Why I am Still a Christian

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Somewhere in the course of a six hour excursion to Urgent Care on Saturday, in the middle of our less-than-fantastic camping trip, I came across an article on Facebook. It talked about how Joshua Harris, author of the infamous I Kissed Dating Good-bye, announced he was also saying good-bye to his Christian faith. There has been a lot of faith deconstruction going on lately. And if you’ve read other blog posts of mine, you will know that I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. But this one has rocked me.

And the more I’ve looked at articles, checked out blog posts, and read Josh Harris’s own words over on his Instagram, the more broken I feel. I’m going to try to make this blog post cohesive, but there is a lot on my heart, so I hope you will bear with me.

Josh Harris grew up in a very similar environment to me. In many ways we were peers although we never met. We experienced the same rules and formulas, an abundance of fear-based beliefs, and felt an unfortunate amount of pride because “we were special.” He has mentioned all of this over the last few years as he renounced the book he wrote and the beliefs he once held.

Deconstruction is healthy. There is a lot of religious Christianity filled with rules and formulas and twisted truth that many of us need to ditch. But I wish there was a safe, grace-filled place for people to deconstruct with hope. (If they want to.)

It often feels like when people are going through deconstruction the only place to safely land is in liberal Progressive Christianity or agnostic/atheistic worldviews. People who hold these views seem to be much better at encouraging and championing deconstruction than most traditional Christians. Traditional Christians tend to be afraid of questions and lost faith. Too often they are quick to condemn, label, or hand out useless Christianese answers.

Why can’t we just be kind to one another? Encourage questions? Be okay with doubt? Give grace? Try to understand where people are coming from? Let them have the time they need to heal?

I am devastated by the horrible things people who call themselves Christians have said to and about Josh Harris via blog posts and comments. These were public, so I can’t even imagine what he has received privately. Seriously people, being told hundreds of times that “you were never really a believer” by self-righteous, religious Christians will not encourage anyone to rethink Jesus. It makes me so angry I just want to punch something through my tears.

If God is real (and I absolutely believe He is), then He is not diminished by our doubts. He is not angered by our questions. If anything, as our Creator, He is the one who understands us the most. He is big enough and loving enough to handle them all.

If you are someone who is questioning, doubting, or walking away, I don’t want you to feel condemnation from me. But I also don’t want you to think that the only option is to reject everything you’ve ever believed. (However, if you need to leave it all for a while, I get that too.) There is a tricky, messy, sometimes confusing, middle way.

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People have asked me why I am still a Christian after coming out of my cultic sub-culture of Christianity. It’s a good question, and one I have been rethinking yet again the last couple of days.

Honestly, the decade I spent in my fundamental, legalistic version of Christianity isn’t the only time I have been hurt by Christians. I have a very clear and more recent memory of falling off of my bed, sobbing, wanting to die, and wondering if anything I believed was even real. I know what it is to be wounded by religion. But here I am championing our search for the Real God while holding on to historical Christian beliefs. Why?

I have a lot of reasons 🙂 but here are my top three.

  1. Two-thousand years of Christian history. I’ve loved listening to all of the smart people talk on Alisa Childer’s podcast the last few months. From scientists, to philosophers, to New Testament scholars, these people have serious intellectual reasons to believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the historical creeds of our faith. It’s ridiculously encouraging.
  2. Jesus. Both as a historical figure, and the man I believe was also God, Jesus is crazy amazing. If the Real God could love us enough to come as a person we could relate to, both to save us and to show us a glimpse of His heart, well, that’s a God I want to know. In the middle of man-made, religious Christianity, Jesus gives me hope. The more I understand about Him culturally and historically, the more I am blown away. He is nothing like we expect God to be and I love that about Him!
  3. Finally, I’ve met a Real and Living Presence. Probably more than anything else, this is why I’m still a Christian. For me to walk away from the faith, I’d have to walk away from a Being that I know and love. And I just can’t do that.

So, while I’m willing to question the traditions, the formulas, the silly Christianese phrases, and the many terrible ways we use the Bible, I choose to do it through the lens of a very Real God. A God that I definitely don’t always understand, but Who I believe is good, and loving, and on the side of the people He created.

Speaking of this, I’m launching my new podcast in just four weeks! It’s been a long and slightly terrifying process. But it’s nearly together, and I’m excited to share it with you and whoever else finds it and wants to join me in looking for the Real God.

