The Rise and Fall of the Pillars of My Faith
Welcome to "My Deconstruction Blog". This blog is about my journey from being a totally committed Christian to where I find myself now, a spiritual wanderer disillusioned by the collapse of my faith in the Church, my faith in the Bible, and my faith in God.
I became a Christian when I was a sophomore in high school. Until then I literally knew nothing about Jesus or the church. I had never opened a Bible and had no idea it contained an “old testament” and a “new testament”. I was really shocked to learn that “Jesus” was a person and not just a swear word. So it is fair to say that I was a blank slate regarding my new faith. It is also fair to say I was a quick learner.
I immediately started going to church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. That was not enough for me, so I started a bible study with some of my youth group friends. We realized we didn't know enough about the Bible to be studying it on our own, so we asked our youth pastor disciple us. Soon we were having bible study on Monday mornings at 6:30 am (so we could spend a good hour of study before heading off to school) in addition to Sunday school class, Sunday morning church, Sunday night church, Wednesday night youth group, youth group leadership training, and of course my own personal daily quiet time (or "QT" as we called it) of reading and memorizing scripture. In short, I was very committed to trying to fully understand God, His Word, and my role in His Church.
My faith continued to grow through college where I was involved in multiple campus ministries. After college I worked as a software engineer for a while and then went to Vanderbilt to get a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. I always had a good mind for logic and problem solving. Graduate school was my mission field. It was there that I would strive to fully understand and explain the details of the human soul, free will, and consciousness. At least that was the plan.
I was 25 and in graduate school when I married my wonderful wife, Tammy. I was a virgin until my wedding night because it had been told many many (many!) times that sex before marriage was wrong. (It is amazing how those who speak for God seemed to be unusually fixated on what people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms.) It turns out only about 3% of Americans wait successfully until marriage to have sex, and even within highly religious groups only 20% wait until marriage (see Links for additional information at the bottom of this post). I am amazed by how much unnecessary guilt there is for a lot of people who try to wait but don't do so successfully.
Our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. There is an old Clint Eastwood movie titled "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and I will borrow from that title now. The "Good" that came from our miscarriage was the many one-on-one conversations with other people who had gone through similar experiences. In my decade of committed church attendance I had never had conversations as honest as those dealing with the real and raw emotions we were feeling. It was the first time I realized the church was filled with real people and not just soldiers following orders. The "Bad" was the unavoidable and unpleasant questions that followed, questions about God's love and God's plan and why do bad things happen to good people? I remember trying to understand why Tammy and I were not going to have our baby despite doing everything right or at least the best we could, meanwhile this other girl we knew was getting pregnant and having kids with every boy who winked at her. And the "Ugly" was even worse, the $^*-damn stupidest things that well-meaning believers say to hurting people. "God wanted another angel in heaven" or "Well, at least it will be fun trying again" are examples of responses that made me want to punch the person in the face. But these people's intentions were good (I told myself), and I focused on their heart and their desire for healing rather than on their actual words. To this day when I am with a person going through a terrible trial or loss, I know that most often hard questions don't have good answers, and that just sitting quietly with someone is often better than speaking. Some lessons can only be learned in the shadows of pain.
Later on Tammy and I had three successful pregnancies and we now have three amazing kids who are all in college at the time of this writing. We raised our kids in church. I was an ordained deacon and on multiple occasions a lay preacher. Tammy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this summer and I have loved being a college professor for 20 years and counting.
So why did my faith collapse? What triggered my deconstruction? There was no moment of me standing in the rain with my fist raised to God in anger. There was no event that turned me from ally to enemy of God. For some people deconstruction happens rather quickly. For me it was a 10-year process of challenging all my assumptions and always trying to move toward Truth. I won't quote a lot of scripture in this blog, but I will share that Jesus' words encouraged on my journey of doubt and discovery when he said "seek and you will find" (Matt 7:7). Yes, I was already a Christian, already saved, already a child of God, already had my name written in the Lamb's book of life, all that stuff. But I was seeking more than my personal comfort and salvation. I was seeking Truth. And as a Christian I figured that an honest pursuit of Truth should be encouraged, as God is a God of Truth. I also figured that in the end, any honest search for Truth should lead a person to the feet of Christ. My actual journey ended up being much different than I expected.
I am intentionally not mentioning the churches I attended or the campus ministries I was involved with because it would not be helpful to them (given the overall nature of this blog). But I do want to thank all the pastors and Sunday school teachers and adult leaders who gave their time and talent and treasure to show Christ to me. Let me also thank all of my peers who lived their faith alongside me and journeyed beside me. Looking back on it now, I know these people were the very best part of my faith, that somehow and someway Christ was made real through the love and actions of those who were trying to be like Him. Even after everything else fell apart, the Christ-I-Saw-In-You still echoes within me. To those who gave so much to my spiritual growth, thank you and I hope you never see these words. My love and respect for you almost prevents me from writing all this even now. But this blog is not meant for you. Or at least I hope it is not.
In my next post will I will discuss my loss of faith in the institutional Church. And then I will share how I lost my faith in God.
Are we having fun yet?
Links with additional information: