon Republicanism and the theological giants of the 1980’s. Not the person you would’ve picked to believe marriage ought not be confined to one man and one woman. Not the person you would’ve picked to deeply doubt a Literal Hell. Not the person you’d think would come to believe others’ salvation doesn’t depend on me at all.

But I did become that person. I became that person in spades, and I’ve given a lot of thought to where conservative Christianity fell apart for me. To where I became a heretic, off grid from the theology I was taught was Higher Ground. Away from the theology that was supposed to keep me Safe and Protected, as though those are the goals, and, instead, found me walking a ragged path through the wilderness rather than the well-trod highway I was told was the Narrow Way.

Here’s where it came apart for me:

When I was 7, you told me in no uncertain terms that the Smurfs were Satanic — something about arch demons and Papa Smurf as Karl Marx in disguise. I mean, I could buy the bit about He-Man luring me to Hades — after all, he called upon the Power of Grayskull and was practically, deliciously naked — but the Smurfs were a little harder to believe. You didn’t know it yet, and neither did I, but you started to lose me there. Even my 7 year old self knew the most evil thing about the Smurfs was that wretched theme song.

When I was 14, you told me to trust you, and you were my youth pastor, so I did. You said weird things about sexuality and girls’ bodies which led men to sin, and I felt uncomfortable around you always, but I was taught to trust you more than myself, so I shoved down my own discomfort, and I didn’t question you. Nothing awful happened. Not to me, anyway. But I learned what men said to me was more important than the Holy Spirit or my gut or my conscience. And you lost me.

When I was 15, we were out to save the world. You said we were doing God’s own work, though my soul squirmed at handing out trite tracts on the city streets and saying as many sinners’ prayers as possible instead of feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and finding medical care for the mentally fraught. And so you lost me.

When I was 29, and my gentle, compassionate, kind friend from our missionary high school wrote our entire class to tell us why he couldn’t come to our reunion and why he’d never see us again — because he was gay, so he’d had to choose between God and not killing himself — and, well, in the nicest possible way, said that we could go fuck ourselves because he wasn’t dying for any of this crazy, conservative Christian bullshit, you lost me. You lost me like my friend never did.

When Christianity became an In-Club with its own subculture and language rooted in white, middle class America — when Christianity was bought and sold to the Republican Party through the efforts of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and fears about the Supreme Court — you lost me. When James Dobson and Franklin Graham took up their hypocritical banner, you lost me again.

When you taught me that blasphemy and taking God’s name in vain meant uttering the phrase “oh my God” — as though avoiding those three words completely fulfills one of only ten commandments — as though “oh my God” said in horror isn’t the deepest prayer for help — you lost me. When you buried the idea that blasphemy is spreading lies in the name of God, in favor of a simplistic phrase — when you didn’t look deeper — your vapid explanation lost me.

When you told me drinking wine was different in Jesus’ time — that the alcohol wasn’t as potent so it was OK that Jesus drank but it’s not OK to do it today — that Jesus didn’t really mean “do this in rememberance of me,” like his goal wasn’t communal worship over wheat and wine — like his first miracle wasn’t turning water to wine for a party that had already drunk its fill — you lost me.

When you told me God created the world 6,000 years ago — when you said, specifically, during college chapel that believing in evolution was the same as disbelieving in God — when you denied science the way the Church in Galileo’s time denied the earth revolved around the sun — you lost me. As though God is too small to set evolution in motion. As though evolution isn’t a miracle all on its own.

When you told me you’re certain your interpretation of the Bible is the only interpretation — when you said the meaning of the Bible in whatever English translation you prefer is clear — when you said homosexuality was a “lifestyle choice” and an “abomination” and changed your mind to “orientation” when the science became clear — when you still insisted that our homosexual and transsexual and bisexual and pansexual and polysexual and queer and questioning and human neighbors may exist but may not practice their sexuality within the parameters of Godliness — when you said the theology on sexuality is different than our former, historical theological justifications for slavery or women remaining silent in church or the sun revolving around the earth — you lost me. When you said you believe in a static understanding of the Bible outside of context and history and oral recitation and science and poetry and translation — when you ditched the beautifully mysterious and mystical meanings of God’s Word who was made flesh in Jesus Christ — when you denied the Holy Spirit has come with fire to be an ongoing revelation to God’s people — you lost me completely.

When I watched people suffer and become more disenfranchised than ever because of your interpretation of Scripture and your imposition of that on their lives, so very unlike Jesus’ response to the marginalized, you lost me.

When you became more concerned about protecting our borders in the isolationism sweeping the globe than protecting the most vulnerable who are trying to flee to us, crying out for help — when you didn’t say like Jesus, “let the little children come to me” — you lost me.

When you told people to come as they are, and I knew it really, secretly meant “come as you are so we can change you, and if you fail to conform in time, you’ll have to leave” — when I berated myself for thinking that was uncharitable, and it ended up being true — you lost me.

When you told me after my miscarriage to examine my life for sin, and you wished I’d bothered to listen to the tapes on how to have a Christian pregnancy, and if only I’d tithed more to the Church so I didn’t lose my first born like the cattle of the Israelites, you lost me.

When you told me my genitalia affects who I’m allowed to teach and which platforms I’m allowed to take — whether I can preach, which men can do, versus “bring a message,” which women are allotted — whether I can be in leadership or must submit to those with different genitalia — you lost me.

When I brought home my precious baby girl from Vietnam and you said, “At least she’s not black,” you lost me.

When I spoke what I believed in earnest — out loud and in public — and you punished and shunned me and told me you’d probably forgive me eventually but you couldn’t say when, you lost me.

When Jesus’ example was to make wine for drunk people at a wedding, to break the Sabbath to pull an ox and its farmer’s livelihood from a ditch, to bodily block the stone throwers, to furiously upend the tables of people cheating the poor from inside the Temple, to eat with hookers, to abandon the rules in favor of loving his neighbor — and you wanted to monitor the length of my skirt, and which words I could utter, you lost me.

When I finally realized you taught me to be polite and quiet because it upheld the power structure and made those oppressing others more comfortable, rather than upheld Jesus’ radical example and God’s great love of every person, you lost me.

When you told me my virginity was my most precious gift, you lost me.

When you told me premarital sex would wreck my life and relationships forever, and you were wrong, you lost me.

When you told me with every word and every glance and every action that my micro-behaviors and submission to our Christian patriarchical subculture were more important than my aching, expansive heart and desire to see God’s Love sweep the planet, you lost me.

When my gender and sexual minority friends found no sanctuary or succor with you — when you insisted you loved them while they committed suicide at alarming rates in even larger numbers inside faith communities and you did nothing other than spout Bible verses, nothing to save their lives, nothing to set aside your cold recitation of culturally-proscribed, modern, fundamentalist theology — you lost me. You lost me, you lost me, you lost me, and, more importantly, you lost them.

