Breaking Up With Jesus

bridge

So I used to be a Christian.

It’s such an odd statement for me to make. It makes it sound like I was a Christian long, long ago. Really, the unraveling began several years ago, but the loss of the title was rather recent. There was a struggle inside me to hold on for dear life, to summon the divine intervention I so desperately needed. At the end of the day God didn’t show up. So I did what I had to do.

I had to break up with Jesus.

When I express the aforementioned conclusion, some predictable responses quickly surface. The most common rebuttal goes something like “God did show up. You just didn’t have the eyes to see.” This cliche is insulting to say the least. However, I used to be a Christian, so I understand the mindset of giving God all the benefit of every doubt. He’s right, so any beef you have with him must be wrong, misguided, sinful, or lacking maturity. Your suffering? Hey… Jesus suffered, so that means you can’t complain.

The obvious problem with this line of thinking is that it invalidates the human experience. It teaches us to ignore the very real feelings we encounter. If God is silent, we should be patient and wait. When he’s still silent, we should be patient and wait. When he still says nothing, we should take it as an answer. When we lash out in anger (since silence as an answer is obviously bullshit), we should repent. Our anger is unjustified, because God is always just. We feel alone, but we’re the ones not “present” due to our lack of faith. We don’t feel God’s love, so there must be sin in our hearts. The list goes on and on. The story is always the same.

“It’s not you, God… it’s me.”

Imagine you overhear a conversation that goes like this…

“My husband never talks to me. I feel like he’s never even really there, you know? It’s like I do all the talking. I get mad at him but I know deep down it’s really all my fault. But he provides everything for me so I should just be thankful. I’m lucky, really. Some people don’t even have a husband. Sometimes I think about leaving him but then I remember I am nothing without him. He completes me. I took his name and I should honor him by serving him the rest of my life.”

 
Does this sound familiar? Most would describe such a relationship as extremely unhealthy. So why is it that so many depict their relationship with God in a similar light? Why are these qualities grotesque for humans but endearing for God? A few more cliches may attempt to satisfy this accusation. “God’s ways are higher than our ways” or “God is worthy”. Elevating God above any criticism we can muster due to his sheer… um… being-God-ness… is a popular route, however it completely ignores the central Christian theme of having “a personal relationship with God.”

Again, a “relationship with God” asks us to ignore everything we know about healthy human relationships. We are asked to leave our better judgment at the door. All that life experience? Psshht.

You may think I’m just bitter about some narrow-minded group of Christians who falsely represented the true nature of God’s unconditional, radical love. You may be thinking “God isn’t like that!” or “Brett, you know better!”

Well, you see… that’s the thing. I do know better. I know that if God exists, God is good. If divine love is real, it’s not static and lifeless. But honestly, I don’t know if God exists. I only know that we exist. Us. Here and now. While my own experience has led me to leave the title “Christian” behind me, it breaks my heart. Why?

Because Jesus was once very real to me. But then I had to leave him behind, all the while feeling it was my fault. I had failed him by losing my faith. I just wasn’t strong enough, good enough. For those who did not grow up Christian, rejecting Christianity is a matter of differing philosophies. For the rest of us, it’s a death in the family.

My journey has led me here. I make no apologies for that. If your journey has led you to a similar place, don’t despair. Trust the sermon of your own path, the voice that says “You are perfect, broken or not”. The voids we possess, deep down… do not fill them with dogma, with doctrine, with wailing and crying for God’s attention. Fill it with your passions, your aspirations. Do not let the barking dogs disturb your dreams for one more second. You are good enough. You’ve always been good enough. In finding this truth, you find something greater than anything you leave behind.

You find yourself. And damn, you look sexy.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    I have so been there, my friend. I was a zealot. I was going to ‘save the world’ for the mythical Christ. Until so late in life I finally had to look life in the face and admit that I had been duped, hoodwinked, screwed over by this religion. I threw much of my life away on this lost cause. I pushed, shoved, and cajoled many into the same mess. And now, well, you know…

    Good piece. Totally understand you. Rock on!

    Ted

    • says

      Hey, right there with you roadwarriorpress – I was an “Open-air” preacher for the better part of a decade, preaching the myth to people waiting in line in the morning at the dept of motor vehicles……. I want to go back and apologize, but my heart was in the right place

  2. Money Munni says

    Hey Brett,
    Although I’m deeply sad that you felt God didn’t show up for you, I’m glad that you made a decision rather than just sit on the fence and continue feeling miserable. The burden of holding on to relationship just for the sake of holding on to a relationship can be quite heavy and suffocating.
    Though I am very curious as to what started this unraveling. I know it’s quite a personal situation so I don’t expect you to share, but I always have a soft spot for when people deal with situations such as these. What path you choose in life is up to you, but my desire is for you to at least walk that path without pain or callousness.

