So you’ve decided that you’re no longer a Christian. You don’t believe the basic tenants of the faith, you now consider its traditions and practices to be a waste of your time and you maintain that you’ve actually felt this way for quite a while – you’ve just now been able to come to terms… to peace with where you stand. You know that you’re family (or perhaps your friends/community/etc.) isn’t happy about this – they don’t understand why you would turn your back on what you’ve been raised in. But in your mind it’s more their problem – after all, you’re only being true to yourself – how you feel, how you believe, how you want to act.
I want to have a discussion with you – not an argument, not a finger-pointing session – just a discussion of this decision and some things that you may not have thought about. Now, truth be told: some things I say will offend you – there’s no getting around that, but to be fair, the very fact that you’ve left your faith offends me a bit. I have to be honest. So let’s both try to have a little understanding and grace. I don’t have any interest in cutting all ties with you because you’re not a Christian, but I obviously will view you in a different fashion. You weren’t born yesterday – you know what the Bible says about those who leave the faith (they were never a part of it to begin with).
I think I’d like to start this discussion by reminding you that you’re not an anomaly. Maybe this is just because I tend to think on a sociological/cultural level. You’re a product of the West and Western Culture. While this traditionally meant that you would be raised in and probably adhere to some stripe of Christianity, it now increasingly means that either you’ll be raised as “nothing” in regards to religious affiliation, or it means that if you did, you’ll statistically abandon that faith in early adulthood. Thus for years, you were “already gone” (to quote Ken Ham). You are part of a larger trend of young people, millennials, who are leaving the church – in droves. Why do I go into this? Because your decision isn’t anything special in a zoomed out sense- I could make a decent argument that you’re just part of a movement within a larger cultural trend that is going increasingly secular.
I know, I know, that doesn’t really matter to you much – I think my even thinking about the cultural trends and how your decision fits in them just goes to my distrust of “going with the flow” in general, and I view your decision as more or less just going with the flow. However, I realize that you are an individual person. You have thoughts, feelings and emotions that I don’t wish to diminish. I am interested in your story, your journey and your ideas and am perfectly willing to listen and discuss them. However, I need to tell you – regardless of who you are and where you’re reading this, I feel that in some way, I know you. You see, I’ve seen you and others like you do the same thing since the time I was very young. It’s almost like clockwork; I wasn’t and wouldn’t be the least bit surprised when I found out that you didn’t believe.
Is my eye-rolling at your abandoning your faith coming from a sense of pride? After all, of the many peers that also grew up in Christian homes around me, almost none maintained a faith beyond high school – even fewer through college, but I did, despite attending one of the most left-leaning and Christian hostile schools around. Instead of giving into the pressures to conform to secular culture I dug in even deeper – every assault on my faith becoming another shovel-full out of the Christian trench I endeavored to dig around myself. By the time I graduated with my Masters degree, I had been beat up real badly, but the enemy had dispersed, my weapon was still in my hand and I was still standing on two feet. Maybe I have reason to be proud? Proud that I stuck it out while others didn’t. I kept praying, I kept reading my Bible and I kept developing a Christian worldview. But no. I have no reason to boast. I sincerely believe that it was God and not me that kept me in the faith – if left up to me, I would have run for the exit. The world is enticing. Illicit sex is fun. Alcohol tastes good. Drugs take away the pain, depression and questions. Swearing makes you feel good about your command of your own tongue. Anger is like taking a pill that makes you feel twice as strong. The problem with all these things is that the next day you feel worse than you did before. No, it was God that kept me in the faith, not me; I understand the enticement.
Essentially, you want to hold on to the basic tenants of the morality that you were raised in. You still want people to do unto you as you would do to them. You don’t want people lying about you, and you don’t want to be a serial liar about other people. You want to maintain this shroud of Christianity without adhering to the parts that make you uncomfortable. You obviously haven’t given up morality in total – you still, at least it seems, believe in justice in a civil sense – you just don’t want to believe in cosmic justice directed toward you in a personal sense. I guess my overarching question is related to the idea that you want part of the system but not the whole – you want the benefits without the costs.
Where am I going with this? I want to think about the more macro results of your decision. The focus on the personal nature of the Christian faith should not be underplayed. I sincerely hope that the abandonment of personal Christian morality will eventually result in a providential return to the Christian faith for you, and it’s possible that right now being “honest with yourself” is how that is to be accomplished. However, I want to briefly consider the rest of us for a moment. As I mentioned above, you are part of a larger trend. While you probably want to hang on to much of Christian morality in a general sense (in other words, you want to be nice and want others to be nice to you; you still want to live in a culture and society framed and founded in Christianity), you’re joining a force within society at large that is damaging and destructive. Where there isn’t adherence to the Ten Commandments then there is a guaranteed greater amount of suffering. More crime, more misery, more death. Look around the world and throughout history if you don’t believe me. The happiest and most prosperous societies are and have always been those that have the most direct interaction with the Christian faith.
My friend, you’re an unregenerate sinner. That’s what you’ve always been. But it’s not too late. Repent. Believe the gospel. Come to actually know the One whose death has the power to pay for your sins. You have the benefit of already knowing the Bible. Use it.