When I watched you actually believe you’re as hurt, as victimized, as terribly sad, as those who’ve been perpetually and systematically disenfranchised and abandoned by the Church, you lost me.

You lost me.

Jesus won me. Love owns me. And you lost me. Which is fine.

I live now in a place where I’m called a heretic regularly. Where I’m told I’m leading people astray. Where my convictions are not welcome in the church I chose once upon a time. And it’s a strange gift. Because I’m free. Free to love others fully. No longer restrained by false parameters. And I’ve found, as many who’ve wandered in the wilderness, that nothing — no one — no theology — no church — can separate me from the Love of God. Or stop me from spreading that Unlimited Love-of-God heresy to others.

And so I bid you good night. And send love. And Love. And wave in the dark, always and forever.

 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
323 comments
  1. So great, thank you Beth. I did not waste my time reading disparaging comments from others, they are written to shame and pedal fear to no purpose. You are a hero and you write so well!

    Your friend, a Pastor who is glad you found yourself in Christ. Bless you.

  2. Wow. The comments left by other readers completely and unequivocally demonstrate that Beth is completely correct with her decision. The scorn, hatred, and belittling people feel compelled to display over her decision to leave a church is both predictable, yet still incredible. To add insult to injury, the offers to “pray” for her are attempted demonstrations of moral superiority and virtue signaling. What do you say to people offering to “pray” for you? Gee, thanks? Knock yourself out?

    This isn’t a new thing, though. I’ve seen in over and over again, towards other friends who have left the church for a life that is much more free and happy.

    Enjoy your freedom! Your thoughts are your own, and nobody can take that away from you!

  3. Hi Beth,

    Thank you for your work. I share your concerns.

    I was raised devout Roman Catholic and became a Congregationalist in college. At a mainline seminary, I experienced the new birth in 1992. It felt important to me as an evangelical to determine my beliefs on every divisive issue within evangelicalism. On each I took the moderate position.

    I frame issues from the lens of social justice, which I believe to more Christian and biblical than conservative, American Christianity. For example, even British evangelicalism is far more moderate and intellectual.

    As a moderate evangelical, or a Pietist, I’m blessed in an egalitarian marriage of 28 years, we have two adopted children of color, I’ve worked in non-profits for the last 10 years, I’ve served as pastor for 20 years, and I have never voted for a Republican. The Christianity that I strive to embody is a life-transforming relationship to Jesus, others, and to creation. There are times and places where to be a faithful follower of Christ is to be labeled as heretical.

    Respectfully yours,

    Dale

  4. We each have a worldview. In a broad sense a ‘single question’ places every person in one of two worldview camps: “Do you believe that the Bible is the entire, inerrant Word of God?” (God speaking directly to us) Yes, or No?

    Scripture gets interpreted incorrectly by both camps -from human hunger to be right in their already preconceived opinions. That is what humans do.

    If you said “Yes”, you must accept every word contained in the Bible is true and applicable, with all its love, demands and consequences. Not just certain phrases or principles you think in human philosophy should be there, or not.

    If you said “No”you are free to pick or omit whatever you want to and shape your worldview around it – but then say frankly you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God.

    I believe that the Bible is God’s Word. There are parts that I dont like at all, or struggle to obey, but I am the problem, not God or His Word to me. He is God. 2 Timothy 3:16, “ALL Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” If you don’t like this quote, you are in the “No” camp, own up your position. For the many Christians/churches who hurt people, God’s Word has consequences, or in some cases they might have done the right thing by setting Biblical standards. Christians can be very wrong, and Christians can also be right – the Word remains the measuring stick. The Word gives great and abundant instruction regarding love, but also regarding admonishing, saying a wise man will accept rebuke. And above all, love!

  5. Galatians 5:13-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

    13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[a] 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
    16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
    19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
    22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
    24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

    1 Peter 1:13-18 New Living Translation (NLT)

    A Call to Holy Living
    13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
    17 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” 18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value.

    1. Oh my. You read this post and replied by posting bible verses which she, and most of the rest of us, already know? This is why fundamentalism lost me too. Its like it robbed my friends of their humanity. Just slap folks down with Bible verses– easy-peasey? smh.

      1. You don’t seem to know these bible verses very well. If you did you wouldn’t be so lost and lacking in truth.

        God Bless.

        1. You mean she doesn’t know YOUR truth.

          1. As Christians God’s Word (The Bible) is our TRUTH.

            God Bless.

        2. I can tell you she does know them, and I would submit she knows them better. What you and some others commenting here fail to understand is that she does not reject any scripture in this post or any others on this blog. What she does reject is false interpretations infected with modern 19th and 20th century American exceptionalism and the false idol of prosperity “gospel” (small g on purpose).

          If you can’t see past those false teachings, I pray in your earnest effort to know the heart of God his Spirit will reveal the truth to you.

          There is plenty to read online about these by well respected biblical scholars, I don’t feel the need to repeat and rehash them here. Anyone interested can easily find them with the keywords I used here.

          The plain words of scripture support Beth’s conclusions, if you can strip away the centuries of human desire to reinforce a specific social power structure, one modeled after the exact paradigm Jesus taught us to reject.

          1. Which “plain words of scripture” support Beth’s conclusion? Because she used zero scripture to support her post. I and many others have posted a litany of scripture going against what she says. So tell me brother, what scripture do you have in mind.

            Please post it in its context and fully so we can all be enlightened.

            God bless.

      2. Tracy, how can you criticize the quoting of Scripture? If her argument is that she is indeed a follower of Christ, then adhering to the Word of God should be of utmost importance. You can call it “fundamentalism,” but it is also called “truth.” Where would YOU suggest that the writer gain knowledge regarding God’s ways?

        1. From the Bible. And from her own conscience. And from her own experiences. And from the words of those who know her best, and who are wise.

          All of these things can inform us of God’s ways. The Bible is important, but it’s not the only source of knowledge in the world. Not even knowledge about God.

      3. Tracy – your reply to Trish assumes a great deal and is quite unfair. I have no doubt that, in sharing these portions of scripture, she was sharing her heart.

    2. Uh, oh! You used a satanic, non-authorized translation here! You should know that the “Living Lie-ble” is leading you down the broad path, and you might be going to Hell if you don’t realize, as the Independent Baptists do, that only the King James Version is God’s preserved Word in English. (Not the Catholic version of it, of course…they just pretend that one doesn’t exist.)

