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.
324 comments
  1. I’m sorry for your heart-ache and wounds from folks in the church. It should not have been. Thank you for reminding me to examine my own heart for self-righteous tendencies, and to keep my eyes on Jesus (rather than religion/culture/politics). XOXO

    P.S. You’re a fabulous write. Don’t stop.

  2. Wow. I feel like I could have written almost every word of this!
    Thank you.

  3. I wish I could say a lot more but I have to at least say thank you. If I wrote more I’d probably start weeping. Thank you so so much for writing these words from your heart.

  4. Thank you for this, Beth. Thank you so much! Your words give me hope.

  5. My friend sent this blog entry to me because she knows my story is very similar (clearly, not the only ones). Thank you for sharing and being vulnerable. It’s hard. I hope to share my story one day but I dread the backlash and bitterness I’ll have to fight when I see people like Samuel here setting me straight. But on the other hand, you have far more encouragers on here than “experts” (I graduated from seminary…I know many of these “experts”). I echo Chris that people like you who I have come across lately have second-guessing this whole God thing which I’ve completely left out of my life these past few years. Thanks again!

    1. If you feel the same way as Beth I have zero bitterness towards you. It saddens me that one who at some point heard of Jesus and chose to follow Him would lose sight of the truth in such a way. But I am not bitter.

      Look at all my posts. Almost all include Scripture. I stand for Truth, and God’s Truth is revealed in his Word.

      Read the Word, you will find God’s will for your life. Romans 12:2 is a great verse for you.

      God bless.

  6. “I used to be as Religious Right as they come…”

    First problem: Jesus doesn’t call us to be Religious Right (or, “left”). Rather He calls out, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19).

    “I went to Awana and learned Bible verses…” etc.

    Second problem: Thinking a Christ-follower is a litany of your “good works” rather than living “in Christ” (Galatians 2:20).

    “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…”

    Third problem: Thinking a Christ-follower is identifiable solely or predominantly by a right attitude or by good acts (Matthew 7:22-23).

    “I didn’t mention to my friends, of course, that I was having premarital sex.”

    Fourth problem: Thinking a Christ-follower should be more ashamed how friends may think of you rather than what God thinks and not being honest enough to (appropriately) confess sin (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8).

    “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…” etc.

    Fifth problem: Thinking a Christ-follower is disavowing religious based institutions or practices. Heresy is embracing opinions at variance with God’s will revealed in the Bible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:26). And, yes, even the most conscientious Christi-follower can fall away and have fallen away from God.

    “When you told me…you lost me.”

    Sixth problem: Thinking a Christ-follower is rejecting not only what others say, but also rejecting what God commands through the revelation of Christ in the Bible by the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:5-7).

    Which leads to the seventh problem: Thinking that a Christ-follower means keeping a listing of those who have offended you, which may betray a build up of resentments not yet resolved (Matthew 6:14-15).

    “Because I’m free. Free to love others fully…”

    Seventh problem: Thinking a Christ-follower is free only when they are living by their own morality, following desires that affirm their self worth (Matthew 16:24; John 8:31-32; Galatians 5:13).

    “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.”

    Eighth problem: Thinking a Christ-follower means conflating our idea of love with God’s idea of love as it is reveal it in the Bible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (2 John 6).

    Which leads to the Ninth problem: That a Christ-follower can never cease to follow Christ and never deliberately and freely remove themselves from God’s hand and fall away, forfeiting both forgiveness and salvation (Hebrews 6:4-8).

    “…And send love. And Love.”

    Tenth problem: Thinking that a Christ-follower is free from the faults of others and forgetting that hypocrisy, like the pendulum, may just swing towards us as well as away from us (Rom 12:3).

    1. Amen! The Word of God speaks for itself! Keep standing for Truth Nelson.

    2. Correction: The paragraph under the “Eighth Problem” should read: “Which leads to the Ninth problem: HOLDING TO THE MISTAKEN NOTION that a Christ-follower can never cease to follow Christ and never deliberately and freely remove themselves from God’s hand and fall away, forfeiting both forgiveness and salvation (Hebrews 6:4-8).