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I’ll warn you, if you are someone who wants to deconstruct without God or without picking through the broken pieces of religious Christianity, then this podcast probably isn’t for you. But if you find a longing in your heart for more, if you have hope that God is real, then please come along for the ride!

And, Josh Harris, if for some reason you find this post and read this far, I want you to know that I get it. You have a lot of religious crap to unpack and sometimes that’s easier to do by just dropping everything. Sometimes the God we think is real needs to die, so that the REAL God can be. It’s okay to wonder, and question, and doubt. If God exists, He is big enough and loving enough to handle it all. I’m sorry for the terrible things people who call themselves Christians have said to you. I love that you have hope as you begin this new journey, and I hope that you eventually find yourself at a place where you can begin to search for God again.

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20 thoughts on “Why I am Still a Christian

  1. So much good stuff here. I was surprised when you mention Josh Harris and his questioning. Back in my legalistic homeschooling days (my poor children), I bought Josh’s book and tried to instill his “courting” doctrine into the minds of my three girls. They didn’t buy it, thank goodness. But I thought I was doing what was right.
    Thank goodness I’ve realized that my God is not just the administrator of a bunch of rules to follow, or the leader of some secret society. My God loves me right here in the middle of my mess.
    God loves Josh, too. Maybe this is the beginning of Josh’s own path to find the real Jesus.

  2. One of the reasons why I love your blog so much is because you are so real and so honest, and vulnerable at the same time. You put your heart on the line, despite what you’ve been through, and that’s proper worthy of respect. To give you a compliment: you say it like it is. You would make a good Yorkshire person – that’s my home county in the UK, and we are known for our forthright honesty. So I hereby declare you an honorary Yorkshire lass.

    I know that you already know that deconstruction, or some version of it, is a healthy part of Christian growth. I’m mentioning it here in my comment because others who read this might not realise it. If someone like that is reading this comment, may I encourage you to Google ‘Fowler’s Stages of Faith’ and that will tell you more about it.

    Something else that has just occurred to me: so often I rail against the way that abusive, toxic Christianity pirates and adopts so many Christian concepts that were healthy, and they twist them out of all recognition. Things like Grace, Love, being Spirit-filled, being ‘reborn, any number of things. They have taken these terms and twisted them out of all recognition.

    But I’d like to see them try to twist the concept of the Stages of Faith, and spiritual growth including deconstruction. The reason I think they will fail is becasue if they mention these terms in any sort of good light, people will realise that they exist *and are good*, and that the power brokers will lose the control that they so jealously guard. No, all they can do with these concepts is to denigrate them and to ‘warn’ their v̶i̶c̶t̶i̶m̶s̶ congregations against them. In my experience, anything at all that these people try to stop others looking at, reading or watching, is well worth a look. So, the books they tell you not to read, the movies they tell you not to watch (), the music they tell you not to listen to? Go and read, watch and listen. You don’t need to tell them you’ve done so 😀

  3. Thank you for this post. I am probably old enough to be your mom (yikes). I drank the Christian Patriarchy Homeschool Movement Koolaid and have repented to my adult children who were harmed. I have been an advocate for people like you (and my adult kids) who have been brushed aside when you question your faith or have a deconstruction. I am so upset about the way Josh has been treated and will be writing more posts about it (in addition to the 2 I have already written about Josh Harris and his recent statements).

    I have seen many who have been harmed by the culture that Josh (and his parents and their friends created) speak out in support of Josh, and for that I am grateful.

  4. It’s funny. My faith has been ‘shifting’ for quite some time now although it seems to have gone full-steam since this current administration took office. I had never heard the word ‘deconstruction’ until about a year ago and then I heard it everywhere. But everywhere I heard it, I heard it only linked to “progressive Christians” and although I ‘fit’ into some of their beliefs, I definitely don’t fit most. So I have been wondering if I was alone in being absolutely, positively, with all my heart in love with Jesus while still ‘shifting’ in my questions, doubts, and a LOT of new-to-me answers!

    Thank for articulating so well the journey that I have been on. I will be sharing this many of my friends who find themselves in the same position and are feeling alone in their faith. I’m so grateful your words popped up on my timeline. I feel as though I have found a kindred spirit in you. Thank you.

    • Yay! Welcome to the ragtag tribe of misfits searching for a middle way. 😁 I would love to invite you to join me over on Facebook. I have a page where I mini blog and you will find a whole bunch more of us there. There is a link to it on the homepage of my blog.

  5. In total agreement. A great book by a wonderful pastor on this very subject is “When Faith Fails, Finding God in the shadow of doubt” by Dominic Done. Definitely a must read and so loving and hopeful!