  6. First, I want to apologize on behalf of all of the people who sought to deceive you into believing them rather than be in relationship and help you have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Unfortunately, they were deceived as well. They relied upon the business of religion to teach them about God. Every business is self serving. The religious businesses, some call them churches, focus on filling seats and maximizing revenues. They largely shun truly following Christ because it is messy and makes them vulnerable and doesn’t grow their business. A “successful” church is the one with the coliseum size sanctuary, has programs to market to every demographic, have the matching shirts, etc. It’s easy to blame the people and organizations for our own crises of faith, but these people are the result of thousands of years of deception too. It’s easy to see the errors and weaknesses of churches in America. We can reject the false religion, but what then? We can get the answer from Jesus himself.

    The evangelical church has taken sharing the Gospel and Good News of salvation as the only commandment. They get to that part in the Bible and stop reading. They found a scripture that supports their preconceived deception and hold it up as the lone truth.

    If I had to give Christianity a catch phrase, it would be “Love Generously”. When we look in Matthew 22, we find that answer. Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment? His answer (paraphrased) is to love God. Without prompting, He continues that the second greatest commandment is to love others. These two commandments summarize the ten commandments. I can’t find anything about condemning someone’s sin.

    If you are disillusioned by the churches we see around us or grew up with, I invite you to think about what it means to love generously. It doesn’t mean we ignore sin or struggles. It means we never let people face them alone. We clothe the naked, we feed the hungry, we comfort the hurting because we LOVE THEM. God clothes us, feeds us, heals us, comforts us, because He loves us. Jesus died for us because He loves us.

    Churches are supposed to be a gathering of people who love God and others. Even though the churches have their problems, we can be the change. Imagine if you were in a church where it doesn’t matter who donated the flowers or how high the steeple reaches or even how many people are attending. Imagine church as a place to love people. Loving people is not limited to an hour on Sunday mornings.

    Don’t blame people or churches. It is not edifying to anyone. Love generously. (c) Sorry to be so long winded!

    1. In our community, I have not found a church that loves others in the Way that Jesus did and died/and rose again for, as the man made church has too many rules and prerequisites to meet before they love you as Jesus did.

      Case in point, when I asked the prayer chain leader to pray for me as I was about to have a tumor removed, her arms went flailing into the air and she corrected me saying, “We don’t speak those words into the air here.” This was the mentality of that particular charismatic/Pentecostal church whose doctrines originated from Trinity Broadcasting Network, instead of the Word of God. And it was the unchurched believers in Christ, that send cards, offered up prayers, and brought food to my home for a short visit, for God sends his faithful to bless the suffering and wounded.

      Man-made churches favor those they deem as “more spiritual” and those who “give them the most money for their healthy paychecks,” all the while neglecting those who are the “least of these.”

  7. Wow. There is so much to take in here. I, too, have had my battle with the religious institution. I lived it. In fact I could say that it was my contribution to my first marriage failing. Then God truly stepped in. God got a hold of me, shook reigion off of me, and taught me how to love people. I also disovered that it is man’s traditions that make God’s Word ineffective (Mark 7:13). Religion causes wars. Relationships change lives. While I thought I was doing God a service in my religious rites, I was actually hurting the people that I loved dearly. The problem is, by the time I was ready to change it was too late to benefit my marriage. It was after the divorce that I began to see the doo-doo I was shoveling. I did begin to read the Scriptures, this time by the help of the Holy Spirit. Over time I had learned, and I am continuing to learn, that the rules and regulations that most refer to in the Bible, are truly boundaries for the benefits of a relationship. I can use my relationship with my current wife as an example. In order for me to reap the benefits of this relationship, then I need to respect the boundaries. I cannot tell her that i love her and then proceed to abuse her. That is not true love. Love honors, and cherishes, and respects the boundaries of others. If I viloate those boundaries, then I can no longer reap the benefits of that relationship. It’s not that God is trying to keep anything from us, He wants to protect us. He wants our hearts. He says that He will show Himself strong on behalf of a heart that is loyal towards Him. There are benefits in surrendering and doing things His way, which are higher than man’s ways.

    As I said, I, too, was brought up in a strong religious belief system. I became just like those who had raised me. Ultimately, though, I cannot blame them for my life. There comes a time when I must answer for my own choices. I must face the consequences of the seed I sow. When it is time for me to stand before God, He will not ask me about what they did that caused me to make my choices, especially if I had the chance to do it the right way. It is sad that I had to face such a relational storm in order to change. But that is where I saw God’s mercy. If you look at the Bible from a distance, I can see where one might say that the God of the Old Testament is vengeful and the God of the New Testament is loving. I had to look closer. I discovered that He really is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His mercy is especially evident to those who walked with him. To those who don’t or refuse to, they will lash at God.And it is all because they didn’t want to submit to doing life God’s way. In a sense, that makes them their own god.

    I truly appreciate everything, that everyone has posted on here. I love candid conversation. And I am open to hearing the hearts of the hurting. For those who have been hurt by people in the church, I pray that you will forgive them. Harboring unforgiveness can come between you and God. Sometimes it is impossible to forgive on our own strength. But forgiveness and trust are not the same. Forgiveness is a gift. It is trust that is earned. And trust is earned when we prove ourselves to be trustworthy.

    As for contradictions in the Scriptures, I have seen them, from a man’s perspective. That doesn’t mean that I will throw the baby out with the bath water. If I truly believe 2 Timothy 3:16, it means that I need to seek God for the revelation of it. For God never explains Himself to us. He only reveals Himself to those who are truly seeking him. If I won’t let my kids come at me with an attitude of demanding an explanation from me, what makes me think that I can demand an explanation from God. Often, I get the answers much later, at the right time, when I need it the most.

    Beth, I do praise you for your candacy. It should spark us all to look in the mirror and make the necessary changes as the Holy Spirit leads us. Because love truly covers a multitude of sin. I am thankful for His mercy that has changed me. The hard part is submitting to His plan and His purpose. ‘Cuz it might not be what I think it should be. But He knows better. Usually, when I wait on His timing and His way, it works out for my good.

    I guess that is all I have for now. I will keep praying for you. God bless.

  8. I think Beth represents how a lot of us have felt through our lifetime. There are stages or learning curves that we go through when we call ourselves believers. When we are young we are led to church by our parents or other adult. We are told to be quiet and draw pictures. What did we learn? Church wasn’t much fun and who is this God we always hear about. We get confirmed and then things change for many of us. I stopped going to church, didn’t think about Jesus except that day I found toys under the Christmas tree.

    However, as I got older, went through some difficult times I found myself developing a relationship with God. Joined a local men’s bible study, even became president of the church council. Church was fun, it was great to learn about forgiveness and love. My point is, when we are told what to do we have a tendency to drag our feet however when we make the decision on our own we are more willing and able to learn. Some may call it “to be born again”. I look at it like this. God claimed me when he created me and I claimed God when I had the freedom to. It is now an unbreakable relationship. One in which brings me a peace beyond understanding. And to think I am still learning!! God Bless.