      My apologies. Thanks!

    3. Nelson I too was forged by the total hypocrisy of ” Christianity”. My degree is in theology/language/linguistics. The young lady most clearly exposits the huge dilemma surrounding religion. And don’t confuse things, Christianity is a deep religion rife with contradictions and half-truths. Your citing Bible verses does not alleviate the insurgency of the idiocy into Evangelicism. Franklin Graham and the Falwells are bastardizing the purity of a faith. There are those who practice organized faith and those who do not. Your adherence to a faith does nothing to corroborate the existence of a God or deify Jesus. The lady is correct on all fronts. Until you are willing to step back and view your faith and see it from all angles you will be blinded by its zirconium glow. All that you are managing to accomplish is displaying a high level of intolerance and ignorance. Listen intently to the “pundits” of Evangelicism — the poets, priests and politicians— and you will soon see who is blocking the hallways and jamming the doors. Take science courses: GTR/STR, Evolution, Molecular Biology, Quantum Mechanics, Physics, Paleontology….. Open your mind and listen to music other than praise and hymns. Quit pretending you know it all. Don’t cherry pick. Go to a strip club and enjoy the female form. All through history the Church decried scientific revelation. It is all about control of the masses, and the opiate is religion.

      1. Psalm 14:1

        “The fool has said in his heart,
        “There is no God.”
        They are corrupt,
        They have done abominable works,
        There is none who does good.”

        This is God’s stance on atheists. Truth be told, you are putting all your “faith” in science some of which you could never truly prove like evolution. All you are doing is believing what other men tell you. You believe the world was created from nothing which defies the very laws science is bound by. That takes some extreme faith right there. Way more faith than to believe God created everything.

        As Christians creation is the first sign that proves the existence of God. As it would take a power that resides outside the laws of this universe in order to create it. Especially in its design. It is up to the anti-theist to disprove God’s existence. Which sorry you really can’t.

        As for saying Nelson is cherry picking? Sorry but he isn’t. As Christians we stand on the Word of God which is the bible. Beth’s post, thoughts, feelings are extremely contradictory to the Word of God. She wishes to create her own truth which Nelson did a great job of shining light on by simply posting what the Word of God says in relation to what Beth said. If anything it is people like Beth who cherry pick. People who think that Jesus is just love but leave out the fact that He is also Just and a God who punishes sin.

        2 Timothy 4:2-5

        “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

        We live in that time when people have chosen not to endure sound doctrine and make their own that pleases their own desires.

        If you are not a Christian, I am sorry to hear that and I pray and hope God reveals Himself to you in one way or another. But if you ARE a Christian, then the Word of God is what you stand for and what you believe. There really are no and, ifs, or buts about it. You either Believe in God’s Truth. Or you fall into the trap of making your own.

        God bless.

  7. There is no denying that we all may encounter bad experiences from other Christians and other Christians may encounter some bad experiences from us. We all get things in the Bible wrong. We all offend others. We all hold tight too silly doctrines and teachings, at one time or another…

    However, I must say, perhaps, it is usually the ones who refuse to seriously wrestle with their conscience against the backdrop of Jesus’ life as revealed in the Bible, resisting the admonitions clearly read in the Bible, who ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit towards a life of self-denial and holiness may find it easier to end their tirade against well-meaning Christians (unless one wants to suggest that all or, at least, the majority of the Christians she met were deliberately misguiding her and meant her harm, including her father) by flippantly saying, “And send love. And Love.”

  8. I would much rather emulate the life of Jesus than be a Christian. Thanks for this from one heretic to another!

    I have never been happier, more fulfilled or loved God and my fellow man more.

