The Deconstruction and Renovation of my Faith
I'm not sure if you've noticed it. In the past few years, there is a surge of women between the ages of 30 and 40 walking away from Christianity. Seemingly legions of religious leaders are suddenly struck down from their pedestals and outed as rapists, molesters, abusers, and liars. Now people are finding the very foundations on which they rested their faith crumbling to dust. After decades of being admonished to not build our faiths on the sand, but on solid rock, we are collectively looking around in disbelief. Horrified we are just now realizing the rock we chose was fragile soapstone. The second a crack developed the whole thing fell into a pile of debris. Now, traumatized, horrified, and in disbelief, we are having to, as an entire generation, sift through the mess and find the pieces that remain intact. Some of us are finding that nothing at all is left worth saving. They are using heavy equipment to move away the detritus of their past. Now the place their faith resided is an echoing void. Instead of a solid faith in Christ we are left with pain from the fall, and a confusing array of traumas that we felt for years but couldn't name for fear of being declared a heritic. Finally, into our 30s and 40s we are crying out against the injustice that was created to keep us "in our place". Bible verses that were used to control us are being reexamined in context and we realize that "No. It isn't my job to be abused for the sake of Jesus. We have freedom in Christ, not condemnation." So many of us, horrified by what we said under the influence of evangelicalism, under the influence of misogeny, abuse, and coercion have decided we are done. Done with church, done with false prophets, done with all of it.
To be truthful, it would be easier for me to wholesale agree with that conclusion. To walk away from the hurt I have felt first hand from leaders who decided to not follow Jesus but to follow their own selfish desires. The seminal leader of the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" movement has rejected his book, his faith, and his wife and divorced it all recently. He was far from the first. Ravi Zacherius was cast down from his throne of scholarly evangelicalism to be thrown in the fire as woman after woman came forward declaring his abuse of them. Bill Gothard, the self appointed leader of the fundamentalist movement that has infected the homeschool community was revealed as an abuser and still people choose to follow him because they are afraid of what happens if they start to examine their faith in depth. On a more personal level, faith leaders in our community were found out as adulterers and liars. One day declaring how much they love their spouse from the pulpit, the next sneaking off to a motel with their lover.
It would be easy for me to look at the dissonance, tremendous pain, twisting of scripture and outright lies and simply decide that no part of it was worth keeping. In a way that would just be the easiest thing to do. I'm not "popular". I don't travel in the "right" crowds. When our church split I was never asked to be in either faction, either those that stayed or those that left. People I thought might be friends turned into complete strangers. With interactions like those it would be easy to take my hurt and shame and go home to wallow in self pity. It wouldn't be the first time I had responded that way.
Yet. For reasons I can't fully explain I know that just walking away isn't the right thing to do. Not because of guilt, shame, or oppression. Not because I have faith in the leaders or the people of my church or community. The pile of debris has things worth saving. Jesus' words written in red. The cross creating a bridge to the parts that are true and the parts that men made up to agrandize themselves. I have seen prayers answered before my eyes and I have no idea how or why. I have felt comfort when there was every cause for alarm and terror. I have felt soothed when my soul was raw from crying. I don't have a reason why besides Jesus. There will be those of you that say I am crazy. That would be a fair assessment given the status of my mental health most days. It would be inaccurate or at the best incomplete. I don't believe in coincidences. There has never been a time in my life that I haven't felt intervention in my darkest hours. I can only attribute that to an all knowing God.
I still struggle to reconcile what happened under my own roof while my back was turned. The feeling of betrayal from both my son and my God is very real. The questioning of why will forever haunt me. I don't know why bad things happen when God could stop them. I don't understand why nations war nations, why children are left to starve, why elderly die lonely in their beds. I don't understand the grief that is overlaid in so many people's life stories. I don't think I ever will.
I have reached a place where I question more than I trust when I read a book by a faith leader. I am skeptical of men in power who have more than a few things to gain by lying. I am skeptical of the "right way" to do things in regards to my girls, modesty culture, and church culture in general. As I grow as a person I imagine those things will change. For now, I'm reading the bible and listening to other people's stories and believing them. I am much more likely to believe a story of an abused person than I am the story of an abuser being the victim of a lie. I think it has been too long for women to be stepped on by men and told to mind their place. I think the church collectively needs to feel the shame of what they have done "to the least of these" in the name of Jesus. I think we need to sit with it and change our ways before it is too late. The thing people hate isn't Jesus. It's his followers. Church, we have got to fix that. For now, my faith is under renovation. I don't know what I believe in besides Jesus. Maybe that's all. Maybe that's enough. I don't know.