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A Crisis of Religion, Not A Crisis of Faith

by Alex Iwashyna

in Christianity, God (spirituality and religion)

For the past several Sundays I have skipped out on my spiritual post. I haven’t gone atheist, but I’ve had nothing to write.

I thought with all the weddings that I’m in, my Sunday posts would be easy. I see God as the foundation of my marriage and I even officiated my friend’s wedding last night. God was there. But I still struggled to write.

Now, I am not struggling with God. I have been going right along chatting with God, seeing daily miracles, you know, the usual for us God-freaks. The problem that I’m having is with Christianity. I’m not feeling very Christian.

On my path to a God-loving liberal, I found God first. The whole Jesus/church thing came years later. It came as a way for my husband and I to share God. I saw it as a future place to share a more concrete God with my children.

And having a religion made talking about God easier. By saying I’m Christian (well, I usually add the liberal part so as not to be confused with the haters), I have an instant connection with many people. My God relationship is easily explained even if those explanations are more assumptions than truths.

But lately, I haven’t wanted to go to church. At all. I don’t see my family sharing God there. I see my kids in the nursery. My husband and I in church. Sometimes all of us in the nursery (because we have nursery duty once a month, not because we are all infatuated with the train set).

I am jealous of other churches with hordes of children and Christian rock music. (I can seriously rock out to contemporary Christian music. Which may be the most difficult thing that I’ve ever admitted on my blog. Seriously.) But I can’t give my money to those churches. Because my money supports activities that I believe are wrong.

Trust me. I tried to attend a conservative church. I sang and clapped and loved it. But when the basket came around, I shuddered. I couldn’t give. I know that values are often most apparent when it comes to money. Where we give and why. And I couldn’t. Even after an AWESOME ACOUSTIC GUITAR GOD BALLAD.

We finally found a raucous church that fit everything we wanted. We removed the pews. We circled up at the end of the service and sang a song often lead by a young man with Down-Syndrome. We didn’t use the basement until it was handicap accessible. On Epiphany? A man played the drums instead of our pastor giving a sermon. My kind of church.

But we moved. And we found a church that’s more normal. Still liberal. But with pews and hymns. And there are not very many children. I love our pastor and the other members. They are some of my favorite people. But I still don’t want to go to church. I guess that I don’t see it as family-friendly. And the reason I sought out a church was to have my family grow up in God. Because I don’t believe that I need Christianity to know my God.

And maybe it has nothing to do with my church. Maybe Christianity just isn’t for me. Maybe I’m an areligious God-freak.

I certainly don’t believe Jesus is the ONLY WAY to God. Last night, I officiated a wedding between a Jewish friend and her deist/agnostic husband. But I know that God was there. And I see God as Allah. God as the wind in the trees. I pretend to know how God comes to people. I would just like for people to believe in something greater than themselves. I found relief and hope in not being in charge. But I don’t really care what that looks like.

And to be honest, I don’t even care if you’re atheist. GREAT. If it works for you, I’m the first to high five. So maybe I don’t even care if you believe at all. Maybe I just care that I believe. And I’m honest enough to admit that I believe even with my degrees and politics and sarcasm.

But my belief system doesn’t seem to fit in very many places. And the Church of Alex seems a little cultish (although I’m open to the idea).

Mostly, I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to quote the Bible when I see it as one of many important texts. I see God in T.S. Eliot poems as much as I see Him in the Bible. I’m tired of saying, I’m a Christian and I’m TOTALLY OKAY WITH YOU NOT BEING A CHRISTIAN. I’m a Christian who believes in the right to choose, the right to be gay, the right to healthcare and welfare and a clean environment. I’m tired of being told that I don’t understanding Jesus.

Maybe Christianity is for the right-wing conservatives. Or the Bible-quoting liberals. I don’t know.

All I know is that having God has made my life something it shouldn’t be. Something amazing and wonderful when I pretty much thought life was full of despair and death. Doors have opened for me not because I prayed for a door a to open but because I prayed for God’s will to be done in my life. Even if it means that my life looks exactly opposite of what I think it should look like, I find that I’m happier with God’s plan than my own. I practice being the best Alex that I can be, which means I am patience and tolerant and kind when I don’t want to be. I’m nice when I think I should be allowed to be mean. Because I have this amazing God in my life.

And at my worst, I want to be self-righteous. I want to say YOUR CHRISTIAN BIBLE GOD SUCKS. He’s mean and judgmental. He reminds me a lot of YOU. But I’ve read enough of the Bible and know enough Christians to know this isn’t true either.