  9. I first head this around 2009, and I clearly remember listening to it in a Target store with my ear buds. At some point in the story, I broke down and wept when I realized there was another human who felt like me. Of course, I now know there are tons of people who feel this way. http://api.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/304/heretics

  10. “Jesus won me. Love owns me. And you lost me. Which is fine.”

    So much this. Thank you. <3

  11. I love this! You might as well have been describing my life. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing! I’m so sad to hear about all the many ways the church and Christians failed to truly reflect God and follow Christ’s example.

    I do have one question. I think there’s a good place to discuss biblical interpretation, and people should be willing to admit when they are wrong, but my question is if you reject the Bible as an authority, which it seems like you do, then how do you know who God is? How do you know what he wants, or that he is love and isn’t all hate?
    Most importantly, how do you guard against God becoming just basically a projection of our own personal hopes and beliefs, instead of a real separate entity who is independent of our imagination?

    1. This is the entire problem with Beth’s post. By rejecting the Bible as her authority she rejects the Word of God. She makes up her own truth instead of putting her faith, trust, and belief in God’s truth.

      This post is just to make her feel better for rejecting Gods word and not living accordingly. She blames man when really what she is doing is going against God.

      1. Samuel I can understand how you might feel that way. Jesus said Love is our greatest command. I hear Beth saying its time for Love to be more important than anything else which is very in line with the word of God and what Jesus has asked of us. In that I think she sacrificing everything in an attempt to live in God’s word. She is sacrificing her reputation with conservative christian culture, her childhood friends, family in order to live to Love. We all have our ideas about what is right and what is wrong about how to live a Godly life. What if we took Jesus at his word and made Love more important than our own understanding. Are we all saved by grace? Do we all depend on God’s grace, love, and goodness to guide us? I believe more in God’s ability to love and lead Beth than I do in my own understanding of God’s word. I hope we can all choose love over being right, over being “godly” over being accepted by current christian culture. That does sound a lot like Jesus to me.

        1. I’m sorry. But you can not take Love being the greatest commandment and say that that is the only commandment. We are also commanded to live lives of purity, to shun evil, to live lives above reproach and to not forsake the gathering of the saints.

          Please read your bible and don’t pick and choose what you like just to fit your way of living. Put on the new man through Christ and live out the WHOLE word of God.

          God bless.

          1. Wow: you sure have the man-splaining part of fundamentalism down. I’d engage, but Beth is thoroughly equipped to defend herself.

          2. Samuel,
            I personally, have not met one pure Christian with regards to the Scriptural texts. The “purity” things was shoved down our throats at the last church I attended for years and years, by the pastor, his church board, his deacons and deaconesses, and the important people (the yes men and women who protected the leadership.) Only to discover that these holy and “pure” people who were the first to tell you exactly “how pure” they really were- this brainwashing technique is used over and over again in abusive churches and I began believing they were more pure and holy than those who were labeled as “babes in Christ.”

            Only to discover the pastor was making sexual advances on women he counseled (we had to listen to a painful Jezebel sermon only weeks before he was caught in his “pure sin”), many on the church board had pornography in their homes, several men on the church and deacon board were/still are abusing their wives, the children of the leadership were divorced and married two or three times, were living together before married/most of their children had sex before marriage, were drinking up a storm on the weekends and getting tattoos as a “witness for jesus,” all the while the divorce rate was high within this cult and several people like myself, were labeled as heretics for not following Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Mike Bickle, and a whole host of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

            And I had two holier than thou women say how pure their hearts were, only to discover exactly how wicked and venomous their hearts, and mouths truly were….they verbally attack their daughter-in-laws, whom I have found to be genuine believers and more “pure” than these hateful women.

            Pure. That is a word highly used in abusive churches.

          3. @ Webb and Karen: It didnt give me the option to reply to you both so I will here. 🙂

            @ Webb: If sharing the Word of God and standing for truth is man-splaining then I love it. 🙂

            Open your bible some time maybe truth will enlighten your life darling.

            God bless.

            @ Karen

            Romans 3:23 ” for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

            Every person sins and no one is perfect not you, not me, not your pastor, not the pope. All are imperfect and everyone sins.

            Romans 3:10-12 “As it is written:

            “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands;
            There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside;
            They have together become unprofitable;
            There is none who does good, no, not one.””

            Do you see what the word of God says here? No one is righteous not a single human being.

            Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all like an unclean thing,
            And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
            We all fade as a leaf,
            And our iniquities, like the wind,
            Have taken us away.”

            All our humanly righteousness is like filthy rags to God. no one is perfect and only through Christ are we set apart and made righteous.

            So because your pastor sins, or these women you claim are “holier than thou”, because they sin, is it ok for us to condone sin and not try to live holy lives? Are we not to try and be pure and rebuke sin?

            The Word of God says this.

            Romans 6:1-4

            “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

            Colossians 3:5

            “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

            1 Corinthians 6:18

            “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”

            The bible has an abundance of passages on the matter of sin, purity, and living lives that represent Christ and not sin. The Word of God is clear here. It literally tells us to FLEE SEXUAL IMMORALITY.

            Just because you know a Christian who sins doesn’t mean its time to turn away from the Church. It doesn’t mean you should condone sin either. It means all people are broken and it means you dive deep into the Word of God to find the strength to live a pure life.

            I rest my case.

            God Bless.

  13. I need help. Im in your shoes regarding the church losing me, but I have so many questions. About Jesus, about Scripture… please email me?

    1. You can email me if you want. I’m a middle school Bible teacher and chaplain. I suggest you also ask questions from people like Beth or others who don’t agree totally with me. Hear it all! Christianity is unafraid of any question.

      matthewpannkuk@yahoo.com

    1. I just read about your story, Scarlett. I am also so sorry the people of God failed to show you God’s love. That is wrong of the church, and right for you to feel upset.

      I admire you for seeing beyond their failure to love and see their success at applying a standard and sticking to it, for faithfulness to the truth, and for a commitment to holiness.

      The church is flawed, and often wrong, and can be deeply and painfully unloving. But as you found out, I don’t think there is any group that is any better. Every group (democrats, republicans, mormons, muslims, atheists, scientists, environmentalists, NRA members, etc) are all flawed, often wrong, and can be deeply and painfully unloving.
      I’m so glad you were able to see the God who is flawless, never wrong, and always deeply loving and heals all our pains.

    2. Scarlett your story is wonderful. People should be reading these kind of stories and seeing the truth as you did rather than reading backwards stories like Beth’s post. All people are flawed and only God can lead us through the washing of the Word.

