Friday, December 2, 2016
Part 1: In 2016, I Lost God: My Deconstruction.
What is this?
If you have ever read any of my blogs ever, you've likely picked up on the fact that I am an obsessive list maker. Seriously, it's a problem. You will see this especially manifest as I begin to publish my end of the year best-of lists. This will be a list made to celebrate the value in my journey through 2016. I have picked 10 moments, and I will dedicate a blog to each one. I hope my experiences and lessons will in some small way prove beneficial to you in your journey.
Often times in Facebook posts or in personal conversation I will filter out my more controversial or provocative musings due to a desire to not add to the entropy that defines social gatherings and media in these times. However, I will make no attempt to mask myself here. Theologically, I will not hide where I am at on my faith journey; and I hope that anyone confused or in disagreement with me will respond with love and questions, not anger and accusations.
Where is God in the night sky?
Speechless I sat in my car weeping... staring into the metaphysical void that used to hold a very warm and personal God. It was a Spring evening, around 7:45, and the sky was blue with a hint of purple, as it can be for a few fleeting moments. I mourn as I look within myself: Where there was once hope, despair took control and my faith seemed nothing more than a comforting superstition. I had gone to a coffee shop in Eugene to watch a debate between a Fundamentalist and a self-proclaimed apologist and a Christian turned Evangelical Atheist; I say Evangelical in the sense of spreading the good news, and to this man, atheism was the most joyous news he had ever heard... And he wanted to share it with everyone!
Where is God in the city light?
After the debate, I went into my car, and sobbed. I had entered the milieu of the coffee shop in the hopes of finding a logical defense to my withering faith. The past several months leading up to this night had been filled with taking apart my constructs of God. Eventually, so many constructs had been taken apart that I didn't know who or what God was. I was, as more and more people are calling it, deconstructing. I wanted certainty. Sadly, while the Fundamentalist certainly had something to say to every question the atheist inquired, I was perceiving a deep absence of intellectual integrity from the guy fighting on "my side." Sitting in that audience of both the enchanted and disenchanted alike, I was ashamed. I watched in horror as this guy attempted to deflect all Biblical citations that show God to be an archaic, illogical, morbid, egotistic, inconsistent, blood thirsty monster.
Where is God in the earthquake?
"When God does it, it isn't wrong. Our perception of right and wrong are tarnished by the fall of man." The Fundamentalist says.
"Why would God give me a sense of morality if only to tarnish it because my ancestors ate an apple?" I thought.
"The Bible says Gods ways are higher than ours and his thoughts are higher than ours." The agitated Fundamentalist says when the Evangelical Atheist brings up Sodom and Gomorrah and the great flood. "And these people were monsters who committed child sacrifice in order to appease the wrath of their gods!"
"That's genocide. God committed global genocide. God is responsible for more deaths than Hitler." I thought to myself. "And wasn't Jesus' death on the cross a form of child sacrifice, to appease the wrath of our God? Why did God need to torture Jesus in order to not torture us forever in hell? If God is all powerful, why couldn't he just forgive us?"
After the debate I ask the Fundamentalist these, and many other questions. He seemed annoyed with my inquiries and the longer I talked to him the more I had a sneaking suspicion that he only wanted to talk to people who told him he won the debate.
So I lock myself in my car, and I cry.
In my tears were years of pastoral work and theological training feeling increasingly wasted. In my tears was a God who walked me through my mothers suicide that now stood so far away I could hardly make him out. I wept because it had seemed my best friend in the whole world, my God, had died... What came in His place was new and cold and scary.
Where is God in the genocide?
Try as I might, I could not shake the deeply troublesome thought that atheism, or at the very least agnosticism, took on the appearance of liberation. I wouldn't have to worry about anyone, like my mom who died due to deeply "sinful" choices, going to hell after they died. I wouldn't have to look at my LGBTQ+ friends and try to convince myself that they are somehow wrong for being who they are. I wouldn't have look at myself, and how I wrestled deeply with my own bi-sexuality for my whole life, and believe God was mad at me for something I don't remember choosing. I wouldn't have to pretend at some point I "chose" to be bi. I wouldn't have to pretend that the facts and evidence in support of evolution weren't compelling. I realized I spent my whole life proclaiming a gospel of freedom, but I felt trapped; and that lately, my faith felt a lot like pretending. I spent many years studying and teaching a bible that now seemed deeply flawed.
Where are you in my broken heart?
In the car, I weep and think about the church my wife and I just left, and how we have been weeping a lot lately. We left with broken hearts, knowing we could no longer attend that church and continue in the direction we were going. I think of a friend who we let intimately in on our hurt, and how when we left the church that friend texted me informing me that we were "destroying unity in the body of Christ." I think of that friend, and I think of my deep heartbreak over leaving and why we had to, and I think to God "Really? This is the best you could do in organizing your presence on the earth?"
If I had stopped being a Christian, I would no longer have to defend a time capsule of the 1950's expression of church. In that moment I stopped and pondered what it would be like to no longer be associated with an organization that: Spent over 100 years preaching the bible to defend slavery, and by and large directly opposed the Civil Rights Movement; that used its book to justify killing innocent middle eastern Muslims in the middle ages, or dropping bombs on countries that never attacked us in 2003; that sends LGBTQ+ kids to conversion therapy, which ends with more kids killing themselves than "converting" from their sexuality; that is responsible for the horrific oppression of women, the black community and the gay community.
Everything seems to fall apart, everything feels rusted over,
I wouldn't have to defend to my conscience the many churches multi million dollar remodels while 21,000 people die everyday from hunger. I wouldn't have to defend the preacher telling the congregation that tithing is "giving your money to God," while it is being used for many (NOT ALL) pastors bloated salaries, building projects, building maintenance, new sound boards, stage lights, new keyboards, new microphones, new mic stands and many other things that churches all over the West deem more important than stopping people from starving to death.
Tell me that You're there!
I sit in my car, and I pray a feeble prayer. "I don't know if You're there. In this moment I don't even know why I'm talking to You. But please, right now, tell me that You're there! Tell me that I will get through this and that it's not all pretend. Tell me your love and hope and peace and Spirit are real. Just tell me. I need you."
No divine voice, no rise of emotion, no signs to interpret; just a increasing sense of nothingness. There were no constructs left of God to deconstruct. Actually, I felt for the first time there wasn't even a God to deconstruct.
I dry my tears and I drive home.
A Word About Doubt.
I wanted to reassure anyone who may feel the need to contact a friend or family member or church member to ask them if they knew that Tony is an atheist now. I will write more about this in the next blog, but I am not an atheist, or an agnostic or even something as vague as a spiritualist. I enthusiastically associate myself with the teachings, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I walk happily in a reconstructed faith.
For anyone reading this who is in a season of doubt and disbelief, know that your experiences, thoughts and opinions are valid. It is an important part in your story, and there is no shame in asking questions and vocalizing doubt. Be honest about where you are. It's okay. The God I believe loves and honors that honesty much more than our pretending. For further thoughts on doubt, here a link to a blog about it I wrote a while back.
A Song for this moment in my story.