  9. God is in control of all things. This includes people who are in Church leadership who abuse that position. Just because you have a bad experience with someone in the Church and have someone make up rules that clearly are not biblical does not mean you turn from Church. Instead dig deep into the Word of God and find the truth of Gods will. Do not condone sin for that is not Christ like.

    Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

    God uses all things and all experiences for his Glory. God is in complete control.

    1 Samuel 2:6-9 “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, And He has set the world upon them. He will guard the feet of His saints, But the wicked shall be silent in darkness. For by strength no man shall prevail.”

    Being a Christian has nothing to do with your personal feelings. It has everything to do with serving God despite your personal circumstances and standing for Christ upholding the truth which is found in Gods Word.

    Ephesians 6:13-18 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

    Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD OF GOD; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—”

    If we as Christians decide to make up our own truth and lack the Word of God which is the Sword of the Spirit, it is like going into battle with a wooden spoon. The bible is clear and is our authority as Christians. Do not be angry at your fellow man and do not be deceived by the worldliness of this age.

    Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

    Do not put your feelings and this world before the truth of Gods Word. Do not forsake the Church which is the gathering of the saints. And most importantly do not forsake the Word of God which is the Bible.

    2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    Do not be deceived by the world! Read the Word of God and find the truth! Fight the good fight.

    God bless.

    1. I believe most would argue that she is now more closely following God’s word. She IS fighting the good fight, or at least the fight for good.

      1 Peter 3:13-17 “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

      1. Thank you for your reply Anonymous! I am glad someone has actually brought forth the word of God in a response. 🙂

        Her post is all about turning from Church, condoning sin as if its ok, and turning away from the Bible which is the Word of God.

        Your passage 1 Peter 3:13-17 is great but please read what comes before in…

        1 Peter 3:8-12: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For

        “He who would love life
        And see good days,
        Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
        And his lips from speaking deceit.
        Let him turn away from evil and do good;
        Let him seek peace and pursue it.
        For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
        And His ears are open to their prayers;
        But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.””

        The Bible is clear. Refrain from an evil tongue, turning away from evil, “But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

        How can one condone sin and reject the Word of God and think they are close to God? The Word of God is truth and the truth is apparent here. Thank you for your reply but the Word of God in its context does not help Beth’s perspective.

        God bless.

  10. OMG, have you been listening my conversations, reading my journal and basically living my life??????????? This article summed up my exact feelings!!!!! I never knew a blog post could take me on such a personal journey, releasing from me a myriad of emotions. Wow!!!! It’s not often that I can’t find the words to say, but this is one of those times. I will say I love this, and you!!!! Brilliantly written, powerful, relatable, relevant, timely message. Bravo!
    P.S Let’s be heretics together!!!!!

  11. WOW. It’s like you are IN my life. I have never quite found a way to write out the thoughts and feelings I’ve had over the years, but THIS…this captured it.

  12. I’m jealous. I too am out in the wilderness for many if not all of the reasons you articulate so powerfully, among others. And while there still might be a pilot light of faith within, it’s flickerin’…there’s very little energy there to sustain it b/c, as much as I am desperate to believe, as Rob Bell says, that love wins, I just don’t see any reason at all–none–to believe. I still pray, but mostly out of desperation b/c I have to express the fears, outrage, and utter isolation I feel. I keep lookin’ for the “greater things” that Jesus said we’d do b/c He was going back to the Father, but see no evidence of them anywhere, now or no matter how far back I look in history. I really want to believe that just like when you turn on the light switch, the light ultimately does overcome darkness; but that just seems silly talk–clearly darkness is winning. I am a vegan, and I have the gross misfortune of teaching at an ag-centered school, in the Bible Belt, and the despair I feel every day can almost make it impossible to stand sometimes. Watching Trump, the Republicans, and Christian conservatives systematically work to destroy the environment just adds to the burden…as does the rampant love of guns/violence/and cowboy-justice-in-Jesus’-Name, not to mention the relentless cruelty, racism, self-righteous hatred and inhumanity toward our fellow humans that are too numerous to name here. So I envy that you have been able to retain your faith in Transcendent, omnipotent Love. I’ve always hoped it was true…I’m not sure I’ve ever really believed it was true.