So maybe I’m not Christian. Because I can’t quote enough Bible to defend myself. Because I don’t want to go to church.

Or maybe I’m just don’t know what it means to be a Christian anymore.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Justine June 6, 2010 1

I haven’t seen the inside of a church since… I don’t know, spandex were in style? I used to be a Christian until I I lost my beloved aunt who was Buddhist and I was told that I will not see her in heaven. Um, eff that. If there is a god who is all loving, kind and forgiving, then why don’t all good people, which would include my aunt, go to heaven? Why just those who believe? I didn’t want to be part of something that didn’t make sense to me. I’m too practical and logical for organized religion. I think faith is a word created by people who can’t provide the proof we need in order to believe.

How’s that for jaded?
.-= Justine´s last blog ..Something borrowed, something true =-.

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Cranky Sarah June 6, 2010 2

I have my own similar issues. Hypocrisy is what gets me the most. I heard an essay on the Bob Edwards’ Show about a month ago and looked it up earlier today. I think you’ll like it.
http://thisibelieve.org/essay/17017/
.-= Cranky Sarah´s last blog ..I don’t accept “Boys will be boys” =-.

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Rachel June 6, 2010 3

In my experience, the more closely one examines the ‘Christian religion’, the sooner one decides to high-tail it out of one’s church and never look back. Believe what you want if it works for you, but I think it’s great that you’re examining, doubting. What is it you’re looking for at a church? The socialization? The music? See if there is a UU church near you. I think they are generally very liberal and not Jesus-centric. You could probably get all the perks from a regular old church, without all the actual Christianity.

But I’m just a godless heathen so what do I know?
.-= Rachel´s last blog ..There, But For The Grace Of The Universe… =-.

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susie June 6, 2010 4

I used to attend the Unitarian Universalist church in Glen Allen and there is one on Blanton that \my friend Sarah attends that I’ve visited more than once, I would highly suggest it. I’d love to go with you some time if you want to go check it out.

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Motpg June 6, 2010 5

I think christianity is an expression of your faith and faith is what you know to be true through your heart. Not something that comes in a building. I also think that we do not have the knowlege of God’s full plan, it is beyond our comprehension. I think the full truth is so huge we don’t have the lifespan to learn it on earth. So while we may share what we have found it is not for us to assume that we are in control of his plan and have all the answers. He is. I believe that Jesus is my savior but it is not my place to assume I know the way for everyone.
We stopped attending our church awhile back because we no longer found God there. As a family we determined that Lutheran is not our definition but Christian is. It’s the “church of us” right now but God is everywhere and at the end of the day it is the things that you described that really are the essence of being a christian. Emmanuel. God with us is what Jesus was.
I find what defines my feeling of being a christian here: 2 Peter 3 thru 8.
For me it sums it right up.
And I don’t consider myself a liberal or a conservative. Just me.
.-= Motpg´s last blog ..And Then He Said….. =-.

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Motpg June 6, 2010 6

oops. that was Chapter 1, 3 thru 8, not a huge reading assignment : )
.-= Motpg´s last blog ..And Then He Said….. =-.

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molly campbell June 6, 2010 7

Have you ever heard of “The Course in Miracles?” It was a revelation for me. molly
.-= molly campbell´s last blog ..CHALK AND CHEESE =-.

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Kate June 6, 2010 8

It’s difficult to believe in a way that is outside of the ‘normal’ religions. You’re brave! I’ll be here to high five you in or out of church.

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Butterfly June 6, 2010 9

I grew up in those nursery’s and Sunday school classes. I wasn’t with my mother as she attended the service, but I was with my “church family” and it gave me a foundation of morals and values that kept me from getting into more trouble than I was defintely capable of! I saw going to church as a family event just because we were all going to the same place at the same time and all of us (me, brother, sister) had to do it. In fact, it was probably one of the only times the three of us agreed at something – that we didn’t want to go! But we all went, together. And I’m glad my mother made us go, even if I don’t believe in the same religion today, it gave me a foundation from which I’m able to build a stronger faith today.

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the Mother June 6, 2010 10

The first step toward recovery is admitting that what you are doing isn’t working for you.

Why does religion have to hang on ancient words in bronze-age texts? Mistranslated, cut and pasted, biased by intent?

Forget the labels and the hype and the crushing prejudice. Religion is intensely personal–so why is it so societally pressured?

Because people let it. Don’t. Get on your own spirituality and run with it.
.-= the Mother´s last blog ..Mesmerizing Medicine =-.

