Peripeteia: a turning point; the movement at which everything you have trusted collapses under you.
There’s no good place to start.
A lot of people leave their religion for a variety of reasons. Yet, there seems to be this small contingent of people who would love nothing more than to go back. To go back to a time or place when their church family loved them as much as they love their church. Or did love their church.
It is my hope that what I say might speak to this small population, but maybe it’s all too personal and there comes a point when your scars are just yours.
I guess I should count myself lucky that for a few years I felt the overwhelming love that comes with being among a real religious community. I was ride-or-die for my denomination. My ultimate dream was to dedicate my entire life (personally and professionally) to this church. My parents had done it, my grandparents, uncles, aunts….this church not only symbolized my participation within the church catholic and all that that family entails, but also my heritage and loving embrace of my own nuclear family and their decisions to be pastors, theology professors, Christian counselors, Christian publishers, church organists, missionaries, etc. etc. etc.
I LOVED my church and, for a while there, my church loved me back.
The circumstances don’t matter. What matters is that one day the earth went cold. So few questioned. So few doubted. Many believed the worst and the rumor mill was at its best. Friends and mentors invited to my wedding – people who comforted us when my grandparents died…they disappeared. Best friends went quiet.
Where did my Christian community go? Why did they go silent in the face of troubled waters? Wasn’t the Bible full of teachings to do the total opposite of what we felt was happening to us?
I know there were a few who had ill will, but most people just felt uncomfortable. In many ways I saw us as lepers or scapegoats…and you know the thing about lepers and scapegoats? All the community desperately wants is for them to just go away so that they can move on with their lives. It doesn’t matter what your belief or ideology is – human nature has a tendency of winning out, and our base instincts don’t want to live around suffering and what has been discarded.
It was and is the worst pain I have ever felt.
It was only recently that I could walk into a church of my denomination without breaking down into tears.
Years later and I am still in denial.
I remember thinking, “how do others survive this?” I know they are out there – the ones who have been kicked out, shamed, shunned, rejected, silenced. Some for good reasons and others for heartbreaking reasons.
But how do they move on? Can you ever really move on from the deep cut of being rejected by your church?
Next week I’ll talk about my attempts to rebound…