It’s not easy, deconstructing

A few weeks ago I was at the car dealership after receiving a recall notice for my airbags. While waiting to collect my vehicle, I sat in the waiting area reading How Jesus Saves the World From Us by Morgan Guyton. The employee I’d talked to on the phone asked what I was reading, and after noticing the title, he asked if I was a Christian. I told him yes, not going any further into detail. He asked me only because he was looking for a new church, and wanted to know where I attended. It was a short conversation, since he had other customers to attend to.

KermitI bring these awkward moments on myself by my choice of reading material, I know. To cut down on excessive spending, I don’t read in coffee shops as often as I used to, but when I do, most people leave me alone. Other times – either because the book title is attractive, or maybe because I’m a young-looking woman whose wedding ring is hidden, I don’t know – people (mostly men, but not always) come up to me to ask me questions.

I don’t mind it all the time, because I have made new friends this way. It really depends on the motive of the questioner. Other times, people use my own reading material as an opportunity to preach to me, which can get really sticky after I tell them that I already know their shtick – I was a devoted member of Campus Crusade for Christ for three out of four years of college, and I went to seminary. There’s very little I haven’t already heard before, as far as evangelism pitches go.

At the risk of generalizing, these sorts of Christians tend not to like me. I don’t fit in their neat, organized boxes of what a believer “should” look like, nor do I follow their scripts –  I was taught how to use them myself.

I ask too many questions: about hell, about Adam and Eve being literal people, about how they could “choose” to sin when they didn’t yet have the ability to discern right from wrong in the Garden. I’m not easily placated by “God’s ways are mysterious” or “Well, that’s just what the Bible says.” I don’t expect anyone to provide solid answers (no theologian has), but I do enjoy a good conversation. And that’s when it becomes very apparent, very quickly, what a person’s real motives are.

I find it’s really difficult for many Christians (of the fundamentalist sort) to express empathy for my doubts because they’ve never had my struggle. Maybe because they come from a tradition where doubt is treated like sin. Whatever the reason, they don’t want to hear why I disagree with X or have doubts about Y being true. Maybe they’re afraid of ending up like me.

I know many Christians (most, I’d wager) are not like this, but most of us have had a few encounters with the ones who are. They’re the ones who remind me that deconstructing is hard, on the days when I think I’ve reached a place of peace about uncertainty. The cycle of depression, the anxiety of not having answers, the grief for the faith I used to have…it all starts up again, an endless spin cycle of shame.

I still believe in God. I still pray and read Scripture, because there’s always more to learn. That’s enough for me…until I’m confronted by someone who feels it necessary to remind me that I have to follow their rules if I don’t want to burn for eternity.

The most accurate answer I can give about where I stand on faith (over coffee, I hope) is that I’m under construction. I have a faith in transit. “Agnostic” might be the most accurate, but to me it’s just another label with its own set of baggage. I’d rather not deconstruct a term that someone else came up with.

I would explain that I tend not to feel comfortable or fit in with a lot of churches, but I do fit in with weirdos and misfits with offbeat stories like mine – stories that don’t fit neatly in a box. I find community with people who love God but are uncertain about most everything else.

And I’m always open to hearing answers for the questions that I have – I just can’t promise to find them as satisfactory as maybe you might. And that doesn’t make me less faithful. It means that God is bigger than your box or mine.

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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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7 Responses to It’s not easy, deconstructing

  1. That was a genuine and sincere post. Both qualities desperately needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am reminded by a comment by Irshad Manji in her book Allah, Liberty, and Love:
    “Faith doesn’t forbif exploration. It’s dogma that does. Dogma, by definition, is threatened by questions, while faith welcomes questions because it trusts that God, being magisterial, can hamdle them. That’s a God whose grace can be felt by curious individuals everywhere.”

    Manji, a reformist Muslim, primarily addresses her fellow Muslims, but as a Christian, I find her ideas applicable for Christianity as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Eleanor Skelton says:

    “I find it’s really difficult for many Christians (of the fundamentalist sort) to express empathy for my doubts because they’ve never had my struggle.”

    THIS.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. bobcabkings says:

    This is a note, or maybe the beginning of a post, I’m not sure which, that I set down a while back. It seems to fit here.

    I heard this quote in a recent interview, but I didn’t catch the source: “The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty. If you have certainty you don’t need faith.” It pairs nicely with a prayer uttered by one of Aldous Huxley’s characters in “Island.” “Lord, grant me this day my daily faith and preserve me from belief.” I think our public discourse today suffers from too much certainty/belief and too little faith, and the unfortunate confusion of the two.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I relate so much to this. It’s hard to find a label – “Christian agnostic” seems accurate, but has its own baggage. I wish I could read Scripture without panic attacks at this point though.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Peter says:

    As an 81 year old great granddad I can relate to almost everything Beth has said here. Our journeys have been almost total opposites. I was a very active Anglican (in the UK) who became disillusioned with a lack of ‘radical’ Christianity in the late 1960’s. I spent some 20 years in a Sabbath-keeping Christian church that kept the Sabbath (from sunset to sunset); the biblical Holy Days (instead of Christmas and Easter).

    Just over 20 years ago the leadership of that church announced that much of their theology was misguided. That’s when I was introduced to the Evangelicalism represented by Campus Crusade for Christ. That was not the way for me and that was the start of a second wilderness journey that in some ways is still going on.

    I’ve very recently finished updating my own blog – telling my own story.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bob Mueller says:

    You are far more eloquent about your faith than I seem to be about mine. But those last paragraphs resonate so loudly in my heart. I wish I could still pray. I find it almost impossible to do because so many seem to have been ignored over the years. I so appreciate your posts like this one.

    Grace and Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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