If I were to tell you…

If I were to tell you that I no longer attend church, I hope that you’d pause for a minute. I hope that for a minute, you’d suspend words and emotions and…pause. I might then tell you that it’s been a year and half since I attended a Sunday morning church service. That I’d decided on that day that I would take a break from church for at least a year, because it seemed to drastic to say I’d never again go to church. I’d tell you that it’s been an interesting break from church — I’ve missed it like crazy, I’ve felt liberated, I’ve felt waves of anger and confusion, and I’ve smiled about the good ol’ days. For many months after my decision to take a break, I’d drive past churches and their full parking lots, and I’d get that lump in my throat, simultaneously wishing I could just go back to how things were and knowing that the church experience no longer resonates with me. I’d tell you that I try to keep doors open and I try not to burn bridges, but also that I’ve learned that sometimes we need to let go.
If I were to tell you that I no longer understand why such emphasis is placed on certain teachings in the Bible, I hope you know that I am not talking about things like love, kindness, and all those good things… I am talking about things like virgin births and resurrections from the dead, and I no longer think that we must hold onto those teachings in order to be a good person.
If I were to tell you that I no longer give myself the “Christian” label, it’s because when I read through the lists of “What Christians Believe,” I cannot honestly say that, in my innermost being, I hold many of those things to be true anymore.
If I were to tell you that one of my closest friends is an atheist, it means that I have met a friendly, caring, interesting person who, it just so happens, has not believed in God for the majority of her adult life. If you were to ask what we talk about, I’d tell you that we talk about life and death, our hopes, our fears, our families, what we struggle with and how we work through our struggles. I’d tell you that we talk about our pasts, our presents, our futures — the same kinds of things I’d talk about with family and friends within the Christian circle.
If your co-worker tells you that she never prays, I hope that, rather than criticizing her, you would be curious and perhaps ask what she does instead. I wonder if perhaps you’d ask how she incorporates A.C.T.S. into his life. How does she go about incorporating Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication? I think you might be surprised at how she does these things, and I think that that could lead to an interesting conversation between you and your co-worker.
If your non-religious cousin were to tell you that he no longer gives 10% to the church, I hope that you can see the ways in which he contributes money, time, and effort to other organizations and projects. I hope that you can see that he is doing the best he can with what he has, and that may or may not look like what a religious person does.
If you found out that your new neighbour is an atheist, I hope that you remember what Merriam-Webster and Oxford say. I hope that you see that immoral, lazy, unthinking, uncaring, and sinful are not synonyms for atheist, and that the definition of atheism is,”lack of a belief in the existence of a God or gods.” I hope that you see that that’s all it is.
If you or I were to find out that someone thinks or talks or acts in a way that makes no sense to us, I hope that we would just pause for a minute.