  13. As an atheist and an anti-theist, I am glad you abandoned the religious right. As you pointed out, their interpretation of the Bible is not the only one. The problem I have is that neither of you have any way of knowing which of your interpretations is correct.

    Would you engage in a thought exercise for me? Pretend God appeared before you, and let’s assume for purposes of this discussion that you are satisfied it really is God and not Satan trying to trick you.

    Now assume God says the following: “Listen, Beth. The evangelicals have the correct interpretation. Among other things, when I said homosexuality was an abomination I meant it. When I said women should remain silent in churches, that’s exactly what I meant. Okay, the people that mocked your baby for being Vietnamese were wrong, but I have special rotisserie for them in hell – so I have your back. But otherwise the evangelicals are doing exactly what I commanded of them. You need to return to their fold to save your soul.”

    If you knew the evangelicals’ interpretation was correct, would you return to them? Or would you tell God “Sorry, I cannot in good conscience follow you anymore.”

    1. C’mon, Jay. Be an atheist if you want, but why be an anti-theist? That sort of sounds like you’re anti-most-of-the-world given that most of us believe in the existence of higher powers. I’m not trying to attack you personally, by the way. I’m just wondering why it’s important, here, in this comments section following her amazing blog entry, to critique Beth’s continued belief in a deity? Her position (and mine) is less of an interpretation of scripture, and more of a commonsense “I will choose love and non-harm” approach. Is there really much to be gained from arguing that she should reject belief? She’s letting her loving, non-legalistic faith shine. Its fruit will be apparent in due time. Let your atheism shine, and its fruit will also be apparent in due time. What a great world it would be if we’d all just live our arguments, instead of arguing them.

      1. And yes, of course, I recognize the hypocrisy or at least irony in arguing that you shouldn’t be arguing. 🙂

    2. What is the point of your thought exercise? I’m not trying to be rude I simply don’t understand what I was supposed to be seeing by the end of it.

    3. Jay, hopefully she would understand that a good tree does not bear bad fruit and conclude that she had been mistaken about who God is. 😉

    4. Chris, I don’t think I can buy into your premise. If someone or something claiming to be God did all those things, I would respond, “well, you are certainly no God of mine!” and be on my way. And until something like that happens, I see no reason to abandon my speculation that someone or something godlike may well exist.

  14. Evangelical Christians’ wholehearted embrace of Donald J. Trump has finally and fully shattered any remnant of moral authority or credibility they might have possessed. The church has at last become so arrogant and self-deluded that it is able pretend that a puerile, lying, combative, thrice-married narcissist whose only god is his stomach is actually a GODLY MAN called to save this country. It is breathtaking.

    1. The visible church has fallen away and embraced the great divide. One church will claim Jesus was definitely a Democrat, while another will persuade the lower laity that Jesus was a Republican, all the while the American flag proudly waves on church grounds, or stands sedate to the right of a big cross in the building made with human hands that many say, “You are now standing on holy ground.”

      So what political faction did Jesus embrace back in His day? The religion of nationalism has replaced the true Gospel Message in most American churches in which they themselves, have created their own version of a jesus that is unrecognizable with the true Jesus of our Holy Scriptures. And during election time, our faithful pastors preach their “political messages/sermons” in order to persuade their congregations to vote their way, all the while Jesus stands outside of their church buildings, weeping for His sheep, longing to coming into their folds.

      State owned churches….hmmmm…..I believe history is repeating itself over and over again.

    2. It is baffling. I don’t understand how anyone who claims to love God can be so blinded as to believe that this current President is a godly man or that his campaign promises were, for the most part, in keeping with a godly plan. This has been the last straw for me and I am now embarrassed to associate myself with Evangelical Christianity. I don’t even tell people I’m a Christian any more, I tell them I’m Follower of the Son of God or something similar. What a sad group American “Christians” have become, I can’t believe that God is happy with the Right-Wing Evangelical Church in the USA.

