I began this blog completely convinced that I wasn’t ready, and fairly certain no one would read it anyway. Not even two months later, I have had the honor of connecting with readers throughout the entire world. So before I begin this week’s topic, I’d like to extend a very joyful welcome to each one of you who has allowed me a small space in your busy routines. I hope, as time goes on, to learn more about you, glean from your experiences, your wisdom. I have a commitment to honor the individual path of every person that comes into my life, virtually or otherwise, and I hope you know that I will respect and cherish anything you share with me as we continue our journeys. Wherever you may be today, on a sun-kissed patio listening to the ocean or, like me, bundled in blankets near a frosty window, listening to wind-battered leaves, let me share a simple thought about family.
Many times I have answered questions about leaving Christianity, but one question I am rarely asked is why I became Christian begin with. In one chapter of my book, I talk about some of the reasons I was drawn into the world of religion, years before I concluded that it wasn’t the path for me. There were many motivators, some as personal as painful childhood experiences, and some as superficial as free coffee and decent sound systems. But one of the most compelling reasons to join church was a need for family.
I have my own family of course, but in the merry tradition of most families, things are complicated. We’re dispersed across the USA and are lucky if we can all get together once a year. Each of us has had our own traumas and issues to resolve, our own healing to endure, our own struggles of daily life. I lived through the uncertainty of divorce, my parents’ before mine, and all of the complexities that every manner of abuse leaves in its wake. I longed for family. Church offered me that hope.
Fast forward to me, leaving church. Let’s see…we’ve got some tears, less free coffee, some concerns about hell….oops, we’re still too far back. Fast forward a bit more. Oh, hey, that’s me doing tequila shots and dancing salsa with my girlfriends. Not relevant at all to the story, and way too far ahead. We need to rewind just a bit. There, to the moment I realized that I wasn’t just giving up a belief. I was giving up the people that believed and the times we would spend together.
It haunted me for days. I had already released my ideas about God. I had happily embraced my new Sunday morning routine: pajamas, pancakes, and plans with my daughter. But what would I do without my family? The ones who brought me vegetables from their gardens, and offered to babysit for free, and liked every comment I ever posted on Facebook, and had my back when I faced homelessness? I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t belong to that family, not in the same way at least. What had bound us together was our common ground, our belief system. We supported one another because we thought alike. But being for one another came with the powerful price of being against those who thought differently.
It took me many months to realize that I hadn’t lost my family. I had won back my true family, my diverse human family. I would be there to support them, Jewish or Muslim, gay or questioning, atheist or believer. If they needed me to stand up for them or walk beside them, I would be there to do it, no questions asked. And in return, they would listen to me and support me, regardless of my beliefs, because that’s what true family does.
You are part of that amazing family, however far away you are from my humble living room and this cold Wisconsin rain. That is why I am so happy you’ve come to spend a moment with me.