PDF I Want to Believe But I Cant, Why Our Kids Are Leaving Church

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This is a common story. Sometimes with disapproving older siblings or conservative grandparents. Sometimes anger and frustration weaves its way into dinner table conversations when everyone is talking about their plans for the weekend. Often it resorts to tears, or someone slamming down a fork and storming off to their bedroom. Many people have turned to me in recent months expressing the hardship they face at home when their faith no longer aligns to their parents.

Mothers and fathers, I want to share with you the many people who have suffered anxiety due to your questioning and disapproval of their lifestyle choices. Everything from no longer going to Bible study or a church service, to getting drunk on weekends and having premarital sex with a someone who may not be a lover! I want to share a few words that were written in the extended response components of a survey I conducted recently about leaving religion.

I feel guilty when I do things outside of the Christian framework, e. Quickly their disappointment turned to anger, which made me angry too. We fought a lot.


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I teared up while reading this, because I knew the impact my decision was going to have on my parents. It sits right with us. I feel bad that parents have to feel this shame as well. But I will stand on a box stuffed full of voices of young people who are experiencing pain under your religious thumb.

Your children probably used to feel it too. I think that if your child walks away from faith, there should be room for celebration. Not necessarily for the rejection of faith itself, but what lies beneath that rejection. You have raised a young man or young woman who feels bold enough to think about the world and their existence for themselves. You have raised an independent thinker who questions what they have been taught. This skill is integral in the workplace and in relationships as well. My parents are Christians, but they read my blog and support my journey.

They have been on this earth so much longer than us and often they simply want us to experience the joy they have now found. My parents extended me the freedom of discovering faith on my own accord, but the ability to talk to two Christians about my hesitations and doubts for a few hours in tears, to express the fears that I have shared in this blog has been immensely helpful.

Any barriers that were there are well and truly torn down. Be a parent before you be a preacher. And I think everyone, both those of us with Christian parents and parents with children who are leaving faith, can all be a little more understanding of each other. Also published on Medium. For this post, and this website.

I am in tears, due to the familiarity of these circumstances- and for the first time in a long time they are tears of relief. That I can show my parents and my family this article, so that they can see that my journey, and my decisions were not purely to hurt them. And who knows, maybe they will understand my perspective a little more- but one thing you have given me is hope.

Jane, Thank you so much for your comment. I hope this post helps to articulate the words that are so easily lost when we sit face to face to the people we love. If only we could transmit emotion. All the best with your parents and your journey. You are not alone xx. Also a person's actions are a reflection of what they believe. If, in my actions or inactions, I am supporting systems or institutions that enable oppression, this is what I believe in. I loved his message. His message resonated deeply with me, and for the first time in this dark night of the soul I was experiencing, I felt a glimmer of light, and a chance for encouragement.

I could doubt my faith, and that was OK. However, I was one of only a few people who resounded with what he had to say. Many, many people at the event thought his ideas were "heretical" "un-biblical" and couldn't believe that this "non-Christian" was speaking at their event. People were walking out on talks, arguments were taking place all over the grounds this event was held at, and the poor speaker was getting harassed everywhere he went.

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People were telling him they needed to pray for him to receive Jesus into his life, saying he was a heretic, and looking for opportunities to argue him at every turn. The hardest part for me, in the midst of witnessing this insanity, was that a lot of the people who disagreed so strongly with him were people I knew personally.

When Your Child Chooses a Different Path | deheryqepuny.tk Blog

People whose churches I had visited, or people I had lived with or worked with or spent extended time with. And they were saying that it's not OK to doubt your faith. In fact you are not allowed to doubt your faith, and if you're doing so, you're not a Christian. This broke my heart, and I realized that these people I had known for years were not safe people, or kind accepting people that I could be open with my struggles about.

I need to offer a disclaimer: A lot of people related to him the same way I did, and that meant a lot to me. After the event, I knew the organizers would receive piles upon piles of angry emails, and I made an attempt to curve the anger away from them by writing a Facebook note, and circulating it on social media. Within three days of writing the note I had over comments on the note, and piles of messages in my inbox.

