We’re in an interesting time in Western society. The landscape seems to be rapidly changing—culturally, politically, religiously, financially, etc. When there is a shift as great as the one we’re experiencing now, language becomes incredibly key in polarizing people and ideas.
This is nothing new. It has always been a clever tactic by the powers that be. There are so many coined phrases that get thrown around in conversations to shame, dismiss, support, shut down, or provide clarity. These phrases have certain connotations that indicate where someone stands and how you should engage with them.
In the political realm, some common ones are liberals, conservatives, racists, nazis, socialists, communists, and the like. While many of these have very specific meanings, they’ve been hijacked to discredit and dismiss people with contrary views.
In the social and cultural realm, some common ones are woke, sleep, bigots, transphobic, reverse racist, racist, gatekeeper, ally, etc. These words have been designated newly minted meanings that have the power to isolate and shame contrary ideas.
In religious spaces, Pharisee, Judaizer, legalistic, worldly, self-righteous are a few common ones. People have long noticed how divided and segregated the Christian church is at a denominational level and cultural level. These phrases put distance between your righteousness and that of others. It validates what you believe and dismisses what others believe.
As someone who has left Christianity, I am very keen on listening to the shift in the religious landscape–particularly in Christian circles.
Face it–People are leaving.
According to an article by the Pew Research Center,
“If recent trends in religious switching continue, Christians could make up less than half of the U.S. population within a few decades.”The Pew Research Center
Studies have long indicated that most adults who grew up in church as a child will not return in their adult life. This has been a major pain point for many believers and local churches in general. Many religious leaders are doing their best to respond and understand why this is occurring.
Why are they leaving?
There are a few popular ideas within Christendom as to why people leave the Christian Church or Christianity as a whole and I think there’s something to be learned here.
- Church hurt: some form of hurt, offense, or betrayal by the leaders or congregants of a church
- Deconstruction: the idea of unlearning and rebuilding your Christian faith
- Never were connected to begin with
- Pulled in by secular culture
These are some of the phrases or ideas thrown around in conversations and I think Christians are missing an opportunity.
I find that Christians (mostly) lump every person who leaves the Church into the first two categories and it’s quite dangerous.
The “deconstruction” crowd are those who have grown weary of fruitless religion and country club culture of the church, and are seeking a more authentic experience. These people might feel a little lost, detached, disappointed, or infuriated. These people are rarely consciously making a choice to rebuild their faith. It’s a gradual happening in which they feel incredibly dissatisfied with the current condition of the Christian church. Most of these people will return to their faith of old.
Then, there’s the first group. There are those who leave due to faulty leadership or offense of some sort. This is what many are calling ‘church hurt.’ Some Christians feel particularly empathetic towards these people, while others find their “lack of faith” problematic. Their justification is that no man should have the ability to make you “walk away from God”–as though walking away from manmade religion and walking away from God are one in the same. Talk about problematic.
Nine times out of ten (not a real statistic), these people will return to the Church. Once they are able to heal in their relationship with said person, people or engage in healing relationship with others, they’ll come back.
System Failure, The Curveball
Those who leave Christianity because they find that it doesn’t have the capacity to address individual, familial, communal, or global issues, they will likely never go back.
To Christians, these people register as having the greatest threat to the Christian Church. Christians firmly warn against them and their “doctrine of demons.” Many Christian pastors are even doing training on how to respond to said people.
There is something incredibly jarring about the disposition of these people. This is due to their inability to be controlled. These people are not simply unable to be controlled because they’re wild and sinful. They cannot be controlled because they are no longer validated by the system of religion. They are no longer looking to the standards that the Christian Church has claimed to be true for so long.
This is the greatest discrepancy between the Christian and his friends that no longer find value in Christianity and may believe entirely different than he does. I’ll speak for myself.
I know many Christians who look down on or sympathetically at those who leave because if you look from a particular angle, it seems they’re worse off. They seem to be more unhinged, less clean-cut, more broad thinking, rigid, more emotional, etc. Sometimes, they seem to always be changing or exploring a new idea. It’s difficult to trust what they believe because there doesn’t seem to be structure or continuity (yet) in what they believe. So, you look upon them and think, “Yea, I’d better stay over here because by the looks of it, they don’t seem to be much better.”
This is entirely understandable. When I left the Church and Christianity, a dear friend of mine told me that it seemed I’d been led astray because of how angry I was. And I was angry! I was infuriated that the system I’d put my entire identity in, caved in.
I was angry that what I thought was fruit was rotten. I was disappointed that what I thought was wisdom was fear. I was angry that what I thought was faith was manipulation. I was angry because what I thought was growth and movement was me running on a hamster wheel my entire life.
Truthfully, I came off way too strong! I was beginning to naturally challenge a lot of doctrine I’d held up until that point and I’d share my discoveries. While many people distanced themselves from me by avoiding the conversation, there were those that despite their discomfort with where I was, they still indulged me for as long as they could. Some would engage me and pretend as though nothing had changed. That wasn’t right either.
The longer I’ve been gone, the clearer the picture has become—the more defined my beliefs are. For a while there, many close people in my life were incredibly concerned and feared I’d lost a connection with the Holy Spirit, etc. My shambles and immaturity turned many off to the idea of even exploring what I was discovering. Understandably. However…
The reality is, it is fear that keeps many from ever challenging what they believe—not simply being turned off by the condition of people who leave. It is tradition and misinterpretations of Scripture that keep you bound to a fear-mongering system that discourages you from questioning.
Granted, you shouldn’t leave your church simply because someone you trust has left. There has to be an authentic beckoning that calls you out. Honestly, it likely won’t seem obvious to many.
The reason many haven’t left is because they’re still being validated by the system. It works for them—or so it seems. As long as you are satisfied by what is given, you will return.
Once you learn how YAH truly validates us, you will find no purpose in the vast majority of what Christians do at church and away. Your entire world will be flipped upside down.
If you challenge what you believe, and I mean truly challenge, you might find that you’ve never truly been satisfied. You are still thirsty. It has been as though you’ve looked in the mirror and have forgotten what you look like when you’ve walked off. That is an imperfect mirror.
Christianity is not simply imperfect. It’s wrong. When you truly learn HIS ways, you will look into the perfect mirror and remember who you are.
If you are unsure about leaving your church, don’t. Whenever—if ever—you truly feel beckoned, you won’t look back and nothing will be able to stop you.