Coming Out of the Prayer Closet
Saying “I grew up going to church” would be an understatement. I spent more time in a church than I did my own home, growing up. I was a model christian boy, and (sinfully) prided myself on it. I loved Jesus, read my bible, attempted and succeeded in multiple conversions of others, prayed for people, served in my church, and lead groups and worship. I even went to a christian college for my associates in theology. My life revolved around doing the work of Jesus. I was on a mission from god. In about 2010, I noticed a lack of God showing up like he used to when it was just him and I. I’d been married for a year, and up until that point, I had lived a very sheltered, self-centered life. I had a faith that could move mountains. It was entirely unshakeable. There was even a time that I wholeheartedly believed God created me only to send me to hell, and I chose to love him anyway. That’s a different story. The point is, nothing could shake the faith I had. A year in the real world, outside of the bubble I’d lived in, opened my eyes to a reality that life isn’t as defined as I thought it was. I experienced real struggles that I’d begged my god to show up for and was met with silence. This forced me into a place where I couldn’t continue living off of the experiential faith that I’d curated over my lifetime. I dove deeper into theology, sang to god more fervently, devoured sermons and books and had more real talks with other christians experiencing similar struggles. My knowledge of scripture and history grew substantially. Sometime in 2015, I stumbled upon a YouTube documentary about satanism and the occult. It was a heavy documentary that referenced the West Memphis Three and other events in pop culture as evil and the work of Satan himself. I became so broken-hearted for the world and a little calloused towards my god who allowed all the satanists to murder children in the name of their king. [Quick side note: If you’re not familiar with something called the “Satanic Panic”, there was a massive media push against all things dark, starting in the ’70s, all the way into the ’90s, and arguably still going. It’s a fascinating subject filled to the brim with false allegations of ritualistic sacrifices, child abuse, and malevolence against music, film, literature, and any other form of media you can think of. From the Beatles to the Exorcist, pop-culture stood no chance against the force of Evangelicalism. Strings of murders and ouija boards were all tied to the work of the devil and his claws around the minds of our children.] I bought into the Satanic Panic. It fit so well with everything I was raised to believe. This curated documentary, filled with murder, darkness, and opinion, which held the proud stamp of a local church somewhere in the south, tore me up. Being well versed in apologetics, I knew the textbook answer to the question of why god allowed evil, but for the first time in my life, the answers held little weight. I remember shortly after this profound documentary, praying to my god for understanding about why men and women would choose to serve the enemy of the creator of the universe, and to serve Lucifer, killing and destroying in his unholy name. This prayer, and continued research, was what lead me to see how over centuries, the word of god was weaponized for the sake of social and political gain (Crusades, Inquisition, Witch Trials, 1st Samuel, etc.). God’s people, if still righteous, were pretty fucked up, and to make it worse, they were only following orders. I’ve known my entire life that christians aren’t perfect. Nobody is. Christians are just a little holier. This new revelation made me step back and look at the world I was currently in. It was still dark as hell. There was a good chunk of time (2015-2017sih) where I put my head down and chose to accept that what I believed was the truth, and the only truth. It didn’t matter how I felt about god or his ways, “For who has understood the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct him?” During this time, I continued to study the beliefs and teachings of other religions like Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca, Satanism, and general occult theology and quickly discovered that everything I knew about these religions was inaccurate and grossly distorted. Examining my previous knowledge of these subjects lead me back to many apologetics classes and other christian books designed to educate on the beliefs, demonic origins, and dangers of other ways of thinking. Everything I knew came from a foundational goal of destroying their ideas to logically leave them with no other choice but christianity. When I would tell people who practiced these religions “this is what you believe”, they’d all respond with something like “how did you come up with that?”