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anti_supernaturalist June 6, 2010 11

Praise Trimalchio and all the whores of Rome

Dreary “God”. We need no more pious chatter and pointless scripticism — “my kingdom is not of this world.” Truly said, liar. There is no other world. All gods are nothings.

We’ll triumph in the name of Petronius.

Bring on the Satyrica!

the anti_supernaturalist

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D. Rene. June 6, 2010 12

A heavy topic, indeed.

My prayer is that you find the answers you are searching for through the faith that has you grounded. I think that sometimes we get in our own way of realizing our purpose. Continue to seek. And continue to believe.

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Kim Cedillo June 6, 2010 13

Wow! Although I read and understood everyhing you wrote, I continue to be drawn to the paragraph about everything He has done for you. No one or thing can take that from you.
I used to have a BIG problem with tithing. My partner reminded me TO LET GO AND LET GOD to make sure it was being used for the purpose it was intended.
Also, I understand the importance of fellowshipping one with another, but know too, I can pray and praise in my closet, vehicle, or ANYWHERE.
I haven’t attended Church in several weeks. I can chaulk it up to being busy, sick, etc. The other part to that, is I needed to put myself in check to make sure I was going to Church for the right reason. For me, feeling accepted is HUGE. The people and music also play a key role. I got SO focused on those things, I forgot the MOST important thing for ME– being ‘fed” the Word…..the “meat” that helps me survive.
I heard a song the other day, I think it’s called “The Heart of Worship”. The chorus said, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship cause it’s all about You, it’s all about You Jesus. I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it, cause it’s all about You, it’s all about You Jesus. It made me literally drop to my knees.
As strong of an impact that song had on me, so did that paragraph in your blog. As you used words such as “amazing, wonderful”, it was as though I could see your eyes lighting up. At that very moment, I was reminded of all the amazing and wonderful things He has done for ME. I was also reminded, people may sway in regards to many things, but what He has done and continues to do for us does not.

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Aging Mommy June 6, 2010 14

A gut wrenchingly honest and powerful post Alex, hats off to you for penning this one. I think the things you believe in you carry in your heart wherever you go and that each of us has to find what works for us to appreciate those things. What works for one person does not work for another and if you just follow the crowd blindly and don’t seek out what is right for you then you are not being true to yourself.

So keep looking and pondering and you will find the right path for you.
.-= Aging Mommy´s last blog ..What I Lost Then Found Again: My Happiness =-.

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Christine LaRocque June 6, 2010 15

Alex, oh Alex, can I relate. I was raised Catholic, though not in a staunch Catholic family. My husband and I, after much discussion and debate decided to baptize our children (I wrote about this once, it was a very HARD decision, and I’m not sure we necessarily made it for the right reasons) and now we are preparing to send our oldest off to a Catholic school in the fall. We’re doing that for reasons that are too complex to discuss without snaffuing your comments. Suffice it to say that I think you really do get it, to me it’s about God, it’s about spirit and finding it where it is right for you. That can change, but what’s important is the feeling and the meaning and how it guides you. It’s so much more than a place, or even a way of connecting to a religiong. Gosh, what a huge subject. We could chat about this for hours. I really appreciated this post. So, so glad you wrote it.
.-= Christine LaRocque´s last blog ..Comments and frustration =-.

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Natalie June 6, 2010 16

I think this is a fantastic post…it’s honest and heartfelt. I totally understand watch you mean, too. I no longer go to church, but I still have a relationship with God, and that is good enough for me.
.-= Natalie´s last blog ..A Big Fat Thank You, and I’m Handing Out Awards! =-.

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Annah June 6, 2010 17

This resonates big time with me because I work in a Christian church yet I don’t believe in everything that goes on “behind the scenes” if you may. Going to church isn’t the only path to God.

On another note! You know you just gave me tomorrow’s “Oh Mah Gah Monday” post right?!?! Thanks so much! And why aren’t you subcribed to my blog yet little missy?! :)
.-= Annah´s last blog ..CRAZY BITCH =-.

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Heather of the EO June 6, 2010 18

HI. I came over here because Sarah from Momalom told me to on Twitter and I’m so glad she did.

I totally get what you’re saying.
It’s all so much and so hard to figure out where one stands.
Sarah suggested I read this because on Twitter I said that I have CPTSD (Church Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
I carry a lot of…wounds, from a fundamentalist conservative background and so I’m highly sensitive. We were attending a really life-giving church and then moved, too. Now, we’re in a small town where all the churches we’ve visited are REALLY conservative. It makes me all itchy.

