We used to have such a great relationship. I’d like to think we still do, it’s just strained a little bit – like all relationships at some point or another. The truth is, I’d really like to continue making this work. It’s through you I’ve found security, encouragement, and hope: important ingredients for a healthy, purposeful life. So I hope you listen to what I’m about to say here.
At first, I was taught that a relationship with God – and by extension, with you, Church – started with Jesus Christ: believing the Gospel message that he came and died to redeem the world of its sins through death on the cross. Believing this wasn’t the hard part, but rather what happened after that.
I became active in small groups that ended up debating issues such as evolution and its conflict with the creation narrative in Genesis. Considering that I was not raised in church and became a Christian in college, evolution was no conflict for me. But according to this small group, it “wasn’t Christian” to believe the world was not created in six literal days. Apparently, if the Genesis story fails, it undoes the entire arc of the Christian story.
Church, this was not part of the agreement plan I was originally told. I was taught Jesus – that’s it.
And then there’s the issue of homosexuality. I’m sorry, Church, but I just don’t understand what’s wrong with two consenting adults being in a loving, committed relationship who also happen to be of the same sex. I don’t understand how that hurts anyone. Sometimes you threw a bunch of Bible verses at me and said, “There, that’s why.” But I still had more questions, Church, and you started to doubt the sincerity of my faith because “The Bible said so” wasn’t clicking like you thought it should.
I also struggle with the doctrine of hell, Church. Oh, do I struggle – this, more than anything else, has the power to make or break my membership. I have so many more questions about this that, again, have been continually answered with clobber verse after clobber verse that still don’t get to the heart of my doubts. “People go to hell because they have unrepentant sins.” Okay, but if it pains God so much that his children go there, why not find another way? Why not find another system of justice? I’ve tried to ask these questions, Church, and got told to keep praying about it, because God is God and I’m not to question him. Except, you also told me that God wants to be known by his creation. If that’s true, why are my questions unacceptable?
It’s other things, too, Church. Just when I think I figured out how to live this Christian life correctly, I find there’s something else I’m doing wrong. I’m not evangelizing enough. I take birth control; I don’t even want kids. I don’t read the Bible as often as I should and I still don’t quite understand tithing, so when the plate comes around I let it pass. I take medication for my depression instead of simply praying it away. I have tattoos, I curse sometimes, I’m a frequent social drinker. I didn’t ‘save myself’ until marriage. I’m a feminist, can’t be paid enough to ever vote Republican (except that one time, but never again – don’t tell my father), I have no desire to make America a theocracy. I’m a perpetual heretic by someone’s definition, somewhere: my question is, whose interpretation is the ‘correct’ one? They all come from the same book.
It just seems like there’s always something I’m missing or doing wrong; always someone in the crowd waiting to call me out on it. Whether they mean to make me feel guilty or not, that’s what I feel. And it’s crippling my faith.
Church, this is where you’re starting to lose me. You say it’s about Jesus, but that’s not quite the truth, is it? If it is, why are so many people leaving you when a pastor says he’s voting in favor of gay marriage? Why do so many people leave you if they discover you’re lead by a woman? There are so many stipulations involved, and I’m losing count. I just don’t know how I can continue to keep up with your demands anymore.
In Judaism, you’re Jewish if you’re born to Jewish parents. That’s it. I so miss that simplicity, the utter lack of pressure to believe things a certain way.
I’m not going to quit yet, Church. I don’t want to quit – I want to rediscover the same passion and fervor I had when I first discovered you. I used to feel secure. I used to feel confident. I used to feel enough.
Here’s my fear, Church: If I don’t make the right choices based on information that is maddeningly difficult to discern, my eternal soul could suffer. How is that fair or loving?
I don’t know what’s happening, Church. All I ask from you is that you show me compassion as I continue to grapple and seek answers. Please don’t condemn me, or rest assured, you will lose me.