Andrew Hackman is a blogger on matters of religion, politics and education. He was a Christian for at least 26 years, but recently left the faith. I’ve watched as he documented his path on his own blog and invited him to write a guest editorial for mine. He has been an elementary teacher for 20 years, performs in local theater, and lives with his wife and two children in Salt Lake City. You can find his blog here, where he says of himself, “I am an ex-evangelical, post-Christian, hopeful agnostic. I believe loving our family, neighbors, and enemies is the only way to bring peace to this world.”
Responses to Leaving The Faith
I have recently left my Christian faith of 26+ years. This actually generated much less hub-bub than I anticipated; I deduce that most of my Christian friends considered my move from heretic to agnostic to actually be a step up.
I follow the Facebook pages and blogs of a number of other folks who have left their faith, and I have noticed some patterns. Whether it is from a slice of Christendom, or some other religion, reactions from the faithful are similar and tend to fall into certain categories. I will attempt to label some here.
* You’ll Get Yours! – These folks take it personally that you have left the faith. Their commentary toward you is one of frustration and anger. They tend to do a lot of “mind reading”, in that they are always telling you what your feelings and motivations are. It is usually not long before they are threatening you with Hell. The level of snarkiness in these conversations can get pretty high.
* I Pity You – This person repeatedly states how sorry they are for you now that you have left the faith. They regret that you got caught up with the wrong people or church, and that this has made you hurt and bitter. If you just knew the God/Jesus they know… you would never have left. These conversations can actually get pretty snarky too, but the delivery is always done with a touch of concern.
* You Must Be In Sin – When people in this camp hear of someone leaving their faith, they assume the person is engaging in -or wants to engage in- sinful activity; or that the “self-less” life of the faith was too hard. Somehow, in some way, the fault rests with the person who left the faith. What this believer can never consider is that the person left the faith because they found it to be untrue. They cannot process that possibility, so there must be more to the story…
* You Were Never One Of Us – It does not matter if you were Pastor of a megachurch… if you are no longer in the faith, then you were never really of it. This sometimes causes the believer to start talking to you as if it were your first day in Sunday school. Once, after paragraphs of theological conversation, a believer finally put it together that I had left the faith. His next line to me was, “You need to read John 3:16! It is so radical! It will really blow your mind!” It was as if the previous half hour of discussion hadn’t occurred and my 26 years in the faith had been erased.
* You Are Still One Of Us – I get this one a fair amount and it really doesn’t bother me too much. To this person I am “the son who said no, but still went and did the will of the Father”. Someone who is committed to doing good, loving others, and seeking justice still -in their mind -falls under the umbrella of Christian. However, I would contend that neither Christianity nor any other religion has the market on those attributes; so I could just as well be a Buddhist… or an Atheist.
* I Wish You Well – This person is your true friend. They are by your side and are glad of any journey that causes you to grow as a person. If they have to decide between their faith and a friend, they will always side with the friend… even if they choose to remain in their faith. If you are a person of faith, do you see yourself in any of the above categories? If you have left your faith, are there ways in which you would modify these categories or add to them?