      So blessed to read your story.

      1. Then why are you here, Samuel? I’m trying to understand how you can call anyone’s story – anyone’s life experience – “backwards.” With every one of your comments, you’re simply showcasing the issues Beth has called out within the evangelical church. I mean it – it’s as if you’re the poster-child commenter. You’re so combative that it’s nearly impossible to take you seriously.

        1. I’m with you, Meredith. I’ve been meaning to reply to Samuel for some time now, but I’m not sure where to begin.

          Seriously, how does he — how does anyone — have the gall the call someone else’s life story “backwards”? Beth’s story is her own, these things really happened to her, and Samuel is in no position to tell her that they didn’t.

        2. You mean my quoting of scripture and standing for the truth that is in God’s Word? You mean those comments? Because that is all I have been posting. 🙂

          I combat the lies and deceit that are full in this post and many comments by the quoting of our authority as Christians… THE WORD OF GOD. THE BIBLE.

          So yes, I am the poster child of the truth of God’s Word. Thank you for taking notice. You should open up your bible some time. Truth is waiting.

          God bless.

    3. Pardon my asking, Scarlett, but why did you post this here? What are you trying to say?

      That the attitudes expressed by the believers in Beth’s life were evidence of some kind of faithfulness to God, as you eventually came to see in the people who shunned you? If so, how exactly?

      I see no sign of faithfulness to the Bible, or to any God that that I want to know, in the behaviours that Beth relates. In their bigotry, misogyny, dishonesty and downright nonsense, I see nothing of Jesus. So I’m not sure what your story has to do with Beth’s, or why you linked to it here.

      Would you be so kind as to explain?

    4. Thank you for sharing, Scarlett!!

  14. Could I ask a simple question? Jesus, this new savior y’all seem to have “found” now that you’ve rejected core Christian doctrine, spoke about the reality of Hell over and over again. He condemned adultery and divorce, commanded his disciples to MAKE MORE disciples, and FOUNDED A CHURCH. Exactly which Jesus have you found? Why believe only the nice doctrines and not accept the hard ones? The Jesus I follow said He was God. If that’s true, then ALL of it is true. If it’s not true, then you can’t follow anything he said, because he would be a liar. There is no other Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. If you can’t accept biblical doctrine, you really can’t accept Jesus, can you? Don’t call yourself a Christian if you refuse to wear Christ’s yoke.

    1. Read it again, brother. She was an MK literally living in the jungle and went to two Christian colleges, just like me (well, not an MK and not two colleges, but I smell what she’s stepping in). You gotta’ start asking the deeper questions.

      Step back and ask yourself why you are stuck in a loop where you have chosen to believe what someone else told you to believe. Just like Mormons. Just like Scientologists. You can’t get out of the loop because if you even begin to question the ‘infallibility’ of the Bible, it’s game over for you. That’s not faith, that’s false certainty and fear. When the very thing you use to justify all of your positions can never be questioned, you will never try to understand.

      So try to understand. Ask yourself who told you what to believe and why you believe it. If it’s because of some warm fuzzy inside, question that feeling. Because every faith has some group that justifies their actions based on a feeling about what they think is true or not.

      Try on doubt for awhile. After the initial panic subsides, you might grow to like it.

      1. Well said!

    2. You don’t even understand that you have been brainwashed by leftist ideology and that is why you think/analyze everything through this ideology.

      You said you understand BIBLICAL THEOLOGY, CHURCH HISTORY, etc…then why don’t you just say that you are NOT CHRISTIAN in any sense of the TRADITIONAL word.

      Just say, you believe in what you want to believe in so long as it makes you feel good?

      Do you know what I mean?

      1. I would take the “traditional” definition of Christian waaay back to Antioch, a few years AD.

      2. Really? “Believe in what you want to believe as long as it makes you feel good?” I get it, you disagree, but to impugn another’s motives? Why do you think faith is easy for her, do you know what choices she makes, what risks she takes, what sacrifices, every day? I don’t. Do you?

        I get disagreeing with where another has come down, but I sure don’t understand the vitriol. Does it threaten you?

      3. Traditional? What did Jesus have to say about tradition?

    3. Speak the truth Alex! Well done! They do not believe in Gods word so they are unable to see the truth! God will help them! However scary that might be.

      1. Bibliolatry is an easy trap, Samuel.

        1. Lacking the truth of the Word of God and choosing worldliness over God is an even bigger trap, Meredith.

          GOD BLESS!

  15. A couple comments on heretics. Heretic is what the status quo calls those who disagree with them. Jesus was a heretic so you’re in good company. The church only moves forward because heretics force discussion and movement.

    Sometimes the other name for heretic is prophet.

    In today’s conservative American Christianity the more heretical you are, thee more orthodox you may be.

    I am always excited to find someone who speaks truth to power.

  16. This makes me sad on so many levels. Because the church failed you, because the body of Christ failed you and that caused you to feel that God failed you. I wish someone had been kind and humble enough to tell you that we, as Christian’s are flawed. We are not perfect and therefore we get it wrong sometimes. In our effort to follow scripture and live out our lives the way we thing we ought to, we fail. We want to reflect Christ, but more often than not we reflect someone else. It’s arrogance, plain and simple.

    However, I also wish someone had told you that God doesn’t fail. We are mortal beings and we cannot ever understand everything about God. Some people have a lot of questions. Things they don’t understand and question God’s actions and motives and existence. Here’s the thing. We are not supposed to understand it all. We don’t need to either. Either we believe God is who he says he is, or we don’t. Either we believe WE are who God says we are (his children), or we don’t. It’s more than just believing IN God. It’s believing God.

    There is something deep inside each of us that longs for relationship with the creator. If you have read and studied the bible as you say and know scripture you know the truth. Believe the bible, not what people say. Believe God even when it doesn’t make sense, even when all the other voices say the opposite. We have to be able to discern truth from lie. You have been lied to and are hurt. I truly hope you don’t give up on God or even on his church for that matter. After all Jesus died for ALL, that includes the misguided and sometimes unloving, sometimes self-righeous members of well meaning congregations. Imperfect humans

    I sincerely hope you find your way back to Him.
    Thanks for listening

    Love,
    a Christ follower

    1. Carolyn…did you read the same message I just read? She doesn’t believe God failed her, or Jesus failed her. She has not given up on God or Jesus. She is rejecting the religion of America’s religious right, aka fundamentalists, their beliefs and their literal and inconsistent interpretations of scripture. She does not need to return to church because she is already there!

