Two weeks ago, I sat on my couch sobbing in my husband’s arms as I realized that the faith I had been raised in and the faith I connected with were not entirely one and the same. I had known something was different about the way I viewed faith for most of my life, but I’ve often kept quiet about much of it out of fear of how people, mainly Christians I know, would react.
The first time I spoke out over my confusion of the difference between the Jesus the Bible presented us with and the one Christianity seemed to present us with was when I was 15 years old. I bravely wrote a piece that expressed my thoughts and posted it to my Fictionpress account. Although some of the reviews were encouraging and positive, one was enough to silence my thoughts for years. In the midst of their rant about how horrible it was to have someone like me ‘deface’ the word ‘Christian’ they threw out a slew of things they perceived to be insults, including calling me a Post-modernist, liberally progressive hippie.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I would learn to take that as a compliment. But even taking it as a compliment, I found it difficult to speak out about where I stood.
If there is one thing I have learned about Christianity, it’s that a large majority of Christians don’t like it when you ask questions, don’t like it when you dig deeper, or when you see discrepancies and contradictions in things.
They don’t like it when you want to think deeper on something.
A few years ago, I finally spoke out about where I stood on homosexuality, and how my thoughts were being shaped on it. When I publicly supported a leader for stating he would not tolerate people mistreating or calling gays sinful in public protests, I was promptly chastised like a child by someone in the church, and told by them that they were fearful of my influence over kids in our church. I was also told by someone that because of how I felt, they believed I was a danger to their children and wanted me pulled out of ministry. Not because I stated whether being gay was a sin or not, but because I said that it was not my place to pass judgement and I believed Jesus wants us to love them, regardless of where we stand on the issue.
Some of you know that a few years ago, I ended up in a very dark place, struggling to hold onto my faith and fearful that mine and Scott’s lives were going to fall apart before they began. The faith that I walked out of that dark period with was a faith very different than one I had ever experienced, and it has continued to evolve.
It’s taken me a while to put my finger on it, and to figure it out. At first, I thought my faith had gone stale. As we would sit in church, Sunday after Sunday, I couldn’t get into worship anymore. Not because I didn’t feel God’s presence or feel like connecting with him, but because when I would read the words we were supposed to be singing, I kept wondering how we could all sing them so powerfully when most of the time, the words we were claiming in song didn’t follow through into our lives.
I was struggling to find power in the Bible, not because the words were meaningless, but because I was discovering something very different in the Word than what people were saying. When I tried to engage in this conversation, I was shut down, accused of not believing or of allowing Satan to corrupt my thoughts.
When I would present people with research, I was told I was discrediting God by doing research, and that the research had to be false because it was contrary to what they had been told about certain messages in the Bible.
It wasn’t until about five months ago that I realized my faith hadn’t gone stale. As I had one of those moments where I just felt completely connected to God and he spoke clearly to me, I realized what was holding me back wasn’t my belief itself, but my fear of pursuing where my faith was leading me.
Since then, I have started exploring where the Spirit is leading me more; diving in and trying to find what I have deemed as an ‘authentic’ faith; one that is lead by Jesus and God rather than by the church and by ‘Christian Standards’.
And while I’ve had my husband who has been able to face this journey with me, I started to feel discouraged because I felt very alone. I felt like I was being called alone in this direction, and this was something I had to figure out without community.
The next day, I bravely decided to express what I was feeling to a community of women I am part of, filled with some who identify as Christian, and some who don’t. I received an overwhelming response from woman after woman who is in the same place, fighting to find that real faith and figure out what it means.
I did some research, and although I hate, hate, hate using labels that separate people into categories, what I found was that there is an entire group of people in the same position as me, struggling with the same things. While I still would not call myself this, progressive Christianity is the name for where a lot of what I believe seems to align. I don’t like using the word because it feels divisive — I feel like when we place a label like that we are dividing ourselves and proclaiming that our purpose is different, and I don’t believe it is.
I believe that our ultimate task is to show the world Christ’s love and message, and wherever we fall on that faith spectrum, it’s still Christianity.
I don’t know where this journey is taking me. I don’t know what my faith is going to look like when I am done diving in. But I’m writing this post because I want others who are in the same boat to know that you are not alone. That although it might feel like you’re standing against a crowd of people ready to crucify you for your beliefs, that there are many of us who are struggling along the same path.
If you feel like you need to question, like you need deeper answers, don’t let the common idea turn you off. Somewhere, we’re going to find that answer, as long as we’re willing to look.