      This attitude has nothing to do with me believing that I have no faults, I am aware of my personal sins and faults and for the most part, my conscience is aware of what & where I need to change.

  15. Absolutely perfect. Absolutely. You speak my truth, as so many others. Organized religion has failed me three times (shame on me) and I, too, am in the wilderness, experiencing the radical love that Jesus practiced. Thank you for this post…for all of your posts. You make me think, you make me smile, you make me cry – and I love you for that. You are an exceptional person with an exceptional abilities. Please keep it up and keep your faith. Waving to you in the dark <3

    1. Exactly. Beth speaks as you put it in your own words “You speak my truth”. This is the problem with the world in this day and age. People desire to make up their own truths rather than relying on the Word of God which is the one and only truth. God’s truth is all that matters.

      2 Timothy 4:2-5

      “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

      We live in an these times where people go against the sound doctrine of the Word and will turn away from the truth for their own.

      Stay vigilant and do not be deceived by the worldliness that consumes this generation.

      1. Said the founders of the Southern Baptist Church in the 1860s.

        1. I quoted the bible not the southern baptist church of the 1860s. Read what is in the quotes it might help you there.

          God bless.

      2. Paul wrote those words to Timothy, not to modern lay people. Evangelicalism is a symptom of ignorance about what the scripture says (or rather, what it doesn’t say) to and about individual Christians. A face-value interpretation of scripture would blow these lid right off the hoax of modern, evangelical Christianity.

  16. I exited that evanjudgical box too, Beth! The freedom to love unconditionally has expanded my heart and my vision. This path feels more Jesus-like–it is more generous and produces better fruit. No one is left out. Thank you for sharing your observations and experiences, and for pointing out some of the WRONG paths the church has taken. Many have been wounded; many mistake the word of church people as the word of God, many have died because they lost all hope because of messages from the church, church doors closed to them. Loving Jesus is so different from following the program we were fed. It’s all about loving. You get it. I appreciate your voice.

  17. That was… astonishing. Amazing. Powerful, to the point of being probably The. Most. Powerful. Words. I. Have. Ever. Read, in 54+ years of rabid reading on a wide array of subjects.

    In fact, I’ll tell you *exactly* how powerful your words are.

    I grew up Roman Catholic, but by age 10 had become disillusioned with the at best vapid or inconsistent, and more often completely nonexistent, answers to any but the most utterly shallow of questions. I continued church attendance with my parents, as a child does, until that was no longer necessary, then slowly, in a series of stages punctuated by lengthy periods of fear, guilt, inner torment, and soul-searching, that I’m sure you would find familiar, arrived at the point where I considered myself an atheist. In the early days I would actively try to argue people out of their religious beliefs, but I stopped when I realized it was never going to work. The other thing knew was never going to work was any attempt by others to talk *me into* religious belief. Until today when, while reading your essay here, I found myself thinking, “This makes me want to be religious again.” But religious *your* way – – I mean, as you describe where you’ve ended up today. I direct that if I were you a finally pursue it, it would involve the same fears, guilt, etc. as I went through in becoming atheist in the first place, so I might simply drop the notion right here. But the mere fact that someone could get me even *thinking about it* is, quite literally, a miracle, in and of itself. And I’m bookmarking this page, just in case.

    Well done. Well done.

    1. Dang phone screwed up some stuff. Where that one sentence starts, “I direct that if I were you a finally pursue it”, it should read,rl rather, “I expect that if I were to actually pursue it,…”

  18. Beautifully written Beth. Your faith has saved you and no church institution can offer up what Jesus did on our behalf, for the visible institutional church is not the true ekklesia our Savior is speaking of in His texts.

