Today is the most important day on the Christian calendar. On Easter, we celebrate the single event on which billions of people across thousands of years have based their faith and vision of eternity. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I am one of those billions of people. Except for one small problem:: I’m not sure I believe any of it anymore.
For about half a decade now, I’ve been deep in a season of faith deconstruction. And what started with a few questions and doubts quickly spiraled into a massive worldview shift as the entire house of cards that was my Christian faith collapsed around me.
And listen, I’m not one of those people who was only sort of religious and then completely walked away. I was in it, deeply invested for for decades. I played by all the rules, did the Bible studies, attended the church services, went on the mission trips, and most significantly, believed it. All of it.
But I now I know that so many of the fundamental beliefs ingrained in me from childhood were actually a means of control and a mechanism for the powerful to keep a tight grasp on that power. And the end result for me, and so many others, was disastrous.
I’m going to call it what it is:: religious trauma.
The Death of Faith
The church taught me that I was made in the image of God. But the way the Easter story was framed in my upbringing was that Jesus came to earth to die a painful, torturous death for me, and because of me. They taught me without Christ, I was worthless, and deserving of death. You can’t tell a child they are worthless without Jesus and then expect that they will then feel worthy, even with a savior.
Purity culture taught me that my normal sexual development was sinful and I needed to shut down any of those desires until I entered into heterosexual marriage. And I did just that, but there was a high cost. I’ve never been totally connected to my body. Shame held me tightly in its grip for years and still hasn’t completely made its exit.
Complementarian teachings taught me that as a woman, my role in the church and in my home was limited. Feminism was a dirty word. I am one of the lucky ones- for me, this theology never led to physical or sexual abuse, but there are countless others who weren’t that fortunate. The whole system is rotten, even as it continues to benefit those who it was designed to protect.
I am fully aware that there are faith communities that exist and flourish apart from fundamentalism and its harmful teachings. I belong to several such communities and they add to my life in positive ways. But church isn’t a place or institution that I feel at home at anymore, and I don’t know if I ever will again.
I no longer believe in substitutionary atonement, the idea that Jesus died so I don’t have to spend an eternity in hell. Call me a heretic, but frankly, I have no interest in an all powerful God who would create human beings only to sentence them to an eternity of torture. I believe I am loved, accepted and worthy of life because I am human, not because I hold certain religious beliefs.
I still love the idea of resurrection, of bringing what appears to be dead back to life. And that includes my faith, although what that looks like is mostly still a mystery. But when I’m paying attention, I get glimpses of that resurrection. And it’s not in a church, or a Bible study, or in any traditional “Christian” activities.
I find resurrection in the springtime sunshine on my face, and in the life-giving conversations with friends who listen without judgment. I find it in my children’s innocent questions about God, and life, and eternity, and in my whispered prayers of Please God don’t let me mess this up. I find it in books, and podcasts, and twitter feeds, and in opening myself up to understanding the experiences of others not like me. I find it in empathy, and in second chances, and yes, in my persistent doubt.
The late Rachel Held Evans said, Doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves and matures. It’s the only way we can slough away false fundamentals that obscure (and sometimes poison) the gospel. If embracing that means I “celebrate doubt,” then let me be the first to offer a toast.
So today, if like me, you find yourself spiritually lost and filled with doubt, I raise my glass to you. This Easter, may you find God, and resurrection, and whatever else it is you need to be whole, in the most unlikely of places.