I recently read “I’m not a Christian anymore: a thread“, by a David Gass, on Twitter. I forget how I first saw it; maybe it was on my regular Twitter feed.
At any rate, as a person with books like “Losing Faith in Faith” on his bookshelf, it caught my eye.
This was an evangelical pastor, who declared publicly that he is abandoning Christianity. He was accepting his doubt, and dropping the sham of faithfulness – after 40 years of missing no more than twelve Sundays.
I don’t want to cherry-pick his thread; it’s not really fair to do so, as it’s not an apologetical missive. I think he’s writing honestly and emotionally, and a point-by-point rebuttal wouldn’t be kind to him…
And it would serve nothing.
I love apologetics; sophistry, the plays on words, the logic all appeals to me. But a good pastor of mine said that “nobody has ever been argued into Heaven,” and while “nobody” is a strong word to use there – surely in two thousand years of Christianity, someone has been argued into Heaven, right? – I still think the larger point is entirely valid.
Apologetics is fun. It’s not really useful as an evangelical tool.
But: looking at Mr. Gass’ thread… I feel like he’s been failed. Not by God, but by the Christian community around him.
He says he was raised in a hyper-fundamentalist environment, with the classic hallmarks of such surroundings. That implies strictness, an insistence on literal inerrancy of the Bible, an insistence that solutions exist for every problem… a sort of “prosperity Gospel” even if it manages to avoid material prosperity. The “prosperity” here isn’t money, or power; it’s that our side, God’s side, always wins. Everything gets fixed. We have it all.
And Mr. Gass saw through it: he saw no supernatural miracles in his life, his marriage struggled. When he read the books that purported to have the answers, he saw them as trite and dismissive.
I’ve read a lot of books like that. I can fully understand his viewpoint on that.
He watched people die of cancer. He buried people from “4 to 96” years old. He prayed for healing for people that didn’t come.
His parents were abusive; his kids rebelled; his marriage was painful to him. Where was God in all of this?
An inescapable reality that I came to was that the people who benefited the most from organized religion were the fringe attenders who didn’t take it too seriously. The people who were devout were the most miserable, but just kept trying harder.https://twitter.com/DaveGass3/status/112327798932261274
He eventually found acceptance among people who didn’t believe – he said they were the most Christian people he knew, and they weren’t Christian. Given the abusive structure of the church, he just … couldn’t take it any more, and walked away.
My heart breaks for him, because I think he missed it all.
At no point in his letter does he mention Christ. He mentions the religion, especially the structured aspect of it; he mentions the trappings, but nothing at the heart. At no point does he say anything about a God he felt was supposed to be out there.
He mentions the Magic Vending Machine, certainly; it was supposed to dispense health and happiness, after all! And it failed! How dare it!
… but nothing about God saying “I died for you, as you were, and for all those lost… no matter where they were or who they were or what they were.”
He points out that the church around him was abusive and caustic. I’ve been in church; it can be!
… but nothing about the Bible saying that that’s not how the Church is supposed to be.
I think Mr. Gass’ story is tragic, because it’s not a failure of God – it’s a failure of the church around him. It’s made of humans, it will fail, but it seems like his churches failed him consistently and in routine ways, all predicated on the belief that things can and should be perfect.
Yet the Bible never says that about our lives.
He wanted to see a miracle: the miracle was him! His life was exactly what the Bible said it would be.
His crisis seems to have been inspired by a lie, that his life wasn’t supposed to work out that way.
I pity Mr. Gass, and understand him, and pray for him and others like him: all of those people looking for magic beyond the magic around them, the people expecting answers to be written on Christian fortune cookies, the people depending on the people around them to be acceptable stand-ins for God.
I pray for the people who failed him, too, because they as well need God’s hand – instead of their own. His failure is theirs. What happens to his faith is possible for them, too, for the same reasons.
I pray for myself, as well, that God guides me in such a way that my own faith remains strong.