I had angry messages, messages from people who were "concerned" about me, but I also had a couple of messages from people thanking me, for having the courage to openly express what many people were afraid to say. That also floored me more than anything -- other people out there felt the same, and that they were part of a church where their opinions weren't welcome, and felt oppressed and unable to say how they felt and where they really stood with faith.

In this regard, the church was unwelcoming. The next year at this same event, the speaker they invited was conservative, and talked about the usual stuff; how you should accept Jesus into your heart and all that. Then I realized how much a consumer culture permeates so many churches -- that my friends can't even use their authority in planning this event to challenge people in a healthy way, but that they are still held at the mercy of giving people what they want to hear. This really disappointed me. The second "nail in the coffin" was at a summer camp I volunteered to be a counsellor at.

At the camp, I was asked to give a talk. This was a Christian camp, and I asked them what they wanted me to talk about I was good friends with the organizers and they said, "Anything. In fact, I had to give two talks, and this made me very nervous. I didn't want to lie and say something I wasn't sure I believed in, nor did I want to say what I actually thought, and draw a lot of negative attention to myself. I had a long conversation with one of my close friends at the camp about my dilemma, and he advised me to speak what I believed in.

So I wrote a letter to the church, and I spoke very honestly. For the first time in front of a group of strangers, I told them what happened to me in Vancouver, and I talked about the residual effects, and the doubt I was experiencing, and where I was presently. And the result utterly shocked me. People were thanking me for being so open, and kids were confiding in me, and telling me their struggles, and how they were not sure of what they believed in, and why.

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It opened the floor for a very open and vulnerable dialogue among people who were willing to accept one another. For the second talk, I decided that, rather than present my "letter to the church" I would invite people to collectively write a letter to the church, and we could continue the conversation about where they stood with the church and how they felt about it. A couple of people who hadn't been at the first talk came to the second talk, and one individual in particular got very upset, and started saying that I was sinning, and "demonizing the church" and how dare I say anything negative about the church.

My attempt to explain that we weren't being negative, but rather allowing a critical analysis of an institution we all cared about ended with her running away in tears, and completely derailing the conversation. I attempted to try and find her afterward and try and patch things up, but she started screaming at me, accusing me of putting her in an unsafe place, and again, being a sinner who demonizes the church and is a horrible, horrible person who is completely wrong, heretical, and evil.

I couldn't talk to her, and something about her words cut straight to me, and I ended up leaving and having a full-fledged panic attack. I realized that no matter what I do, no matter how strong my efforts and what I would say, there will always be people who think I'm against the church, or that I'm a horrible heretical person who is trying to destroy their beloved church, and that more than that, I was evil.

And in that moment, I suddenly became very, very tired of the uphill battle I felt like I had been fighting on for years, and I desperately wanted to distance myself from the institution I was once willing to give my life for. What was difficult about this was at the time, I was actually working for a church, as a youth pastor. But I no longer believed in the work I was doing. It all seemed very silly to me, and like a big masquerade. Every Sunday I had to perform a "children's focus" where I would sit at the front of the church and all the kids would gather round and I would give a little bible lesson.

The children's focus is not about the kids, nor is it about educating kids. Rather, it is for the adults, so they can look on and say, "oh look how wonderful it is that the children are learning," when all the learning and activity was happening in the actual Sunday School. The whole point of this stupid weekly presentation was to appease the adults, and I couldn't stand it. Once I had an individual in this church complain to the pastors that I didn't look "reverent" enough during the church service, and it really discouraged me.

Church shouldn't be about looking reverent, but it felt like everything I was doing was all for looks, and there was no substance to what was actually going on. I began to grow sick to my stomach every time I pulled up to the church and forced myself to walk in the door, and to this day, I feel sick to my stomach at the thought of churches.

I eventually had a very honest conversation with my bosses when my work performance began to fail, and I decided to quit the church and ended on good terms. Since then, I have received a lot of mixed reactions from being honest about my faith. For years, I had been terrified to tell anyone that I wasn't a Christian anymore, because I was afraid of all the relationships I would lose, and all the people that would distance themselves from me.

