There's no such thing as a former Christian?

by  Charity of Shatter Nicely

ShatteredImage by Cayusa via Flickr
I came across an article, post, whatever, the other day titled, There’s No Such Thing as a Former Christian, by someone named Charles Smith.

Hmm, I thought, that sounds interesting.  And by interesting, I mean, wrongI am a former Christian, am I not?

Needless to say, upon reading the piece, I determined that it needed a good fisking.
If you scour the world-wild-web for any amount of time using atheism as your search term, you will undoubtedly find pages and pages of sites laced with the famous proclamation, “I used to be a Christian.” While this may be intriguing to the seeker, desiring a glimpse at the testimony of a formerly professing believer turned cynic in hopes of discovering reasons to remain religiously repulsed by Christendom, or possibly the opposite – looking to see if their retroversion experience is sensible – one thing is certain…there’s no such thing as a former Christian.

Except for me, and all of those other people who used to be Christians, but are not Christians anymore.
Nowadays, it is in fact chic to listen to Christian-pop music, adorned with cross jewelry, WWJD arm-bands, Messianic message clothing, and attend Gospel rock concerts or church and say, “I am a Christian.”

Yes, yes, especially here in Vermont – the least religious state in the country.  Unless by “chic” you mean “totally looked down upon and ridiculed,” you are beyond wrong on this point.  Dude, the whole world ain’t Texas.  In some places, namely this place, it is the complete opposite of chic to do any of those things.
You may even think that just because you come from a lengthy lineage of liturgy lovers or a millennia of mass members you are a Christian – simply because you, your parents and your progeny participate in these religious rites. Unfortunately, none of this legalistic religiosity makes you a disciple of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
So, is it your annoying affection for alliteration that makes you the sole arbiter of what makes one a “disciple of the Lord, Jesus Christ,” or is that just one of your spiritual gifts?

For the record, mom: not Christian, dad: not Christian, step-dad: not Christian, siblings: not Christians, spouse: not Christian, until I was.  Not to undermine your stereotypes or anything.

For this reason, many youths that practice such pious performances growing up – become too intelligent to be fooled into following such archaic anthropopathy once the public school system serves up the contagious charismatic Kool-Aid of communistic clairvoyance – the evangelical evolutionist educational experience.

Again with the alliteration.  Just a tip, from one writer to another (and I use that term loosely), really that tool ought only be used with extreme moderation.
I must repeat: not raised Christian.  Never set foot in a church until I was in college.  Didn’t accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior until years after my evolutionist educational experience and Kool-Aid, etc.
After “leaving the faith,” these misguided, false-converts then find their voices in the blogosphere, social sites, chat rooms, discussion boards and every other form of digital media outlet known to man – exhaustively expatriating as many “cardboard Christians” as they can sink their flaw-full claws into.

If I didn’t “leave the faith” I’m not sure what I did leave, but whatever.  I actually had a voice on the blogosphere before I “left the faith,” where I actually argued against atheists and testified to my “god experiences” and how awesome my “relationship” with “Jesus” was.  (I can use scare quotes, too.)  At this point, I am not trying to expatriate anyone, but if I keep reading stuff like this, I just might have to start.
Ironically, if they would spend as much time truly investigating and begging with a contrite heart, “God, please show yourself to me!” they would discover that He is absolutely faithful to do so – and the door the Lord has once opened, can be closed by no man.

I did ask god to show himself to me.  For years, I experienced what I thought was god showing himself to me.  And yet, ironically, rational thought somehow got a hold of me again.  The door that was once opened did indeed close.
These poor misinformed “ex-Christians” were never truly reborn of the Holy Spirit of God. They followed the crowd in church, were dunked under water, consumed crackers and gulped grape juice, sang songs, talked the talk, looked the part, memorized verses and so many other religious acts, but never came to a saving faith found in a relationship with the only begotten Son of God.

Well, I am poor, after giving everything to “god” for five years, so I’ll grant you that descriptive term, and I was misinformed, too.  I was misinformed that the Bible is true.  I was misinformed that there was a “living god” who I could have a “personal relationship” with.

You’re right about one thing, though, I was never truly reborn of the Holy Spirit of God, even though I thought I was, because there is no Holy Spirit of God!
[Honestly, I cannot bring myself to deal with the rest of the paragraph.]
Let the reader understand, just as you can’t become unborn once you have evacuated the womb, you also cannot become un-born-again. It is impossible to un-ring a bell, un-cook an egg or un-kill the living. If you are a spiritual seeker, please know that there is no such thing as an ex-Christian and if you want the truth, please look in a good Bible teaching church for assistance. If after reading this you still claim to be a “former believer,” you just do not understand. And if you are a disciple and lover of the risen Christ, pray for them both. We live in an excruciatingly evil generation and the Lord will tarry for only so long.

If you are a spiritual seeker, I will not try to stop you from finding your own path.  I do not regret the time I spent as a Christian, as there are a lot of things I take away that are good, just as there are in any philosophy or religion.  But, there are also a lot of bad things that caused me a lot of psychological harm and unnecessary suffering.

Then, there are the “well-meaning” Christians, such as Mr. Smith here, who will tell you that you never were a Real Christian™ no matter what you experienced, no matter what you did, no matter what you gave, no matter how much you loved Jesus with all of your heart, mind, and soul, and no matter how real your experience was.

Of all the reactions people have had to my coming out as an atheist, the one that pisses me off to no end is this whole notion that I wasn’t a real Christian.

If I wasn’t a real Christian, then I am thoroughly convinced that there is no such thing.

But I get it.  If someone can have an authentic experience with God and still arrive at the conclusion that it was all in her head, that threatens your belief.  I do get that.  It’s too scary for you to entertain the possibility that your god isn’t real.  I get that, too.  So, it is natural for you to conclude that I must not have experienced god in the way you have and leave it at that, rather than accept that maybe there is such a thing as a former Christian after all.

That’s much easier to swallow, no?  It doesn’t threaten your world view.

Look at it from my point-of-view, though.  I did have what seemed at the time to be authentic experiences with god. Realizing that was all in my head was very hard on me.  I mourned the loss of that god I thought I knew.  I continue to mourn the loss of the friends I thought I knew, too.  I lost my community.  I lost my identity.  I lost everything I knew about life.  I have had to start all over and figure out who I am, if I am not the child of god I thought I was.

It’s been hard.  Very hard.  And here you come along and tell me that the problem is that I didn’t do it right.  I didn’t really experience god.  I wasn’t a real Christian.

It kind of makes me want to punch you.  And by kind of, I mean really.
I loved God.  I knew God.  I heard God.
He changed me from the inside.
He comforted me, gave me strength, forgave my sins, brought me peace.
He provided me with blessings.  He offered me solutions.
He told me to stop blogging.  I bet some of you remember that.
He told me and my husband to give away our fully-paid-for minivan with 45,000 miles on it, leaving me home with three kids and no car for a freaking year.

And by “he told me,” I do not mean “I felt like I had to because someone told me.”  I mean, during hours of prayer and alone time with my main man JC, He put it on my heart to do those things.  (I know, hits close to home, huh?  I sound a bit too much like a Real Christian™ with all this talk of alone time and prayer and God putting things on my heart.)

Ironically, since we all love irony here, it’s people like you, Mr. Smith, and all the other Real Christians™ that pushed me from waffling agnostic to full-blown atheist.  If I was not a real Christian, with all of my experiences with god, then it really was all in my head.  Ergo, I have no reason to believe your experiences are not in your head.  And all of that leaves little reason to believe that any of it is real.

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