    Many of us who have experienced spiritual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and at times physical abuse from the hands and mouths of dedicated churched people, are labeled as heretics when we choose to run away from their abusive religious methods in search of help and healing. This has become the norm when a person consciously chooses to be free in Christ and experience the lightness of His burdens instead of the religious prisons constructed by the false church, and I commend you for coming out of her (the harlot church) and still loving our LORD with all of your soul, heart and mind.

    I am grateful that you dared to write what many of us have been through, never to return to the cesspools of man-made religion that cares more about our pocketbooks than our souls, for many an abusive man sits in positions of authority in our local churches, pretending to be holy men of god. And I no longer believe Jesus was a Republican, Focus on the Family listener, or dressed up to the nine’s to attend a religious meeting once a week….Praise His Holy Name.

    Jesus sees everything, He cannot be fooled. I appreciate your honesty, Beth. God Bless you.

  19. Absolutely LOVE this article. I’m a guy, but it almost 100% reflects my growing up in the IPHC (International Pentecostal Holiness Church). Literally everything you have said (aside from the female-specific stuff) applies directly to me. Thank you.

  20. 2 Timothy 4:2-5

    “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

  21. Very similar to my journey – thank you for your honest sharing!

  22. Wow I’m so sorry to hear about all the hurt you’ve experienced. The church can often misrepresent God.

    I think a great question to ask is: what offenses came from the sin and unloving behavior of those in the church, and what offenses are from Gods word?

    I see both in your article.

    I appreciate your honest heart. I encourage you to bring every one of these hurts to the Lord. He is a loving Father who cares so much about you. I care about you and will be praying you find His healing, freedom and truth.

    1. I am not sure but the way I read your response Kelly Lund I would say you didn’t get it. I would say to your response you lost me.

    2. You don’t understand. At all. This woman’s journey is mine, also. Your encouraging her to examine her heart and ask which offenses “come from God’s Word” is emblematic of the hypocrisy and arrogance that has poisoned the evangelical church these past forty years. 150 years ago, we were certain that God’s Word authorized slavery. Sixty years ago, we were certain that God’s Word forbade marriages between black and white. In every decade, we have believed whatever those behind the pulpit told us God’s Word required. We also believed that God’s Word NEVER changes meaning, ever. In other words, we were not like Jesus Himself who didn’t hesitate to cast aside religious rules in favor of grace and love. He even excused the time that David and his men entered the Temple and ate the consecrated bread! That was nearly the most blasphemous thing that a man could have done in Old Testament times, but Jesus looked back and said it had been OK, because David and his men were hungry. I will follow Christ’s example, thank you very much. I will love without judgment, and not gasp in horror over violations of today’s edition of The Evangelical Rules (which will be different tomorrow, just as they were different yesterday, but which the evangelical church will still consider God’s Unchanging Truth). Jesus said that not one jot or tittle of the law would pass away before everything was accomplished. Then, on the cross, he said something else: “It is finished.”

  23. Your story certainly shows difficulties a thinking person has with Evangelical Christianity.They are so much emphasize the reading of Bible.Yet there are problems with the text especially the Old Testament with the story of Exodus and the Conquest. Israel Finkelstein in the Bible Unearthed shows the archaeological evidence shows the Exodus and Conquest did not happen.In these accounts one finds genocide in Numbers 31 where they are commanded to kill men, women and children except the women who have not known a man (virgins). How would they have felt seeing their families killed? Were they used as sex slaves?

  24. Absolutely lovely. May God in his wisdom,mercy and infinite grace continue to bless and keep you fellow heretic.

  25. Thank you for summing up the last 10 years of personal contemplation, in my own journey, so
    eloquently.

    1. I’m amazed how parallel our lives are. I have gone through the exact same thing you have. I have left the LDS Church, also known as the Mormon Church, for the very same reasons. I have searched for Jesus and found him outside the four walls of that building. Thank you for so eloquently putting my feelings into words. I love your posts! You make me laugh and cry. Keep it up.

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