To me it feels like there's a tremendous stigma in a lot of Christian circles about people leaving the church, and this assumption that I'm not a good person, or a person Christians can be friends with, because my views are now so different. A lot of Christians I had met would refer to people who weren't Christians as "nonbelievers" and talk about atheists in this sort of vernacular that reflected an "us vs.

I was really scared of telling people. What I started to realize though, is that people had been distancing themselves because of my views for years already, and that I didn't want those kind of people in my life. I would rather be friends with people who would love me, regardless of my beliefs. And I am very happy and grateful to say that I do still have friends that are Christians, and our beliefs and views are very different, but that hasn't had an effect on our friendship.

That was very huge and important to me, Other people have, yes, chosen to distance themselves from me, or let our friendship "fade away" or have told me they were disappointed in me, or even worse, call me a hypocrite or tell me I'm going to hell, or try and re-convert me. If people are that angry and insecure My decision to leave the Christian faith didn't just happen because of a few negative conversations, or a few isolated events though from my story, you can see how huge of an influence those events can have -- my decision was made because I realized and experienced that the Christian faith, for many, wasn't a welcome place for the oppressed, and that, in fact, has been, and in many different ways, continues to be, an agent of oppression for many people.

Many church denominations interpret the bible to say God destroyed a city because of homosexuality Many church denominations also interpret the bible to say that a woman should be silent in church, and they are not meant to be leaders, so consequently, even to this day so many churches can't accept the idea that women are capable of leadership? I know someone who can't have the title "Pastor" because she is a woman.

She is just as qualified as a man, but isn't allowed the same title Historically, a lot of Christians had used the bible to justify slavery. And I have no idea how to interpret the stories in the bible where God commands people to commit genocide, or God destroys populations and wipes out cultures, and tears entire cities to the ground, or floods the world sparing only one family and a bunch of animals. But even fast-forwarding to today, it feels like so many Christians I met were content to pick-and-choose the parts of the bible they would follow. To a lot of people, the idea of condemning someone for getting a divorce is unthinkable, but discriminating and denying rights to people based on their sex, gender, or race is acceptable.

There is a clear double standard in many Christian denominations, and because of that, churches are actually not a place for fellowship for everyone.


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One person told me, in a conversation we were having about abortion and human rights, that if a child gets raped, she has to keep the baby. I know that these attitudes are reflective of the extreme and fundamentalist side of religious belief, but regardless, these were people I personally knew and connected with that said this to me, and I never thought I had come from a place and had relationships with people who could demonstrate such intolerance. Fundamentally, morally, and ethically, I cannot follow a religion that would advocate such hate, judgment, and ignorance.

I know that a lot of Christians do a tremendous deal of good things in the world, and advocate on behalf of many oppressed people, but I still really sorely miss the critical conversations where these double standards exist in the bible, the interpretation, and how that enacts itself in the world, and wish for more Christian leaders to speak about these issues. So maybe it should be up to me to fix the church, but it got to a point where I started to realize this kind of hate is larger than just a problem that needs to be fixed, but that it is ingrained into a really big part of Christian culture in North America.

So many church denominations are content to split up if they disagree; people believe so strongly and fervently in their interpretation of the bible they would sooner split up their church denomination than actively dialogue and try to understand one another. And for all of the things I can do, I cannot go up against that kind of strength of belief -- to many, it is church doctrine, and not something that simply changes. One person messaged me and told me she was disappointed that I left the Christian faith, and I responded by saying,.

I am disappointed in the churches I was in and how they failed to teach me compassion, and failed to be a safe place for the oppressed and marginalized, but rather continued to be institutions that perpetuated colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy.

Certainly there are groups, and individuals working for justice in the name of God, but I was too overwhelmed with seeing years and years of injustice and hypocrisy and so many churches across multiple denominations who were keen to push their own political agendas at the expense of the people they are supposed to be reaching out to. I also realized I could still do good in the world, and fight against injustice and oppression, and not have to do it with a Christian agenda, but simply because it's the right thing to do, and for the sake of building a better world.