  6. One of the best things I have ever done to unwind my legalistic mindset was to go to Grace Life in charlotte NC. There are other sites as well. Challenged everything I ever knew about God, His love, forgiveness, and grace. Mark Maulding wrote Gods Best Kept Secret. I highly recommend it

  7. Dear Christy,

    It seems to me that your heart is troubled by the idea that people may be driven away from a true love of God by the failures of Christians and Christian churches. That, somehow, legalism or hypocrisy or meanness by people or churches who call themselves Christian will tear individuals away from God. I wanted to encourage you to remember that people are not driven away from God, separated from God, torn away from God by any force except their own, individual choice. It is our responsibility not to be a stumbling block, for our own part – but every child of God will remain His through any circumstance.

    The person who loves the Lord wholeheartedly, and is hurt by wrong-doing at church or by some person, may leave the church, may leave the person, but will not leave the Lord.

    The person who leaves the Lord and blames the church, or blames some person, necessarily must have another reason for leaving the Lord, as well. As I’ve wrestled with this topic over time, having heard people claim to reject God because of Christians or Christian churches, I realized that the reasoning for this is just like counterfeiting. A Christian or a Christian church that falsely represents God is a counterfeiter, in simple terms. If someone walks into a store and buys a Chanel purse and gets home and find out it was fake, they are not mad at Chanel. They do not swear never to buy from Chanel again, and to tell all their friends never to buy from Chanel again. They are mad at the counterfeiter. In fact, they might even be stirred up in righteous indignation on behalf of Chanel! And that’s just a handbag. But when someone counterfeits Christianity, some reject God, instead of the counterfeiter. This shows that there is something else at heart – it’s not that we want to follow God and we can’t because of the people misrepresenting Him; it’s that we don’t want to follow God because we’re mad at him for allowing the counterfeiters to hurt us, or for some other underlying reason. There’s something else at heart here. And what we can do is simply pray for their restoration, because that is what is truly needed, a restoration of the heart to the Lord – with man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible!

    And that’s the root of the issue, that is both an enormous caution and an enormous comfort – nothing at all can separate us from God, not the worst church, not the worst treatment, not the greatest hypocrisy – but only our own secret decisions in the inner chambers of our own hearts. (…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39, NIV) I hope this will be a comfort to you as you wrestle with all the many things you will continue to see that are wrong in the human workings-out of God’s perfect word.

    • There is also something more to it than that. Because when you are betrayed and abused at church, you wonder why God wasn’t there for you, why his people are phonies and a-holes, and why he allows the church to be a counterfeit. So it is hard to sort out.

      • You are right! Believe me, I know what it’s like to be nearly destroyed by Christians. But, I also know that isn’t who God is…that’s religion. I hope you will poke around my blog a bit and that it can give you some hope.

      • I definitely understand what you are saying! I know that this is a common experience for many people, and a common reaction. I have been betrayed and abused by churches and Christians. So has my husband. But it didn’t make me, or him, wonder why God didn’t do better. It made me wonder why people didn’t do better. When we face all kinds of trials and injustice in this life, we ultimately have a choice – to feel resentment towards God or to cling to Him for comfort after we’ve been hurt. It is not so much that it’s difficult to sort out as that it’s difficult to choose, because it’s painful. I guess I just wanted to point out that, rather than spending a lot of time blaming false Christians or false Christian churches for destroying true Christians, we are called to remember that God knows and preserves each of His children, unfailingly, and is perfectly good. It’s discouraging to focus on all that is wrong in the world, even all that is wrong with Christians in the world, and concentrating on discouraging things really can damage our faith; and our encouragement is not in trying to understand and sort out the world, but in fixing our eyes on things above, our Heavenly Father, our victorious Savior, and His eternal kingdom.

  8. I think we are on the same journey also, leaving the religious misunderstandings and misinterpretations but not leaving the God we love. I almost prefer not to be called a christian any longer, not because I have walked away from my faith but I have certainly changed a lot of my thinking and beliefs since walking away from the institutional church. I continue to enjoy walking with God outside the walls of religion yet away from the rules and regulations that are so often put upon us. I also pray for Josh as he goes through this time of deconstruction. I pray he will stick with the God who loves him as he leaves the religious misunderstandings we have been taught. Such a good article Christy, thanks for posting.

  9. Pingback: Irony and Apostasy: Finding a Solid Faith | Christy Lynne Wood

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