I want to go but I don’t want to go. I want to stop judging the conservatives but I don’t want to stop. I just want to love and be loved, as cheesy as that is. I was hopeful after a service this morning, but like the lovely pastor’s wife said to me afterward, “if you have gaping wounds caused by faith communities, you will be guarding those until you can trust, and that could take a really long time.”

UH HUH.

So nice to meet you, my fellow seeker, thinker, liberal sort of kind of Christian who wishes there were no labels. (Sorry I just called you a name-kind of) :)

Heather
.-= Heather of the EO´s last blog ..This dentist thing ain’t half bad =-.

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Alexandra June 6, 2010 19

I believe that the relationship between God and you is a highly personal, sacred, and unique one.

It is between you and God, and no others peering in, nor judgements, nor opinions, or anything from anyone else.

We have church in our house when ever we pray together. Whenever we sincerely thank God for all our blessings, when we whisper a Thank You heavenward for the beauty of the flowers, or gaze in wonder at the beauty of a red pepper at the farmer’s market.

I believe that is all church. Sincere communication with God, with you, or your family, or any others, is church.

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Cassy Lee June 9, 2010 20

I struggle with these feelings, too, Alex, and I love the way you put it here, Alexandra. Jesus wasn’t a big fan of organized religion either. I’d bet he totally understands our doubts and hesitations and would be down with us defining ourselves not by the word “Christians” but by our attempts to sincerely communicate with God. Christianity isn’t about believing in someTHING, it’s about experiencing someONE. I hope you and I and all of us will be able to meet with God more in our lives.
Cassy Lee recently posted..Be an Enthusiast

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KLZ June 6, 2010 21

I would join the Church of Alex just the way you describe it. God is about God, not about religion. The bible, torah and other religious journals are being interpreted by humans. Which makes religion reflective of the person reading the book.

If you want a church to worship you though, I would like it to be called the Late Enough Church.
.-= KLZ´s last blog ..A Riddle Answered =-.

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Sarah June 6, 2010 22

Wow – good for you for writing this. Very bare – I applaud you (mostly because I avoid talking religion on my blog). I used to be a Christian, but I am not anymore. By definition, I’m an atheist (godless). As I got older, Christianity made less sense and other things started making more sense (metaphysics and other undefinable things).

That said, you have to do what works for you and your family. Faith and religion (and lack thereof) is intensely personal and I believe that no matter how many rules and expectations there are, every single person lives it differently, interprets doctrines differently, and defines their faith (and God) differently than another. You can raise your children with and in faith without the institution, but if you seek the fellowship, than the right church is crucial.

I wish you luck on your journey. I hope you find the right fit for you and your family.
.-= Sarah´s last blog ..Smiles for free! =-.

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Jane June 7, 2010 23

Very interesting post. I’m not a huge fan of organized religion myself. I was brought up in the church, but learned much more about compassion and acceptance from the quiet spiritual example of my parents than from anything I learned at church.

Besides, anybody who watches South Park can tell you that it’s only the Mormans who have it right and are going to heaven.

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Miss Welcome June 7, 2010 24

Yeah, it sounds like you’re not a Christian if you don’t believe that Jesus is the only way, since he says it himself (I am the way, the truth and the life). I’m trying to state a fact, not pass a judgement – will you still be my blog friend? And believe me, my entourage of family and closest friends is extremely mixed – muslim, atheist, jewish and christian. I am definitely not a hater.

As far as I see it, the sins that Christians commit in and out of various churches (usually not so much the obvious acts of the sinful nature in Galations 5, but rather more the sins of the heart, like 2 Timothy 3) have nothing to do with the fact that Jesus needed to die for them in order for us to approach a perfect God. If we didn’t need to have sins forgiven, then his brutal death was pointless.

Actually I was planning to write something about that in my religious blog (as opposed to my usual one) http://www.battleforfaith.blogspot.com so perhaps I’ll do that now.

I wish you well on your journey. :o)

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Chara June 7, 2010 25

I’ve been struggling with some similar things as you along the lines of “church”. I told my hubs a few weeks ago that I didn’t want to go and he looked at me like I was starting to morph into a heathen before his very eyes. It made me laugh but also infuriated me that I couldn’t be honest with him and him not “judge” me on one Sunday I just wasn’t feeling it. I went and was I glad I went? Yes, once the music started and I reconnected with God and put aside my own personal issues and remembered that church isn’t always about me, but about worshiping God and telling Him how blessed I am by Him. Do we have to do it in a “church” setting? Absolutely not. But we are called to commune together with a body of believers because God knows that too much alone time, and too much searching on our own can be counter productive and we need the body of faith in other believers. As for church…I have come to understand that NO CHURCH is perfect. We thought we had one in CHS and then we moved. But the truth is, I’m sure something there would have bothered us eventually. Since church is run by humans, it won’t be perfect so we just have to find one that fits us the best we are and that God can use us in. As far as the other stuff, I am so doing a drive by today and placing Blue Like Jazz on your doorstep. He (Donald Miller) hits on pretty much everything that you have in your blog, and since I’m not eloquent enough to explain and don’t want to plagiarize, I’ll just have you read MY thoughts written by Donald Miller. :o)