  3. says

    Great Post my friend, I too had that difficult Christian religious background, it seems now that you have three possible paths which I state in no particular order of importance. 1. A freedom to build your own relationship to spirituality and seek a truth beyond dogma. 2. A freedom to seek truth in another religion 3. A freedom to seek truth in atheism – for nothingness has its own power.

  4. Millie Clayton says

    Hi Brett,
    I found this interesting as you seem to have had guilt in the past from making the switch over to atheism. In Australia, most of us have atheist values yet additionally hold high moral stature. In fact, we have the stereotype here of religious values equating to lack of education. It is very strange to compare cultures in this sense.
    I’m sick of seeing Americans feeling guilty for seemingly ‘abandoning their Christian beliefs’ to think for themselves and work out what is right for them. In saying that, I just wanted to commend you for having the strength to go against the Christian guilt that is so pertinent in our lives.

  5. Glenda says

    Brett,
    It’s like you’ve been called to be the spokesperson in the story of “The Emperor With No Clothes”. I too used to be a strong Christian, relied very heavily on God and … God talked to me! Somewhere around 2005/2006? it is like God left the planet. Nothing significant changed in my life — it’s just that I finally had to acknowledge that God’s silence was really abandonment.
    I’ve encountered many, many previously strong Christians who, when totally honest, have experienced the same thing as you & I.
    So, what happens next? Can we regroup and still maintain the community benefits of church? Or do we all disappear into our own holes in a big sponge?
    Thanks for boldly sharing your insight!
    Glenda

  6. says

    Brett,
    You and I met right around this all began for you. I understand how you feel and your feelings are validated.
    This is a well written piece and presents a candid view of a faith crisis that resulted in a break up with Jesus, so to speak.
    It took a lot of courage for you to write this and I thank you for writing it.

    • says

      Thanks Jordan! It feels more natural to speak honestly about this now. So, I don’t really feel “brave” at this point. But it’s therapeutic to articulate a truth about oneself, that’s for sure.

  7. says

    Reblogged this on In Search Of Glitter and commented:
    While I wouldn’t say I have broken up with Jesus, I do understand the depth of pain and fear when you start asking hard questions and changing your beliefs. I also believe that we need to honor this person’s experience of leaving “the church”. This also goes hand in hand with my post yesterday so I wanted to share.

  8. says

    Yeah, ditto to all the above. “Broke up” with Jesus over the last decade (little by little deconstruction; a fragile surgery, really) after 23 years in ministry. Now an anti-theist. Like your absurd marriage quote, I hear totalitarianism now every time someone blesses their food. “We take this moment to give credit to our Supreme Leader. All power, honor, and glory to Him.” And this from people that typically hate big government, distrust authority, and cry “Don’t Tread On Me” freedom mantras at rallies. Ironic. Its a bit embarrassing I fell for it for some many years. I think they got me while I was young and credulous and I took it to the hilt. I relate to Ted’s comment as well @roadwarriorpress. Thanks for writing this, Brett. Mutual friend Bob Pondillo turned me onto it. This is the next social “closet.” Posts like this help folk “come out.”

  9. Joanna says

    I read this story with total understanding – and it’s left me feeling – I don’t know?
    I grew up in an extremely fundamental Christian household. I made a profession of faith at 18 after so much soul-searching. I tried, honestly, to follow the rules but they stifled my joy. So I left the rules part behind and focused on the forgiveness, the willingness to admit wrong doing and to start again each new day.

    I haven’t broken up with Jesus yet. I believe in the existence of a being outside of the physical universe and as a causal agent of the universe and its physical laws, I’m not sure where the bible and other religious texts fit in with this yet. Jesus was the God I grew up and am most familiar with and I’ve gained so much from thinking through his teachings as contained in the bible.

    I am very disillusioned with the church. On the subjects of homosexuality, and other things defined as sin, I completely disagree with the attitude and actions of most Christians, especially the most vocal ones. Most churches I have been too are social clubs, with in-groups and out-groups just like any other human organisation. However, I do know that these people, like all others, are trying to do what they think is right. They have good intentions.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions. (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux?)

    I believe in forgiveness. Without it there can be no moving on, no growing, no loving. And loving makes life worth living. I believe in giving. It makes everything better (I have no further reasoning on this, only personal experience). I believe in living – this world is full of wonder and beauty and we should take the short chances that we have to experience it to the full. And I believe in gratefulness. This world is amazing, I am blessed to be here and see it, I am blessed to know the people I do, even the ones with whom there is friction because from them I learn about myself the most.

    I think this is all in line with Jesus’ central teachings. The rules and the regulations, that is all stuff we humans need because thinking everything through is too much effort, but following rules is easy. Is Jesus God? He certainly claimed to be, he did some awesome things to prove it. The most awesome thing, in my opinion, was this: “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40″If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41″Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 43″You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44″But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,…” (Matthew ch 5)

    sorry for getting a bit preachy there, I just wanted to share the point where I’ve got to in my journey. I appreciate all insight anyone can offer me.

