Lisa and I are going on a much-needed vacation to visit my family in Toronto where we will just relax, eat, drink, and be merry. We will navigate around difficult topics like Trump and Fox News. But we’re experts so we are not worried about it. We’ll have a great time.
I’ve been thinking about the greatest wounds religion inflicts on its adherents and those who decide to leave. There are many, but I’m going to state what I think are the three most obvious ones for me:
OUR RELATIONSHIP TO OURSELVES:
The level of fear and shame that many of us have had to overcome, and maybe are still trying to overcome, is overwhelming. For most of us, we were raised to be ashamed of ourselves and even hate ourselves. The decades of growing up in this toxic environment, combined with the knowledge that we were complicit in it, takes extreme and strenuous effort to combat and overcome. We see it all over the internet, especially on Facebook, where people are grappling, almost hopelessly entangled in a jaundiced perception of self that is rife with fear, shame, self-hatred, and victim-mentality. We’ve discovered that self-pity endorsed and perpetuated by the pity of others carries a lot of emotional currency and so many people get stuck in this never-ending cycle of neediness. Even though mentally we know this is not good, we can’t seem to help but continue in his dysfunctional cycle because it works at least for the short term. We’ve never been educated or trained and we’ve never been given enough time and space to entertain and experiment with the notion that we are not only okay but glorious in all our intricacies and idiosyncrasies. I’m proud to watch fellow TLSers climb out of the dark pit of despair to a level of light, love, and laughter… something many of us never experienced before.
OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS
I’ve helped many people discover that they can be in relationships with people who think differently than they do. Especially in marriages where one may be a kind of believer and the other a kind of atheist, we can learn that it is love that binds us and not theological agreement and compatibility. We were forced to believe that we are to fellowship only with like-minded and kindred spirits and that we are to avoid those who would sully and pollute us while dragging us slowly and imperceptibly away from the faith. Facebook is rampant with people who carry the orthodox rule to the extreme until they are the only ones left in a deserted room… lonely as hell but right as heaven. I enjoy being a part of the TLS experiment where an extremely diverse collective of people actually loves and supports one another in spite of vast differences of opinion. But isn’t his how it is supposed to be?
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORLD
I’m thinking particularly of money… which in my opinion is the standard by which our relationship to the world is measured. As for me, when I left the ministry and the church in 2010 I knew one of my biggest learning curves was going to be about money. For me, money was the one thing that represented the world best of all, and until I understood it, appreciated it, and felt comfortable handling it, my relationship to the world would still be unhealthy. My relationship with money was extremely unhealthy because I came to believe in and abided by the idea that money was at best a necessary evil and at the worst evil itself. I resented the fact that I needed it and that no matter how noble or pious the work was that I engaged myself in, money was going to have to be a factor. Even today I’m watching some good progressive Christian leaders online melt down over money, and I can see running through all of their complaints the same perverted view of money that I once embraced. A poverty mentality was pounded into my very DNA and every day I have to acknowledge that my attending feelings and implicit thoughts about money are actually negative and limiting beliefs. I’ve even had to admit that my beliefs about money were actually heretical, soul-killing, and driving me deeper into an even more dysfunctional relationship with money and the world that deals in it. I now know that if I could figure this out that I would become a much healthier and happy person in this world.
The interesting thing to me is that these are all very much related. My sick attitude about money emerges out of my sick attitude about the world I live in which is birthed out of my sick attitude about myself. I know that I can start healing myself from the outside in or the inside out. It doesn’t matter which, as long as I’m intentional about this urgent task.
What’s funny to me is that yesterday I had a Skype conversation with a past member of TLS. She said I have no idea how I helped her deal with these very same issues in her life, and now a few years later she is doing remarkably well and is very healthy, happy, and successful. She thanked me profusely. I realized after we said our goodbyes that I believe this for others but hesitate to believe this for myself. So I’m happy that this sick attitude about myself is dying away and a new and healthier version is emerging.
Just like I see in you guys.