      1. Martha…Carolyn is deluded. The Bible speaks clearly about these. Reading Beth’s testimony my heart was jumping up and down and saying “Me too!” to so much of it. I wasn’t raised in evangelicalism but I drank the Koolaid and raised my children in it. I pray that they (they were influenced by my openness thank God) will find the God and Jesus that Beth and I have found! Such freedom! Such openness of mind and heart.

      2. EXACTLY @Martha!!!!

      3. Amen! Fundamentalism is NOT true Christianity.

    2. Yes. You can preach. Keep doing it!

    3. I concur with the others who are wondering if you read the same post. I’ve read it several times and in no way did I perceive her to be saying that she felt God failed her or that Jesus failed her or that she’d left him and needed to return to him. Leaving the evangelical religious construct is not tantamount to leaving God.

      We all filter life through the lens of our own experiences, so perhaps I read it differently because my experience though different in many ways bears and alarming number of similarities to hers.

      I think it’s important to understand the difference between laying aside a set of theological beliefs and ideologies and abandoning the Christian faith. I understood her blog post to be a declaration of the former NOT the latter.

      I don’t believe that she or any of us who have grown disillusioned with fundamentalist evangelical theology need to find our way back to the Lord.

      I count myself among those enjoying a renewed understanding of his grace, love, and mercy having been released from the shackles of religious bondage in which I spent 20 years trying to perform to gain God’s acceptance.

    4. I’m just curious, what in her post makes you say that Beth “[feels] that God failed [her]”, or that she needs to “find [her] way back to Him”?

      I read her post, and the person I saw in those words is still very much a believer in her concept of god as she understands it, and still firmly committed to that belief above all else. Now, I’m an atheist, so Beth and I and presumably you will have to agree to disagree on that point. But perhaps because I don’t share that belief, and therefore don’t intrinsically associate a belief in god with participation in any particular religion or church, what I read in Beth’s post is a rejection of the church and its teachings, of the views ordinary men imposed on their interpretation of a faith and then have jealousy guarded against change or reexamination, even in the face of an evolving, and changing society that has long since outgrown those hopelessly dated views.

      Beth, in other words, strikes me as the sort of deeply faithful, earnest deist with whom I’m able to comfortably agree to disagree on that point, and it’s no skin off either of our nose so we can both just get on with our lives. With people like Beth, I don’t have to worry that I’ll wake up one morning and find out she’s campaigning to have schools teach some nonsense found in the bible as if it’s science, or wants to pass a law that discriminates against some group of people that her religion considers in some way objectionable or unworthy.

      I also don’t really think that the church failed Beth. Oh, it absolutely HAS, no question. But the failure as I see it is different from how you probably mean it. The church hasn’t failed Beth because it didn’t teach her to tie her faith in her god up with her adherence to the church and its teachings. Beth wasn’t failed because she wasn’t inspired to make excuses for all of the things she rejects about the church, rather than rejecting the church itself. Beth didn’t learn the church’s lesson that some forms of bigotry, hate, rejection, and scorn are okay, as long as you find a bible verse to justify them with — but that wasn’t where the church failed Beth, either.

      The church failed Beth in the sense that it’s failed all of society, by steadily growing more and more closed-minded and intractable in is hopelessly outdated beliefs, to the point where it’s allowed itself to become a source of bigotry and hate just as much as it is a source of inspiration and love. The church has failed Beth, and all of us, by refusing to change. And it’s a shame that Evolution is one of the many scientific truths that the church has fought so doggedly against accepting, because if they had accepted it then they’d know that anything that refuses to change, grow, and evolve is flying in the face of nature itself. Such an organism will inevitably lose out to those that are able to adapt to their environment, rather than denying reality simply because it fails to conform to their beliefs.

      It doesn’t sound to me like Beth needs to find her way anywhere. She hasn’t changed her relationship with her higher power, simply chosen to reject someone else’s broken concept of what that means and instead define it on her own terms. And she certainly doesn’t need to find her way back to the source of that broken definition. Not as long as they continue to insist that their truth is the only truth, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

      1. Wholeheartedly agree, Frank Dana. Very happy to call you friend.

      2. I really enjoyed reading your comment Frank. Evolution is still classified as a theory though.

  17. Hey Beth! I’m not a mom, I actually identify more on the kids’ side, I’m not married, I don’t have kids, but I am such a lesbian and ready to get married to the girl of my dreams :). I’m actually a 21-year-old Christian Studies major at GCU and right now I’m trying to figure out what it means to be a Christian. In a sense, I already know, but in another sense the more learn the more I feel like I know absolutely nothing, So I think I’m trying to figure out what Jesus was really teaching, and I don’t think its what the traditional church has taught me, and what people are trying to teach me at GCU, I think it’s so much more than that, I think that a lot of the time we are only scratching the surface of what Jesus is really trying to say. Anyways, I’m just thankful that you were open and honest and this gives me hope that maybe, there are other people, real people, who think that not only being gay is ok, but that Jesus was trying so desperately to break down the box of religion, and what American Christian culture has done is put him right back where he was trying to break out of. It also gives me hope that you’re a mom and that there are other moms out there, even whole families that think this way too. It gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, one day my mom would want to come to my wedding. Anyways, thanks for letting me post my thoughts, and thanks for being so outrageously outspoken and true to what you believe 🙂
    – Nicole

    1. Nicole, you’re rad. And I can tell you definitively that there are indeed other moms and other whole families who love Jesus, embrace you exactly as God made you, and hope you find a wonderful woman to marry someday. And if your own mama doesn’t want to come to your wedding, which would be truly heartbreaking, I know an ENTIRE CROWD of mommies who would show up in her place. Say the word, girlfriend — we’ll rally your people. ❤️

  18. Way to bring a message woman! Absolutely beautiful. Amen and amen.

  19. Yes, yes, and YES!
    I wasn’t raised in the church but converted while in my early 20’s. I then married the man I was living with (BIG mistake), raised my two children in the church culture convinced somehow that God would bless my commitment to following the rules. I became involved in all of the church activities: Sunday School, VBS, bible studies, evangelism and discipleship training AND led the worship team in two services every Sunday. My life revolved around whatever the church needed to have done. I was at the pastor’s beck and call constantly. But hey….we were Winning the War for Jesus, right?

    Eventually, I studied for the ministry and became a pastor myself when I turned 50 years old, although I was always under the ‘headship’ of the Lead (male) Pastor who, by the way, knew LESS about theology than I did. I was told that “In the same way you need your husband as a covering at home, you need Pastor M. as your covering in ministry.”

    There must’ve been a small part of my soul that refused to submit because while I faithfully took my children to every function the church held (including Youth Mission trips), I still allowed Santa Claus, He-Man, and yes, the Smurfs into our home. I dutifully read – and then dismissed – all the Dobson warnings about whatever Disney movie was coming out: Little Mermaid (teaches disobedience to parents), Alladin (subliminal messages) Lion King (meditation) and on through Pocohantas (pagan teachings). Oh…and we read Harry Potter too.

