A brief entry on how to keep walking on and pursuing someone when you feel like your efforts are in vain. Again you are interacting with a person who is in a faith crisis and has walked away from the Christian faith. I write this to try and give some perspective to those of you who have loved one who walked and you are trying to figure out what to do or say. This touches on the sometime militancy of atheists, agnostics, and the key of love in the process. How love can shine during this time.
“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure“
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise — in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56:3-4 NIV
Dealing with someone in a faith crisis can be perplexing and difficult. They can be obnoxious, combative, angry and difficult. Really many evangelicals are not going to understand or be able to relate. So the question becomes what do you do? Especially if you are relating and engaging someone for a long time and it seems to be going no where? Do you keep pursuing the person? Or do you let them go to work out their issues by themselves? My faith crisis was hell in many ways as I have often shared. What do you do if you have engaged someone and there seems to be no progress and you feel like its going no where? What do you do when you feel like you are contributing to the faith crisis and feeding it? What do you do when you feel like your effort is failing? That is the point I want to address today. When you have a friend, co-worker, family member, etc… in the midst of a faith crisis after a while you may be tempted to throw in the towel. I am going to write this as a personal challenge…if you love someone you must pursue them and not give up. That said..let’s talk abut love for a little bit.
Evangelicals & Love
I would suggest to you that many evangelicals have a low and faulty view of love. I would also propose to you that many evangelicals have a low, and cheap view of grace as well. This often reflects in their actions and behaviors. There are many evangelicals who love on a conditional basis. What do I mean? They will only love you if you are a part of their church. They will only love you if you like a certain celebrity pastor. They will only love you under certain pretenses. I must ask in this context what is love? What is the goal? Love I believe is selfless, honest and pure. I’ve written another post a while back about the importance of unconditional love, you can read that here. But love shines when you pursue someone and you do it with a common faith goal in the end. Really it also begs the following question….when its your friend, daughter, co-worker, relative, etc…how can you just walk away from them? One of the guys who loved me in my faith crisis is James Crestwood who hails from Salina, Kansas I wrote him an open letter which you can read here. I asked James on the phone within the last two months why he pursued me in my faith crisis especially as I tried to end the relationship. In addition to James telling that he wouldn’t walk away from me, he also told me that in all the times I needed love in my life, it was during my faith crisis that I needed love the most; and James couldn’t think of just walking away during my time of need. So if you love someone…can you really just walk away from them and leave them where they are at? I firmly believe God brings many people into our lives. People of all stripes, situations and faith conditions. They are in your sphere of influence for a reason. I believe they are all brought into our lives for a purpose. People are good at acting and putting on a façade, people are professionals at putting on a façade in the Washington, D.C. area. But if you really wanted to show love pursuing someone in a faith crisis can stand alone and be unique and bold. The other factor is that you really do not know what is going on in the other person’s mind. So now that I touched on the person reaching out to someone in a faith crisis, let me spend some time explaining my mindset as to someone in the faith crisis.
When You are in a Faith Crisis
As time passed and I was in my faith crisis I had many different feelings. One of the common is anger. Last week Canna Berrong wrote in a comment about how her daughter posted a lot of obnoxious stuff on Facebook. I can totally relate to that as I did that as well. Actually when I became combative or was obnoxious I did it for at least three reasons as I reflect back on it.
- I wanted to test the Christians I knew. I wanted to see how they would react. In the process I wanted to also see if they really believed what they claimed, or were they cheap, thin skinned, and reactionary? In some cases as an agnostic/atheist it was fun. Many played the way I wanted to at the time. Its part of the mindset of a militant skeptic. I posted obnoxious stuff on Facebook and did it because of the way I thought and felt at the time.
- One other thing I wanted to touch on is the anger issue. There is a claim that atheists are angry. Greta Christina tried to capitalize on that theme in her book, “Why Are You Atheists so Angry? 99 Things that Piss Off the Godless“. Anger is a powerful emotion and in my case in a faith crisis anger was fueled by my horrific experiences in evangelicalism. In other words my faith imploded due to doubt, and negative church experiences. How powerful can anger feel? It can feel good. It can be addicting and it can feel good. In my case the anger was linked to the spiritual burn job, they went hand in hand.
- The other fact is that there is the brand name as well. Things terms like “Mormon”,”Sovereign Grace”,”Atheist, and “Agnostic” can be powerful brand names. For example what goes through your mind when you hear the name Mormon? What images are conveyed? You might think young missionaries in suits, radio commercials, family nights, family activities, etc… What do you think of when you think Sovereign Grace? Well I would suggest the name Sovereign Grace today is soiled and damaged. Can you imagine what would have happened if the SGM leadership dealt with the issues at hand and repented? You could have a strong and viable organization today. There is so much waste in Sovereign Grace Ministries its sad. Well getting back to the issue at hand for me I also looked at agnostic and atheism as a brand name. Do you have any idea how good and powerful it felt to say, “I’m an agnostic”. For me it felt good during this time, because it was where I had my identity. My name was wrapped up in my claims of agnosticism. Therefore a lot rode on that claim for me. There can be a lot of pride to say, “I’m an atheist” or “I’m an agnostic.” For me at times I was boastful, and it was hard to let go of that. In March/April of 2013 when I was interacting with Andrew White, a Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington, while I hammered him and boasted at times privately I began to wrestle more and more with my identity. Spiritually things were slowly changing and I knew in time that there would be a day, a time where I would have to let go of the claims I was making about agnosticism. Plus it also tore me apart about some of the things I said to him. I did a chunk of it under the Christopher Hitchens Kool-Aid. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I would like to write a journal entry about what Christopher Hitchens meant to me. But getting back some of what I did to Andrew really tore me apart in many ways right at the end. That’s why Andrew did not know how close he was to me crossing the line…he pulled away right when I was about to renounce agnosticism.
All three of those issues can come together which can make it hard to keep pursuing a person. The point I am trying to say and I am using myself as an example but when you feel like things are failing, don’t quit. Hold on, persevere, and stand strong. The more you stand the more respect you will get because many atheists and agnostics are expecting you to fold. Okay, for the next two Fridays I am going to journal what it was like for an agnostic to try church. I’m going to write a post that will be as long as the Encyclopedia Britannica on what it was like showing up at each individual church. Plus I was also want to tackle the issue of being invited to Redeemer Arlington when it was a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Just to reiterate it separated from SGM and is no longer affiliated. So with that I decided to close with this song from Tenth Avenue North. Its been stuck in my head for the past couple of days so hopefully it will also become stuck in yours as well!