It took me a while to take my apostasy seriously. I’d spent so many Sunday afternoons arming myself with logical arrows in apologetics classes, but it wasn’t logic that first made me look up from my bible. I lost my faith to exactly the things I’d been warned about: moving to a liberal city, making all the wrong friends, and really wanting to have sex.
In the end, I didn’t leave Christianity because of scientific skepticism or frustration with biblical inconsistencies or the struggle to reconcile the wrathful baby-slaughtering old testament God with Jesus, or even because of the pain I saw it cause others. I left Christianity because I wanted to.
Desire leads to sin, sin leads to death. 1
It’s a tidy theology. An anorexic spirituality that starves out desire makes it easy to behave and to control the behavior of others. The goal is to train yourself to remove your heart from your physical body — the soft animal of your body who loves what it loves — and transplant it into a future spiritual plane. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them2
I was constantly uprooting desires, terrified I would be the seed choked out by weeds in Jesus’ parable. I longed for the day when my greedy consciousness would melt away into pure submissive worship at heaven’s gates. That didn’t just extend to “sinful” desires. Anything I began to enjoy a little too much, writing, music, movies, friends, could become an idol I’d have to give up. Every single impulse had to be surrendered to the cross.
Because you outsource every decision to the holy spirit, you lose your innate sense of direction. What you want and don’t want doesn’t matter, so as time goes on, you’re less and less able to access those feelings. It’s like an eating disorder, you override your hunger and fullness cues so often that you stop experiencing them altogether. Not only does this isolate you from yourself, but it primes you for abuse and codependency.
So leaving Christianity because I wanted to wasn’t just lightly shrugging off something I wasn’t feeling anymore. It took an active force of will. It took the incredible risk of asking myself what I wanted and the rebellious compassion it took to answer.
Instead of straining to hear a still small voice, I am beginning to claim my own. That is as clear an indictment of Christianity as any discussion about historical accuracy or the origin of the universe.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say this: “I am allowed to be happy.”
I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem, “Wild Geese.“
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
1 James 1:15, my paraphrase but true to the text
2 1 John 2:15, NIV
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