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Monday, August 27, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

A letter to my concerned friend and pastor at church:

Sent in by Jeff

Dear friend, thanks so much for your note of concern regarding my absence from the church community of late. I’m sorry I’m just replying to it! Grab hold, I’m going to share what I think. I share this with you in confidence, as I’m in the wrong community (a small Texas town) for this to be general knowledge.

In all honesty, you and I have shared some of the questions of faith that I’ve encountered over the last couple of years, and I have appreciated having an “ear” for that limited dialogue. I think it would be fair to you and Pastor to let you know that my “faith journey” has changed fairly significantly and dramatically since my return to Texas, and perhaps had the seeds of change much earlier, prior to our move from Utah.

I find at present that it is very difficult for me to be honest with myself (and therefore others) during our worship, and I somehow feel that I’m not entirely being genuine as I pray the prayers and recite the creeds, because in fact I no longer own many of those beliefs. I’m afraid that I’m not able to see this earth in the often-described black-and-white dichotomy of true and correct spiritual belief versus the harmfulness of “the world.” I’ve resolved that I am, in fact, a natural product of this world and am not separate from it. I don’t claim natural or “spiritual” advantage. I can’t subscribe any more to the necessities to somehow separate myself from those who might “believe” differently, or who have lived in another culture different and non-congruent to the gospel that I’m advocated to spread. I’m unwilling to consider that I might have just serendipitously stumbled upon revealed “truth” by way of being lucky enough to live where I live, or to be in a culture where it’s promoted and culturally normalized. I’m afraid that I can’t ignore those questions that arise outside of the fold.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me at this point comes at the heels of the last six political years, and seeing the results of campaigns that have attempted to clarify which are the “chosen” or “moral” among our population at large. It’s been disheartening to me to see our country polarized and divided over issues of “belief.” For all the good that’s been done in religion’s name, I’m saddened by the harm as well. I can only hope for my son, as he grows into an adult, an ability to contemplate how wonderful and beautiful and mysterious is our natural world, and about the possibility that he can grow up thinking and considering, loving deeply and joyously, without needing to hear (week after week) about our spoiled and sinful nature, and about how God would otherwise be extremely disappointed with creation had it not been for the ultimate sacrificial offering, and about how grateful we ought to be for it. I’ve lived long enough to observe that human nature doesn’t appear to be changed all that much by professed belief and that humans are capable of amazing things both wonderful and evil, the world over.

I do miss the church community of friendly and wonderful people, who are on a similar quest for truth. Departing from this community of belief has been the somewhat saddest and most difficult part of any prior journey for me, but also the most satisfying, and the journey most worthy of travel. I’ll always have a deep love for the “people of God,” and have all respect, admiration and awe for the lessons Jesus taught about compassion, the call for justice, and the leveling of unjust power systems that oppress and hurt people. It’s a truly worthy calling and I believe a lot of people within and without the church have the desire and ability to change the world for the better.

I will remain a “friend” of the church, although I’m in the process of seeking my community, which I may never entirely find. We might attend as a family occasionally, as my wife and son are not in the same place with me. For now my boy has chosen to continue to be involved with confirmation classes, and I don’t yet know what my wife will ultimately decide or if she will continue along the same journey. I’m afraid that for the most part it was I who got the troops rolling on the Sunday worship, so (naturally?) our family won’t be as permanent a fixture in the pews. I encourage them both to walk along their own spiritual paths and seek goodness and truth, and I can never bring myself to antagonize people of faith for the sake of pride or “winning the argument.” Too many of my life-heroes are people of faith—you two included!

I’d welcome any questions or comments.



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