“Why I left”: Testimonials of people who have left the church
Any attempts to save religion from the same irrelevance it suffers in Europe will require radical remedies. In most places in Europe, the church languishes in the backwaters of the culture like a demented uncle living in the attic. Some of my best friends believe religion is a relic from the past and should be left to die. But I cannot shake the belief that part of our humanity only emerges when we come together with other human beings in communities of meaning and sing the sacred songs of life. We long for an deep art that express our wonderment and gratitude for being alive together.
But I am also the first to admit that most churches fail in that enterprise. I was in a large church some years back when a question hit me. Why does the church love this medieval architecture. Why does old English sound more religious to us? Why does a modern democratic nation praise a God who resembles nothing so much as a medieval lord? The answer hit me just as suddenly, “because that is when the theology died.” Most Protestants as well as Catholics are trying to live in a cosmology and political ideology one thousand years dead.
A minister once told me that he enjoyed sifting through the libraries of other clergy. When I asked him why, he said, “I like to try and figure out what year their mind died.”The theology of the Christian Church as well as its architecture and language reminds us of nothing so much as the Middle Ages. It is only a fossil of something that should be warm blooded and adaptive to every new challenge.
So if we wish to save the church, we must first save it from itself. We must destroy our own comfort with unquestioned beliefs and our own complicity with cultural heirarchies of power. If we cannot find the courage to change, we are already living in our own tomb.
Any religion worth having must pass throught the fires of science and a humanist view of human affairs. Any religion that will not pass through this fire is an anchor upon humankind and cannot die soon enough. So I am beginning a new series of posts by readers of the blog who have left the church. They are a mirror into all we do not want to face about ourselves. I realize that many of our readers are not Christian or even religious, but I hope the insights will be helpful to them as well thinking about what communities of meaning would mean for them within their own approach to life.
Today’s post is by Susan Norris Haney. I have one more testimonial for tomorrow but will be happy to post a few others if they arrive.
Susan Norris Haney
I’m at a restaurant on my iPad now so here’s the short version. Thanks to George W’s wars, and the general Christian belief that the killing of children is a necessary evil in the way of “collateral damage,” as well as the general conservative Christian belief that the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim coupled with the disregard for killing through war and the death penalty, I just couldn’t associate myself as a Christian anymore, much to the shock and surprise of friends and my children. I was an avid churchgoer, teaching a Sunday School class of mentally and physically challenged adults for 15 years (mainly because no one else would do it and God decided it was my mission despite my repeated protests! lOL – i didn’t say i was perfect), a lay leader and lay speaker at my old Methodist Church, a singer in a Blues praise band for 4 years, and most recently a Stephen minister. I couldn’t continue after the Iraq War ended and a fellow Christian practically spat on me for expressing gratitude for the ending of the War. Most Christians just don’t get what Christ’s message really was.