    Not hearing an answer back is devastating. I wonder so many times if I’m fooling myself. I used to live constantly guilty but I couldn’t live up to all the ways people in church kept telling me I should – deny yourself of a relationship with someone you love because they don’t believe. Don’t have sex when it seems like the most natural thing in the world, instead, to cope you have to do all kinds of crazy things on your own.

    Good luck with your journey, I look forward to reading about where you go from now. Hope you can trailblaze a path for those of us behind you….

  10. Anne says

    If we believe God does not exist…..
    And he doesn’t, then we’ll die and not know any better.
    If we believe he does exist….
    And he doesn’t, then we’ll die and not know any better.
    If we believe God does exist…
    And he does then we’ll die and spend eternity with him.
    If we believe he does not exist…
    And he does, then we’ll suffer in hell for eternity.
    It’s worth perusing, meditating on the bible, praying, discussing until you are at a stage beyond doubt….it could be the difference between living eternity in paradise or hell….or just a hole in the ground! …….beyond doubt!!
    (Aware this is the very basic principle…but sometimes worth a thought)

      • Anne says

        True!
        Do all religions lead to everlasting life?
        Do all religions have a God who is alive?….that’s all I have at the minute!

      • says

        The contents of the religion’s mythology has no bearing on the wager of which you speak. But I have no desire to argue with you. I only wish to thank you for reading!

      • says

        …or perhaps a different interpretation could be seen here, what if it is the premise of Christianity, or even religion in general, that is questionable. What if our relationship with the Divine Being (whoever She may be) is about personal empowerment and reaching the potential of your humanity as opposed to a parental Being there just to look after your perceived needs and fears? Perhaps the most loving thing to do is not to answer you so you grow in your spiritual understanding, perhaps the best way to believe in you is not to answer you and believe fervently that you are not going to collapse into the fear of Hell or the emotionally repressed cynicism of atheism. Perhaps the highest love that the Divine Being can show you is to challenge you to start to see your own Divinity….just saying!

      • says

        You are welcome Brett, I found your post a number of weeks ago and have been following the comments. You know I have absolutely no idea where I first saw it, although this is not my first reply. I believe I was attracted to as I too was brought up in an Evangelical Christian background and what you said rang a note of recognition with me

      • Anne says

        Don’t get me wrong….I’m not trying to be difficult/persuasive. It’s a daily battle, I’d be surprised if the majority of people with any from of faith didn’t think in depth about it from time to time! Doubts will always creep in. No one’s perfect and no one is expected to be perfect. Christianity is about perseverance, the hard road, even Jesus felt abandoned at one point in his life.

  11. Leigh says

    Brett,
    I’m saddened that you felt God didn’t show up for you. He was definitely there with you the whole time if your were truly His to begin with. And if you were, it’s impossible to separate yourself from Him. So the Breaking Up With Jesus thing is mere semantics. He knew you when you were yet unformed in your mother’s womb, and His Spirit brought you to the knowledge of Him, and you were justified by your faith in Him, and NOTHING can separate you from Him. Not even death. You are bound to Him forever, and even you turning your back on him right now, and possibly causing others to also, won’t make Him love you any less, or make Him cast you off. He loves us all completely unconditionally…who else would ever do that? He died for all of the world’s sins, and one day, all those who don’t believe…WILL…but hopefully sooner than later. I’m praying that He shows you how very much you matter to Him, and that you run as fast as you can back to Him! He will welcome you with open arms…as if you’d never left…that’s the God of the Bible…that’s what He does.
    You are such a gifted writer…I pray that your gift will be used to bring honor to the Giver again one day soon.
    I also worked with youth for years…and loved every minute. And I have sat in church finance committee meetings and had many disappointments in people and pastors…but God…God has NEVER let me down. There is no institution or organization or relationship that is exempt from hypocrisy, sin, and all that comes along with humans and how we relate to one another. Yes, it is sad when people who should know and do better don’t, but that just shows how we ALL need Jesus. His people aren’t perfect, and never will be this side of heaven. The disciples showed us that! We are all works in progress!
    I will venture out on the limb to say that even though it appears you are moving away from God, you are really moving closer to Him than you even know. He doesn’t take us by force, and will oft tiptoe through the back door! You were bought with a price, and like the lost sheep, the Shepherd will not rest until you are back in the fold where you belong. He came to seek and save that which is lost.
    All God’s Best To You, Brett.
    Becky

  12. erkkinator2014 says

    Excellent post. I couldn’t stand the way God always won. No matter how I felt, what the circumstances, etc., God was never to blame. It was either others or myself, and even if it was others, it was also myself for not having faith despite their behavior. Like you, eventually I realized how circular the whole thing was.

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