. Evangelicalism was unravelling quickly, especially after witnessing how the bible was still being weaponized more subtly, by politicians. I still had the literal word of god in my hands though. That had been the same for the past 2000 years, right? I was brought up by my church and family, believing that the bible is literal. It was not the “Inspired Word of God”, it was the “Infallible Word of God”. In an attempt to separate evangelicalism from christianity, I set out to re-lay my foundation using only the bible. Of course, when you throw out the scriptural sleight-of-hand (apologetics) that says “don’t look here, look over here!”, you find that all those contradictions the skeptics throw out aren’t so easy to look past. Matthew and Mark share the same stories but account entirely different locations… “No one has ever seen god”… except Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses… or, those who have made the lord their dwelling place were promised that evil would never befall them and no plague would ever come near, or, all those times the omniscient and omnipotent god changed his mind after speaking with Abraham, Moses, his mom, etc. This book was supposed to be flawless. Not to mention the fact that the god of the OT was kind of a jerk. Full races (men, women, and children) were supposed to be killed off just because they had a different belief system. This wrecked me. I had built my life on an ignorant argument that said I had the one true belief, and all others were going to hell. I tried not to let this shake me. I tried holding onto the fact that Jesus was a real historical figure. He was then either “lord, lunatic, or liar”. Another option that I hadn’t considered is that he was misunderstood, or intentionally weaponized. There are so many religions that see Jesus as a prophet or just a good teacher. The issue was that I was still falling back into an apologetics based mindset. Yes, there is evidence of Jesus being a real human who walked on the earth. Even then, it can be a little flimsy. I then had to take a step back and examine his words. Who did he say he was? This became a problem, because the only recorded words of Jesus came from the bible… It’s hard to trust the words from a man when there’s no proof that he said it. My decision to leave christianity came down to my own logic. I can not trust the bible, therefore I can not trust that Jesus is who the bible says he is. For years, I fought the doubt, learned apologetics to defend my christian faith and prided myself on my logical and open minded way of life. I had very real experiences. I never followed along to fit in. I was a genuine Jesus Freak who could guarantee I had a personal relationship with this savior. I still believe those experiences were real, though now I believe they were these experiences were crammed into my belief system. I don’t regret how I was brought up and what I believed. There are still so many ideals that I hold to and will continue to hold to. I do regret how I looked at people; “The lost who were less fortunate than me for not having the truth to hold onto…” I don’t have any disrespect for people who choose to follow Jesus. I do believe there are a lot out there who use the bible as a tool for their success, and build following around their own name… but that’s just Capitalism. More power to them, I guess. But I also believe that American churches need to undergo a dramatic reform. That is a conversation for another day. I’ve seen religion/christianity work well in people’s lives. There are some who need it to find hope in life, though I can also guarantee that there are better ways of finding hope than buying into the evangelical cult that American christianity has become. I can only guess that this machine built for profit, fame, and power is not what Jesus had in mind, but who’s really to say? That said, I don’t believe that every church and christian share that mindset. Some seek betterment, growth, and progress. Those are the churches I can get behind. I also don’t view where I’m at as “giving up” my faith. This has been a pretty common way of looking at it that I believe is another subtle way to belittle a person for their beliefs. Just because a person has changed their mind, doesn’t mean they’ve failed at something. I am not a christian. Don’t try to tell me that I’m failing. You can not hold your expectations to others against their will. This has been a long journey for me, full of joy, pain, frustration, and gratitude. I’m not giving up on life, hope, joy, or making the best possible life for my family that I can. Perspectives are changing, and in my case, for the better. Some have known this for a while, and I suspect a lot have figured it out. Being that I’ve run in christian circles my whole life, I expect this to be painful for most of the people I know. Know that I don’t mean this to hurt, but I felt the need to share this. We are all on our own journey. Mine is continuing to move but in a different direction. I am always open to a conversation. If you feel that you need to respond, I am happy to hear you out. I’m not looking to cut anybody out of my life, or stay away from all that is christian, but I also don’t plan on trying to pursue christianity any further. This is to say that I appreciate all the sermons, books, and church invites that have been coming my way, but unless they’re in direct support of someone I love, I will not be taking part. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I know it’s difficult for some, and if you haven’t been in this boat at all, now you know where I’m coming from! I’m happy to answer any questions you have about my journey. I just ask that you respect it.