Leaving church because of Trump-loving Christians

jesus

On the subject of Christians leaving church after being hurt by other Christians, I’ve often heard this is response:

“If you leave Christianity because of other Christians, your faith was in man, not God.”

I don’t agree with it, but I understand why Christians say it. No one wants to believe we are capable of driving each other away with callous words or hurtful behavior when our role is to encourage and grow with each other. No one wants to admit to the possibility that our own behavior might have played a role in someone’s departure from faith.

Within the last few months, I read several blog posts and opinion pieces on popular media outlets by Christians who left their current denomination due to their brethren’s support of Donald Trump. I’ve written my own posts about my disbelief and utter repulsion at the number of believers who lauded him as God’s divinely appointed leader, despite his platform of racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

I’ve seen pictures of white supremacists at Trump rallies wearing crosses around their necks. I’ve read Facebook posts from Christian friends who trivialize the legitimate fears of people of color, the LGBT community, and the nonreligious, concerned about the future of their civil rights. My understanding that the Holy Spirit dwelling within one’s heart makes one more righteous and compassionate has been called into question. How is it possible that devout followers of a man who himself was the child of refugees could be so callous and indifferent?

I haven’t lost my faith, but I have nothing but sympathy for those who have during this election season. I think of the line from Genesis, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Christians aren’t meant to walk in faith by themselves; there is a reason that the church is called the Body of Christ. Many Christians are fortunate to have never been deeply wounded by other Christians, but just because it’s never happened to them doesn’t mean it can’t happen to someone else. Those who have never been hurt seem few and far between, to be honest.

In church as in any family, members aren’t required to agree on everything, but compassion and empathy are two of the most important markers of discipleship that must underscore everything we say and do. While it’s natural for family members to quarrel, it is an understandable shock to the system to witness “little Christs” defend a man who not only bragged about sexual assaulting women, but also, despite rumors of a recent conversion, claimed he had no need for repentance.

It’s an even bigger shock to hear such things from the mouths of the mentors who guided and encouraged us: bible study leaders, elders, even pastors. When such people represent the will of God to us, and their words and actions do not match the clear commands of Jesus to care for “the least of these,” a crisis of faith is practically inevitable.

People lose their faith for all kinds of reasons. It’s easy to devise a one-size-fits-all formula to explain evangelicalism’s dwindling numbers, but all this does is absolve us of any responsibility for things we did or should have done to hasten a brother or sister’s departure. And rather than take responsibility for things we may have done or said, many Christians instead turn to gaslighting and victim-blaming behavior: “Why don’t you pray more?” “You should have attended bible study more often.” “You should read this book.””Your salvation is at stake if you don’t get back in line.” Etc, etc.

Many of us, myself included, don’t want to permanently leave the church, but are in desperate need of a mental health sabbatical. I haven’t lost my faith in God, but I have lost faith in many of the Christians whose positive influence in my life and public support of Donald Trump I struggle to reconcile. In this instance, leaving my church was necessary to retain my faith.

Because my faith struggles are still raw, I have refrained (although it’s been tempting!) from accusing Trump voters as not being True Christians. Though I firmly believe the values of his campaign are staunchly against everything Jesus Christ ever stood for, my experience with doubt has taught me that it’s not for me to judge the state of anyone’s heart if they claim Christ as Lord. As far as the dictionary is concerned, belief in Jesus’ divinity is the bare minimal requirement to call oneself a Christian. No matter how incredible I find their conclusions, everyone comes to the Bible with their own set of baggage and experiences that will influence the interpretation of what they read, and part of maintaining peace is attempting to understand that baggage.

It may be possible that church is the least healthy place to process some of the shock and determine which friendships are worth continuing, and which cannot be reconciled when the differences run too deep.What helps keep me sane is knowing that God is still there even when I feel spiritually homeless, and community can be done in coffee shops or apartment living rooms without the need for steeples. That’s all church is supposed to be, anyway: community. A group of people growing and learning together. The Bible never says it must happen in a specific building.

Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.

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About Beth Caplin

Just an author, blogger, and editor working hard so my cats can have a better life.
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6 Responses to Leaving church because of Trump-loving Christians

  1. rtrube54 says:

    Sarahbeth, thank you for such an eloquent statement of what I’ve been trying to say to my fellow white boomers, that they may think they are winning a culture war while they are losing a generation. I’m glad you haven’t given up on faith. Nor have I, saddened as I am with the political captivity of much of the church. I’m blessed to attend a small Brethren Church that doesn’t go there, which probably keeps me sane.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mgrooters says:

    Generally – in my experience you do not find the same kind of judgment in the Episcopal Church–as a church…there are folks who disagree on many issues within the church– but the welcome they extend seems to be broad enough to allow for such disagreement while the church itself unifies around liturgy, the table, prayer. And some– find the church not a forever home– but a wonderful respite – a place to feel welcome and to worship. Rachel Held Evans and Ben Irwin have written about that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. David Murphy says:

    Good article, thanks.

    Like

  4. I love this, and very much relate. ❤

    Like

  5. Doug Daniel says:

    For too many Christians in this country obsession about ‘culture war’ issues, particularly abortion, have become so identified with their faith that they don’t realize how blinkered by external ideologies they are. As I understand it, it was largely the abortion issue and the possibility of getting a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade that led many conservative Christians to vote for Trump– and such was their fixation on this issue that they have willfully ignored the abundant evidence that Trump portends disaster in almost every measurable dimension.

    The next six to twelve months are going to be rough, no doubt about it– but there are plenty of faithful Christians who haven’t drunk the Kool-aid, who understand that living out the Gospel is not a legislative agenda supported by the Republican party (or any party, for that matter). We must pray together and stay together and bear witness to a Gospel that is not dependent on political expediency or encumbered by political agendas. Hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s important to note that leaving a church (or changing sects) isn’t “leaving Christianity”. Churches are institutional expressions of faith, not the faith itself. There are churches all across the political and cultural spectrum. It’s only the faith itself that is universal. And individual churches can be afflicted with problems that another church in the same sect might not have. I stopped going to churches back in the 1970s for a while because none of them accepted homosexuality as a normal variation in psychological orientation, and I had gay friends who had been treated with a distinct lack of compassion IN church. Once more churches started growing up about that, I went back and rejoined. But I never stopped praying, studying the Bible or believing.

    Liked by 1 person

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