Grieving the Death of Evangelical Faith and Realizing Its Cost and How Much of Your Life Was Wasted

There was a tweet by Adrian Gibbs recently that looks at how leaving the evangelical system is like grief for many former evangelicals. Indeed, when you walk away from evangelicalism you do grieve as you comprehend how much of your life was stolen and wasted. Its a hard process and its akin to mourning a death. But grieving the loss of evangelical faith is a process everyone must do on their own.

“Your grief path is yours alone, and no one else can walk it, and no one else can understand it.

Terri Irwin

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

Ecclesiastes 4:1-2 NIV

Funeral service from an evangelical church in Indiana 

The other day on Twitter I saw a tweet that gave me pause and it was put aside for this post. It hit the nail on the head and addressed a topic that I think everyone who has become disenchanted with evangelicalism or faith has had to do when they walk away. They grieve when they realize that evangelicalism is not the faith system they thought it is. They grieve when they realize that they were conned or had. They grieve the time lost and precious life they invested in the system which rejected them and tossed them out like a piece of trash on the side of the interstate freeway. Look at what Adrian Gibbs said below and then this blog will explore it. 

Mourning Evangelicalism and What Is Lost 

When I made the decision to walk away from evangelicalism the final time I already knew what would come. In many ways I had already prepared for and expected it. As readers of this blog know I lost my parents in 2017 and 2018 and am familiar with the grieving process that comes with death. Well, when a church experience or faith dies there is also a grieving process involved in that as well. Its hard, painful and its a topic that is not discussed very often, if at all. What do you mourn when one leaves evangelicalism? 

  1. You mourn the time that was lost in this church movement. You realize how it affected your career and the sacrifices you made at your job to be there at the church for the worship service, Bible study or other activity. And sometimes you took heat at your job when you asked to leave early to go to a church function. This happened to me in Milwaukee, when I asked to leave work early and make up the time later for a softball game I was involved with. My boss told me that I needed to take my job seriously. He was correct. And when I think of what eventually happened I had warped priorities. Evangelicalism does that to people. 
  2. One realizes all the lost time that was consumed by evangelicalism. The time away from family, your parents, your secular friends (who you probably had suspicion over as well), and other events. That was because all your life was through your evangelical church. It is the center of your life, and social function. And you realize how much it consumed your life. 
  3. You realize that sex is natural and normal. That sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend or having that one night hook up is normal and a part of life. There is nothing wrong with sex. You realize that you were guilted and that you shamed yourself in the name of sexual purity. Then to add insult you later learn that while you were confessing the porn you occasionally looked at the church covered up a sexual abuse scandal. Its angering and mind-blowing as to how out of touch evangelical pastors can be with reality. 
  4. You mourn all the money you gave to this evangelical ministry. What a waste. You think of the times you are struggling to pay your car insurance or rent, and instead you give it to the evangelical church. What the hell was I thinking? Tithing or giving money to an evangelical church is no different than going to the south side of Milwaukee and buying crack. Yes you read the right. Giving money to a church is like buying drugs. Its all a waste in the end. 
  5. You come to terms with the friends and social contacts that you lost. People who said that they “wanted to do life with you.” Or they talked about how much, “they cared for you and loved you.” When you lose faith or walk away these are the very first people who will drop you. You are radioactive. How many remember the stigma that came with AIDS in the 1980’s and 1990’s? Well a person who doubts or walks away might as well be an AIDS patient in the 1980’s. The stigma for doubt very much exists. 
  6. There is also the realization that you purchased a lot of junk. Books, sermon series, conference material and more. Its displayed on your shelf and not only do you realize how much money is tied up in it. You also come to grips with the fact that it often did not work. It sold you a better marriage, life or faith that did not work. Again you realize that you were conned. 

After everything I said up above you have nothing to show for it. You become thrown away by the system. Like trash on the side of the road or used condoms under the bleachers from your high school. You are thrown away and you are left with nothing to show for it. Just a wasted life. You stop and think of all the waste that took place and you grieve and mourn. Its like the death of a loved one, as grieving is hard work. But another aspect that is hard to come to terms with is that you realize you were conned. You were sold a bill of goods about the evangelical faith. And in the end it did not work. 

Its a hard process going forward as you undo the damage from evangelicalism. It is a process that takes one step at a time. And in that process it will involve a lot of grieving.  


2 thoughts on “Grieving the Death of Evangelical Faith and Realizing Its Cost and How Much of Your Life Was Wasted

  1. I hear you Eagle, and I understand much of what you say, although not having walked in your shoes I don’t pretend to understand everything. I have had some similar struggles with regret and loss over my many years of being very actively involved in church and cultivating relationships there, only to come to a place where so much of it seems to have been built on sand. Acceptance, but only as long as I was fully on board with where the church leadership was going, and as long as I didn’t question anything. So much time spent in fellowship and discipleship with good friends who I once respected but who I now listen to and scratch my head in wonderment at the decidedly unChristian, angry, bitter, politically-driven culture-war rhetoric that I hear them speak. A politically-driven mindset of “I want what I want, and beyond that, screw everyone and everything else.”

    I think the only advice I can really give that has helped me make some sense of things are these thoughts. First, to some extent, no previous time spent was a complete waste if it ultimately helped me to become the person I am today. For a long time I felt the sting and pain of conflict and rejection at church, and I wished I could forget about it, but I also have realized that all this pain helped me become a much more compassionate and understanding person. I could not have the degree or understanding or empathy for hurting people today if I had not experienced many of these things myself.

    Second, those things that were true continue to be true, and so those truths I spent time learning and understand were certainly no waste of time. If, ultimately, I see people seeming to ignore those truths, or seeming to proclaim them but hypocritically by also proclaiming things antithetical to those truths, that is ultimately not my fault or my problem, and it does not diminish those things that were and continue to be true. I still have faith in God, and I still believe His gospel good news, and my faith is not dependent on how others choose to speak and to act. In fact, holding on to the things I believe to be true helps me to separate out “the wheat from the chaff” during this time of so much politically-driven conflict and angry ugly rhetoric. It is precisely because I have heard the truth and hold onto it that I am even able to recognize the distortions or the lies. If people in church choose to be hypocrites about the message of gospel, and instead seek after some sort of prosperity- and power-seeking self-aggrandizement, that does not make God a liar, it just proves those people to be hypocrites, judged guilty by their own words.

    I hope this doesn’t sound like I am preaching at ‘ya. I really am not trying to do that. I really am trying to offer some thoughts that have helped me take what can be a mess of past history and still unearth some things of good value from it all. I hope in the midst of the loss and the pain there are some things you too can extract from all that has gone before.


  2. Pingback: Deconversion Story: Jakes Sees the Light and Takes the Path From the Assemblies of God to Atheism | Wondering Eagle

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