My Catholic friend will be – MCF
Her Catholic friend will be – HCF
I’ll be myself. Albeit a really tired rendition of me.
So, MCF shared with me her concerns for HCF and what she believes and how that plays out in her everyday life. MCF considers herself to be a liberal/progressive. Her faith is very meaningful to her. MCF considers HCF (also very dedicated to her belief) to be uninformed and prone to mostly black and white thinking. Dogmatic. The entire conversation as I listen reminds me of my Christian years. Yes, we were to evangelize the lost. Those without Christ. But . . . for the most part we seemed overly preoccupied with one another, our fellow Christians. Seems to me we could have seen more added to the kingdom if we stopped the back and forth about one another. Hindsight. Besides I’m out of the kingdom now.
As MCF despaired over HCF and her rather primitive belief ways my heart felt heavy. Ironically I am in a position to defend HCF. Though never Catholic I did with sincerity and a well-intentioned heart throw myself into what ended up being a very narrow, uninformed way of believing. I yearned for black and white. I wanted dogma. In other words, “been there done that.” I understood and understand how and why HCF believes the way she does.
After listening at length I decide to enter the fray by saying that I actually identify with HCF having once believed or tried to believe just like her. You could hear a pin drop. I continued. I even shared other stories of my attempts to believe and how I wrestled with things like Christmas trees and Santa and Halloween and Satan. I shared that if during my fundamentalist (commonly referred to as conservative evangelical back in my day) years one of my children had left the faith and been married outside of the church I would have been shattered too. I could and do understand HCF’s grief. Her world has been turned upside down
I shared many details of my former way of believing and I wasn’t really sure how it was coming across. At one point MCF said, “Yes but you got out of it. How?”..
…I told her that there was always two Zoe’s. One was shattered and broken and didn’t have a sure foundation. She needed firmer ground. She was drawn to the need for absolutes and who better to provide them then God. The other Zoe was the part of me that asked questions and she never stopped asking. In the end, the Zoe that asked all the questions, got me out. In other words, I saved myself….
…In the end I think MCF was stunned to hear how it is I once believed. The thing is she sees the way she believes in a much more healthy way than HCF and me. She can’t see the forest for the trees. She doesn’t see that she still believes many of the things HCF believes and many of the things I use to believe. It’s ironic to me to hear her explain how the Catholic church is evolving somewhat and how many Catholics and even the Pope leave’s room for non-Catholics in heaven. And I thought to myself, ‘Oh that makes me feel better.’ Not to mention that she’s still making an absolute statement. That being that Catholics are the one true faith. Just like HCF believes.
I hope you will meander over to Zoe’s blog and read the entire post.
Zoe speaks of their being two Zoe’s: one that needed certainty and absolutes, and the other that never stopped questioning. I suspect many Evangelicals turned atheist/agnostic were just like Zoe. They had a deep need for certainty and absolutes, but in the still of the night, away from the church and its pastor, their mind raced with questions that their Evangelical faith had no answer for.
Like Zoe, I was a devoted, committed, sold-out follower of Jesus Christ. I had a questioning mind too, but my questions tended to stay within the boundaries of orthodox Christianity. My trajectory was more one of moving from Evangelicalism to liberalism, and it was out a liberal Christian belief system that I ultimately apostatized.
I know pastors who are proud of the fact that they have been preaching for twenty, thirty, or even fifty years and they still believe what they believed when they started preaching. They started with a core set of beliefs and practices and have not wavered one bit. I often wonder, do they ever have doubts or questions? Do you they ever consider that they “might” be wrong?”
Zoe said of her journey, I saved myself. I know some Evangelical readers will see this as proof that Zoe was never a Christian. I am to the place in my journey where I just say
w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r when people say the same about me. People who say this are ignorant and lack the capacity to truly understand anyone or anything that does not neatly fit in their small, defined Fundamentalist box. We waste our time casting our pearls before such swine, to quote the Good Book.
Like Zoe, I saved myself. My path was a bit different from hers, but both of us had questioning minds. When you have a questioning mind, you seek answers, and when the particular religious sect you are a part of doesn’t provide answers to your questions, you start to look elsewhere.
Over the years, I have had a few former pastor friends and parishioners tell me that my reading habits were my downfall. They suggested that I stop reading books and go back to reading ONLY the King James Bible. In other words, ignorance is bliss.
Here is what I find interesting about this argument. When I was their pastor or part of the preacher fraternity, they applauded my reading habits. When they walked into my office they were surprised at how many books I owned. More than one person asked, have you really read all these books? Yes, really…I have. (I know pastors who take great pride in NOT having a library. All they need is the King James Bible, a Concordance, and a Dictionary. After all, that is all Jesus had.)
In the Evangelical circles I ran in, I was considered the intellectual pastor. Pastors would call and ask my thoughts on this or that passage of Scripture. But now, since that same study and worth ethic has led me to renounce my faith, suddenly, the problem is that I read too many books. (BTW, my devouring reading habit started in elementary school)
I spent most of my life in the Christian Church. Who and what I was were swallowed up by Jesus, the Church, and the Bible. I lost any sense of self-identity. After all, Jesus said, Let a man deny himself…and I took the word of Jesus seriously.(please read my posts The Denial of Self and Living in Denial) For decades, I lived according to the Evangelical mantra, Jesus FIRST, others SECOND, yourself LAST. In fact, I thought that if I put Jesus FIRST and others SECOND that I didn’t matter.
This coming Thanksgiving, it will be five years since I declared, I am no longer a Christian. Over the course of the last several years, I have seen a secular psychologist on a regular basis. He has helped me rediscover who and what I really am. He has helped me to reacquaint myself with Bruce Gerencser.
Bit by bit, Jesus, the Church, and the Bible, have been shoveled, one broken piece at a time, out of my mind. At times this has been quite painful. Becoming reconnected with who and what you really are can be frightening. Learning that you really do have emotions can be quite unsettling.
I remain a work in progress. I have no Jesus to rest in, no faith to cover myself with. I have no final authority to appeal to. I must face head-on every question that comes my way. I can’t go back and I can’t go around, so I must stop and squarely face the question in front me.
There are times I secretly yearn for the certainty of the past. I wish I could consult the Christian divination book and parse all the issues that confront me. To NOT think and just say, The BIBLE says_________________________, certainly has its appeal.
But, I know better. I know that certainty is an illusion and that finding answers to the questions I face requires hard work. No deity is going to find the answers for me. My personal salvation is not found in a religion or a divine text. The only person who can save Bruce is…Bruce.