It took me years to come to terms with not believing anymore, and then even longer than that afterward to be open and honest with myself and others about it, and that's only been a very recent development. And believe it or not, I'm really happy right now. I have a life that I love, and people that I love, and I feel like I'm doing meaningful things.

Were there times when I felt the presence of God? In looking back, most of those times where I "was moved by the holy spirit" were influenced by outside factors, like loud uplifting music, or other people and emotions running high, but there is one moment I can't explain. During a church service in Ghana underneath a straw canopy, somehow everything felt very different, and I felt like I was aware of a "sacredness" to everything and everyone gathered.

I've never felt that feeling again, and I'll never forget that feeling, and honestly, I don't want to reason that feeling away with excuses involving heat or dehydration or exhaustion. For some reason that moment was special, and it will remain so for me.

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My dissolution of my relationship with God was not because of the negative interactions I experienced with Christians, but that I genuinely feel as though a relationship has been broken. From that moment in the darkness in Vancouver, where I couldn't answer the question to "Where was God? I couldn't understand what kind of god would create people, and in one breath, tell them they are perfect, that he "knew them while they were in their mother's womb" but then tell them they are inherently disordered, or can't be leaders because of their gender or race, or creates people who are inherently sinful?

I believe we weren't given a "choice" to follow god based on the eating an apple in the Garden of Eden, because now our "eternal life" is wholly dependent on us loving God. How can that be true love? How cruel is that? It doesn't matter to me whether God exists or not -- it more matters as to why he didn't do anything when I needed him, and remains not present in so many instances of suffering around the world, historically and presently. Honestly, I left God, before I left the church, and I was heartbroken to leave him.

Moments like that moment in Ghana, which felt like I was aware of something so profoundly more greater and beautiful than I can reckon, remain to me to be memories from a relationship that has been lost, and one that I miss terribly. Do I still care about faith? Am I still interested in discussing and conversing about the implications of faith in this world? There seems to be an assumption that because I'm not a Christian, I no longer care about religion, but I do very much, and still wish to be included in the dialogue.

There is a very very fine and delicate balance between the relationship of people based on their beliefs, allowing room for dialogue, and the opportunity to learn from one another. Like the lesson I learned so long ago, it is difficult, but so right to exist in the liminal experience that is being able to be wrong, and being willing to learn from one another, and, like that speaker at that event taught me, have the courage to hold your faith and ideas in an open hand, and truly see what it is they are made of.

I realized that I can be a positive force for change and that I don't have to do it with the motivation of "ministry" or "outreach" or "winning souls for Jesus" -- there was one speaker at that Christian event I always went to who loved the tagline "Gettin' sweaty for Jesus! But for other people? I no longer want to feel like I'm incapable, or inherently flawed, or unable to do things without God. It feels more empowering, great, and wonderful to believe in myself, and know I can do things because I can.

And that I'm not a product of sin, but a human being with wishes, hopes and dreams. I have infinite possibilities, not because a god allows it to be so, but because humanity has been, for thousands of years, in the midst of evil, war, and greed, working to also create goodness, and build a better world, and I can continue on that fight for a better world, not for the motivation of heaven at the end of my life, but the assurance that my children and children's children can continue to build, innovate, and create in a better and more beautiful world than I can imagine.

This post originally appeared on Jessie's blog. Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Part I - The beginning Five years ago, there would be no way in hell that I could ever conceive of leaving the Christian faith. With that being said Part III - What happened out there After the year was over I went to university, and after my first year of university, I had a very difficult summer.

In a Facebook note where I wrote about these thoughts many years ago, I said, "It has become too easy, too passive, and expectations have fallen too low. Part IV - Nails in the coffin And then a couple of things happened, that in my mind, I refer to as the "nails in the coffin. Part V - Enough Since then, I have received a lot of mixed reactions from being honest about my faith.