    Eventually, my life with all its biblical foundation began to disintegrate. My marriage, never very good at any point, started to feel suffocating. I had lived long enough to realize that following the christian lifestyle did not, in fact, assure one of happiness, contentment, or love. Got a problem? Pray more, give more, do more, share your faith more, worship more, get broken before God, remember and be grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice to buy your wretched soul from hell. And if you’re a pastor? Well, multiply that by a couple thousand because you have to be an example of Christ to others.
    It was just so freakin EXHAUSTING!
    So I quit.
    Cold turkey.
    Resigned from the church. Ended all the toxic relationships – including my marriage. Went back to my hometown to care for my ailing mother until her death last year. And I started reading. With some measure of guilt, I picked up all those things the church leaders warned against – other viewpoints, other religions, other ways of being. A line from poem by John O’Donhue became my beacon, “You have traveled too fast over false ground and your soul has come to take you back….”

    I’m happy and content outside of the box where every day is a gift from the Divine. Yes, I’ve been accused of backsliding, heresy, and witchcraft. All those former church friends (you know, the ones you thought would last forever?) quickly distanced themselves the minute I quit attending on Sunday morning. When we did happen to bump into one another in the grocery store, it was evident that their only concern was when I was going to return to the church and its mission. It’s been a difficult journey at times and yet I feel as though I have shrugged off an old coat that was too small and tight and I can breathe deeply again.
    Blessings to all who break free from similar boxes.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Cathy. Sending you love.

  20. Interesting blog. I’m very sorry to read about your miscarriage and the treatment you received at your church. My wife and I suffered the same kinds of comments along the course of our 8 miscarriages. “Achan in the camp” and all that.
    I too became skeptical of the more outlandish and hateful doctrines of Christianity many years ago. And at some point, I began to shed my belief in those doctrines, like Hell and bigotry. The difference between us is I didn’t stop there. Yes, I did spend some time as a more liberal Christian. But my skeptical mind kept kicking over rocks. Even at the most liberal church I could possibly find, a Unitarian church, I was still bothered by the message that I am a “wretch” who needs to be saved. Says who, exactly? I was also bothered by their insistence to associate with the Bible, which is filled with hateful and contradictory teachings, which are right there, in black and white, if you’re willing to read it skeptically. God supports murder, genocide, human sacrifice, incest, rape and many other atrocities. He murdered (thankfully it’s just a myth) the entire world, except one family with the flood, only to have humanity revert right back to its former wickedness. How callous and pointless. And that is only one example of very many. I could never escape the sense that the god of the Bible is a really just an evil dictator deified. Sure, there are passages that make him seem all right, but if you judged any human leader by what the god of the Bible said and did at his worst you would hate him and have little to no respect, unless you respect evil, vicious dictators. “It’s righteous because God did it” is where my Christian friends eventually get to when I (as gently as possible) challenge them on whether god is really good and whether he really deserves to be worshiped.
    Eventually, my hunger and search for freedom led me a little further than you, at least to this point. I am now free from religion, at least in my own heart and mind. Thankfully my wife got there too. And we are the happiest we have ever been. The struggle is that so many of our friends and family remain deeply religious, which is great as long as they aren’t hurting anybody and are happy. And those are generally the case, but not always. And it would be great if they could be happy for us, which sometimes they are, but not always.
    I’m just sharing my journey with you. If you’re happy and not hurting anybody, I’m very happy for you. If I may, however, one mistake I made, over the years, as I attempted to “challenge my faith” was I kept consulting “in house” (Christian) authors, speakers and counselors. This kept returning me to the faith, one way or another, eventually. Apologists are very good at what they do. But if the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent creator of the entire universe (maybe multiverse) really wanted to communicate to all of us, one really does have to wonder why he chose to reach out to ignorant, bronze age misogynistic bigots, before the age of the printing press, to do it and why his word constantly needs apologizing for… If you haven’t already, maybe try some more skeptical sources. I found Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God” monologue, available at the time on Netflix and on Amazon, just in case, very helpful and insightful in my journey, just as a start, as did my wife. There is so much more I’d like to say, but hopefully what I’ve already written will do somebody some good, somehow.
    All in all, I wish you well, no matter what.
    Oh, my wife and I finally do have our own child, through hard work, perseverence, lots of money, lots of science and the extraordinary love of a dear, friendly family, godless as we are.

    1. You may enjoy Pete Enns book, The Bible Says So & Rob Bells new book on the Bible. They are out of the box.

      1. Thank you for the suggestions. I will check them out. They sound as though they might not be as “out of the box” as I am, but I remain interested in a wide variety of view points.
        There are thousands of gods and quite a few alternate holy books, all of which have or have had many faithful followers, over time. I no longer live under the conclusion or assumption that the god of the Bible is real, much less the only true god, or that the Bible is the word of the creator of the cosmos.
        Along these lines, I have found value in:

        Christian and Pagan Creeds: Their Origin and Meaning – Humphrey Carpenter
        Drunk with Blood: God’s Killings in the Bible – Steve Wells
        The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible – Steve Wells

        I am currently reading and enjoying:

        The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion – Jonathan Haidt
        Sex & God: How Relgion Distorts Sexuality – Darrel Ray

        1. My mind was blown after reading Rob Bell’s Love Wins. As a well-educated evangelical it did NOT sit well with me. So I read Francis Chan’s response. My conclusion: both are frantically engaged in opposing efforts to square what is in fact an invisible circle. “Out of the box” books or theology is more of the same: trying to integrate what we know of the world with what ancient superstitious folks did not. A far better explanation: it’s ALL made up, regardless of what we’d prefer to be the case.

    2. Thanks for sharing your story, Mike Vierira. Much of it echoes my own. I’ve tried on atheism, but no luck so far. 😉 I’m grateful you took the time to comment.

      1. I wish you the best on your journey Beth! If you catch the curiosity bug, check out Julia Sweeney’s monologue or some of the other resources I referenced some time! The world is such a fascinating place and makes so much more sense to me, now that I can view it and learn about it without looking through the lens of dogma.

      2. I’ve “tried on” atheism, too, and it seems to be working for me (after many years in the “Jesus is God” camp.)
        I do try to stand in awe of the existence of everything, I am grateful for my own short time on earth, and I find the most love, reassurance and compassion from deep, committed friendships with other human beings.

        Sometimes I’m aware that Christians, who believe that God holds them up in a special way, feel more secure than I do. But to me, the impermanence of everything is my growing edge, and if human beings stand together in the face of impermanence, we come closer to the mystery of what this existence might mean and why we are on this planet at this time, whirling through vast spaces.

