There’s no doubt about it, if you leave Christianity – especially if you’re in a charismatic sort of evangelical brand of it – your life is going to change. Hugely.
Some of those changes will be good; you’ll start to think freer, you’ll be rid of cognitive dissonance currently making your stomach crawl and you’ll do all the things you thought were bad and discover they’re actually quite great.
Some of those changes though will be difficult to cope with; this is especially true if your family is super involved or if your, say, wage comes from the fact that you believe in God. While that bigger sort of stuff is better dealt with organisations like The Clergy Project there’s a few minor things that are worth mentioning for anyone considering heading out into the Great Unknown beyond church walls.
Here it goes, I’m giving it to you straight.
This is what you’ll miss about your Old Life if you leave Christianity and some of the stuff you definitely won’t miss!
Aka: feeling superior to pretty much everyone you meet. Having all the answers is a pretty sweet place to be in. You know what happens after you die. I mean – that’s huge. Also, you’re all sorted on the best way to live life. In fact, you’ve got it so sorted you’re one of the Chosen People who’s living life the right way, unlike the other 98% of people on the planet.
This sort of confidence booster just don’t exist in the real world unfortunately. You won’t know jack. It’d take you forty years and loads of reading to know half jack. No-one’s got the full jack sorted out. But don’t worry – not knowing actually becomes something quite exciting.
So… before when I was confused about what to do I would just go and pray. There was no chance I would make a mistake because God had already sorted out what I should do and when, I just had to hear what He thought. This is a really comforting sort of habit because, of course, hearing God is most often just confirmation of what you yourself think you should do. And if it seems like it wasn’t the right decision, you can always say It Was God Teaching You or it was Part of A Bigger Plan or something like that.
On the outside, you can stuff up. You can royally stuff up and nobody will be there to save you, unless you invent one / turn to the invisible, all powerful person you were taught about as a child (most people’s reactions it seems). The good news comes, when you realise that actually there’s no such thing as stuffing it up because you get to decide the goalposts. What’s a great life? You decide. Then live it.
I’m not surprised meditation is rising in popularity. There’s just no freakin’ silence anymore. In fact, silence is almost the new sound. Movies are using Silence to gain attention because it’s the only thing people will listen to anymore.
The thought of ‘needing to pray’ prioritises finding silent moments in the day, where you’re alone and reflective. This is possible to do outside of Christianity but it’s just so much easier to get railroaded by the urgent, burning need to check Facebook again.
Singing is freakin’ awesome. I know not all of us like it but there’s something to be said for the experience of a group of people singing together, even (or maybe especially) when you don’t have a good voice. Those church songs are written to make you feel good singing them, loads of crescendos and long aaaaaahhhhhh’s, simple words that mean you don’t have to think. There’s not really any substitute for this on the outside; a choir’s too formal and rigid, chanting is all easterny tones that are hard to follow and a couple of girlfriends bouncing around the lounge room leaves you exposed as a bad singer… I get my singing in in the shower these days.
All my ex-christian friends have noticed a marked difference in our confidence levels since not listening to a Pentacostal preacher every weekend. The reminder that you have a plan and a destiny set out just for you and the resources of an all-powerful being at your fingertips is… well, it’s a good one. On the outside, you have to dig in there and find the strength within. Or get it from Tony Robbins if that’s your thing.
Oh gawwwwd, it’s so good never having to see sickly sweet joy overflowing onto your Facebook wall.
It’s a dilemma; become the office pariah by offering to pray for a sick colleague or be a failure of a Christian by offering them an aspirin instead? These sorts of decisions are everywhere when you’re an evangelical Christian who believes in the Holy Spirit; speak to the person at the bus about God, offer to pray for a broken ankle, invite the neighbour to church etc. Their immediate dissipation on the realisation that You Don’t Have To Do That Anymore will make you feel so light, it’s a wonder you don’t just float right up off the floor.
I get a bit of a kick out of reading comments on any blog or article about Yonggi Cho’s recent conviction of embezzlement of millions of dollars. They’re usually stuffed with Christians arguing with each other about whether it’s okay to judge someone (though shalt not judge!) for stealing millions of dollars of congregation member’s money!!! *pant pant* </rant>.
Sometimes I look at Christian blogs / converted catholic blogs / c3watch blogs and my brain starts to twist around the problem of how to tell a false preacher from a real one and whether it’s okay to swear or not and if the bible really does teach grace over judgement… and then I blink, laugh and remember it’s ALL bullshit and get on with living. It’s a very freeing way to live.
Cos (as the thinking goes) if you don’t, then you’re not anointed for the day… and what if an opportunity comes along where you were supposed to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and now you’re not attuned the Holy Spirit’s voice and you miss bringing a new soul to heaven? I genuinely had these anxieties. It was my solid belief that if you’re going to have a big church / connect group / influence in your job / new house, you need to get your prayer and bible reading in.
This concept is such a staple of the charismatic church movement it’s sort of strange to realise it has absolutely no biblical foundation whatsoever. Without that pressure, you’re free to draw from any number of wonderfully inspirational and super intelligent people, living and dead, for your mojo, wherever and whenever you want. Or not. You could just live and be average. Go for it.
You don’t have to defend Christianity as ‘cool’ and ‘relevant’ anymore. You’re not part of a weird group of people who think Jesus Is Their Actual Homeboy. You don’t have to explain why you can’t go to Sunday arvo drinks… or anything on Sunday actually. You don’t have to get offended by Southpark. And you don’t have to invite anyone to church to ‘prove to them’ that God is not just Some Old Guy In The Sky.
You can just be yourself. With whatever you believe. And what’s better is that it is actually what you believe and not what you sort of have to believe cos it’s in the bible (“Well, we love Gays they just can’t be… gay… anymore…eerhhhh”).
If you’re a Christian Renegade come, share with the not-sure-about-it-readers… what do you miss about the Old Life? What don’t you miss? There’s a hundred more…