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Hilarie June 7, 2010 26

WOW Alex! I can totally relate to all of this. I really respect you for writing and posting that. Sometimes I fear admitting things because that means they are true, but really its another form of denial. One of the few things I do know about my God is that it knows everything, so whether I come out and admit it or not…Gods already got it! Its nice to be able to admit that I don’t know, I’m not sure, and I don’t have all the answers. But the little I do know, has been working, so might as well stick with it! I really appreciate you writing this post. You did a beautiful job!

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Tessa June 7, 2010 27

I just love the blogs I stumble upon by way of other blogs or twitter.
I could have pretty much written this post, that’s how much it resonates with me. I feel pretty much exactly the same way and am in pretty much the exact same position….only my husband is an atheist, for the most part.
I love my church and one of the pastors, but my kids are 2 of 4 and they just cancelled Sunday school. I love Jesus and am drawn to him as a teacher, but in so many ways I cannot consider myself a Christian for all of the reasons you have listed.
It’s so good to know that I am not alone in my non-religious God freakiness!
Blessed be.

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Sarah O June 7, 2010 28

As a member of your church, I totally understand how you feel! I was raised in that church, and I like the feeling of continuity and family that my kids might get from going to a church where they have “history” and an extended family (aunts, cousins, etc.). But it bothers my husband that there aren’t more kids there. I like to think that means they get more individual attention and get to know more inter-generational people, but that might be justification. Anyway, the main reason I want them to go is that I want them to have the founding in the Bible, Christianity, praying, the important stories. If they have that as a child, they can fall back on it when they’re an adult and feel they need for something spiritual and faithful in their lives. Otherwise, they may never find that or know where to look for it.

I totally understand your frustration with feeling the need to differentiate yourself from the intolerant and hate-filled Christians. Don’t give up the fight, though, if you want to help the world understand that Christianity is bigger than those people and encompasses everyone. I’d love to see you back in church, and we definitely miss you guys, but there is no judgment here if that’s not the way you feel. Good luck with this!

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natalie June 10, 2010 29

Thanks, Alex… I love it when you write the things many of us are afraid to say. Church is everywhere. Church is the fellowship in our hearts with one another and with God. It’s bigger than a place and not confined by walls or pews or singing in tune. The whole world can be our church! Even this blog!

Hugs,
Nat

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Marge Wood March 3, 2011 30

Everyone needs a break from church once in awhile. A few years ago I went church-shopping. For six months I visited different denominations. I saved bulletins, drank coffee with folks, thought about it. I ended up changing churches. I still go to church, though. I miss the singing at my old church because it has really great singing. I miss eating lunch afterwards with my old friends. But I don’t miss knowing that most of the folks at the old church loved GWB and I could not stand him. He is/was supposed to be a devout Christian. Aargh. I love the discussion group in my new church. I’m pretty fond of the tai chi group. Anyway I suggest again, read the book CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US. Good luck. No church fits everyone. There are churches that serve needs like weddings, funerals etc, and there are what i call “underground” church which is more free-wheeling. I’ll be thinking of you.
Marge

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Katie March 8, 2011 31

you are right…we are the same. I love this post. LOVE it. I struggle hugely with wanting to be in church…wanting to have a church family…wanting to bring my son up in a church…and actually agreeing with the church.

I believe in Jesus. I believe he taught love. Whether he is Christ? I don’t know. Honestly? All those rules and doctrines and creeds? Don’t mean anything to me. I believe God is in my life.

Sigh…i could go on and on…but you get it. Because we are the same.
Katie recently posted..Top Ten Tuesday- small business love

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Sarah July 13, 2011 32

I’m not a fan of church and never really got into religion. I’ve had experience with non-Christian Christians. But I liked your post. You can accept that not everybody thinks and feels the way you do.
How ever you want to define yourself is up to you, but not always necessary. From reading this, I would call you a decent human being.
Sarah recently posted..Gone in 60 Seconds

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