        I’m grateful for my college degree from an evangelical school, but my life’s challenges have changed me and I evolve and I become more aware, infinitely more aware, of the variety of existence outside of the church
        and it is Good.

        1. I feel like I wasted so much of my life looking at the world through the distorted lens of dogma, Madeline. Our lives are so brief and time is so precious. At least I have maybe 1/2 my life left to really try to enjoy this world and what we’re able to understand of this universe, for what they really are. At least to the best of our knowledge, according to the evidence.
          And just to think, if I had grown up in the Middle East, odds are I would be a Muslim or at least trying to skeptically think my way out of Islam. In India I’d most likely face the same issue with Hinduism. Or Buddhism in areas of Asia, etc.
          I will try my best not to indoctrinate my child. No parent is perfect, but I’d just not like to set him up behind that 8 ball.

      3. Hey, I just want to follow up one final time. Very cool blog. I wish you the best on your journey to mental, emotional and spiritual freedom.
        I have to ask, why embark on a journey for freedom from the tyranny of Evangelical Christianity, only to end up in love with (enslaved to) Jesus Christ and his father Yahweh? Have you actually, thoroughly read you Bible? They are assholes to put it mildly. I just don’t get it. Except, it took me 30 years to shed my allegiance to Christian doctrine myself, so, I get it. Your brain gets hard-wired.
        Please… PLEASE… check out the resources I’ve mentioned. Search YouTube for evidence FROM THE BIBLE that god is evil. There is stuff in the Bible that will blow your mind. You’ve literally been trained to ignore it and focus on what your church leaders want you to focus on.
        The promise of heaven given in scripture isn’t even that cool. You worship some deity for all eternity? Boring! Creatures with 1000 eyeballs? Creepy! And Hell just comes from ignorant people not knowing why magma comes from underground. Come on. Give me a break…
        The world is actually so much more wondrous than the Bible makes it out to be.
        If anybody would like to correspond with me, my email is edisonbaggins@gmail.com.

  21. This is simply beautiful.

    I wasn’t never lost to an orthodoxy; I was raised in the context of a liberal, and sometimes radical, theology, so I can’t relate to the intense process you took yourself through to realize all the contradictions encountered in institutionalized religion – Jesus was radical, but you? You be ultra-conservative.

    You deprogrammed from a bone fide process of brainwashing from a source who’s agenda is exclusive and tribal and ultimately, a form of the very evil they profess to hate.

    Nothing about the life of Jesus as depicted in the New Testament suggests rigid conformity. The opposite is true. Jesus valued every “deviant” he encountered, and celebrated their spark of the Divine as whole. There was no critical judgement or hate in Jesus – except, perhaps, for the cut-throat nature of commerce.

    It seems to me that even when we experience “the love of God” and the “Holy Spirit”, in trying to define them we diminish their power and glory. Definitions are unnecessary. Just feel the Love, and act accordingly.

    I honor your courage.

  22. I’m a 63 year old PK. You’d think I’d be over it by now but I’m not. I have said all these things that you have written since I was a child. I left the church, mentally and emotionally and spiritually when I was a teenager and 50 years later I can read an article like this and feel as if I was there just yesterday. Your story is my story and so many people’s story. It’s always so powerful to realize that you are not alone and your experience is shared.

    For me one of the most telling problems with the Evangelicals is the rush to ostracize anyone who questions their faith. In my own experience as soon as I openly expressed doubt or voiced questions I was shut down much like one of the Bible quoting commenters here, As soon as someone starts quoting select Bible verses, in a translation that suits their argument the conversation ends. Any belief or opinion that cannot be part of an honest, open discussion is suspect from the get go.

    Thanks for writing this and thank you for allowing me to share my own thoughts.

    1. I hear you, friend. Especially the part about the way conversations are shut down by simply throwing Bible quotes back and forth. I’ve played that game in the past, and I can Sword Drill with the best of them, chapter and verse. It makes no difference, though, as you know. Jesus’ words that ALL the laws and ALL the prophets hang on ONLY loving God and each other fall on deaf ears. And they’re convinced I’m rejecting the truth, as though the 21st century evangelical, fundamentalist take on theology has the corner on the theological market. {{shrug}} They forget that their movement was started by heretics who left the Roman Catholic Church, followed by heretics who left the Anglican Church, followed by heretics who left their spin-offs, and the spin-offs’ spin-offs, and the spin-off’s spin-off’s spin-offs, until now, when every denomination under the sun thinks they have God’s Word right and all the rest are wrong.

      And so I’ve stopped trying to battle it out, scripture verse against scripture verse. I understand, like you do, how the Bible is used as a weapon and an instrument of power. I’m no longer interested in playing by the rules they — and not God — set up. That’s how the church has justified sexism, racism, hideous violence, genocide and other horrors in the past. So I’ll pass and continue to follow the God whose other name is Love. (I can quote that verse, too, so HA!) 😉

  23. Thanks for posting this. My journey is identical in many ways (all but being an MK). There was that moment when I “woke-up” to the ludicrous nature of the box– the definition of insanity incarnate. And by it, finally found Christ.

  24. Wow. There’s so much I’d love to say here, but cyber conversations are rarely an adequate forum for rational discussion. And seeing the lack of respect and the holes in the logic here—for BOTH sides of the argument—only validates my feeling that my words will be meaningless anyway, so I’ll keep them short.

    Churches and religions and “Christians” fail us, hurt us, demoralize us, and even deceive us, but God is unaffected by that. He never changes. He is love. He is perfect. He is just. His plan is coming to fruition, with or without us.

    We are called to respond to His loving invitation for relationship. It’s our choice. If we are truly His, and IF we are called to speak, we are to speak truth, in love. Always, in love. Always, His truth. We can twist and turn and ignore and reinvent Scripture all we want, but that will never negate the truth of it, no more than if we choose to disregard gravity. If some don’t believe in the validity of the Bible, this obviously is a mute point. We are left with fundamentally different world views.

    And that can be a starting point for respectful conversation: knowing why we each feel and believe what we do.

    Beth, you have shared your own experiences; I can now better understand how those have shaped your present views, and why your perceptions are different than mine. When I am allowed to share my own experiences and beliefs, you can then better understand how I have formed my opinions. Discourse, not argument.

    Beth, I’m sorry for the negatives you have experienced. I’ll pray for you what I pray for myself: that in deep humility and with immense gratitude I will submit my imperfect, broken self FULLY to Him, perfect God, and joyfully and courageously allow Him to do with me what He will—without concern for what that entails.

    God bless you on your journey!

    1. Thank you, Dee, for saying so well what I would like to say. Wish we could see each other more often!

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