Early this year, there was a hot-button political debate going around, more so than any other normal political debate. Christian conservatives from my home town were posting on Facebook like crazy, and I kept seeing a bunch of false information floating around. It started to bother me. I decided to look at both sides of the issue, then re-shared a stranger’s personal story in the hopes of informing at least one other person on the other side of the issue. I clearly stated in my post, on the first line, “I really don’t want to argue with anyone so please don’t try to start anything.”
I thought that since everyone on Facebook was expressing their opinion on this issue, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I just wanted to share a different perspective, hoping that people could respect me for having a slightly different opinion than them.
Boy was I wrong.
People started flooding in. It was like moths to light- they just couldn’t help coming to my open-minded post and telling me that my opinion was wrong.
I got tons of comments. No one seemed to listen to what I was saying- that the political issue wasn’t a black and white issue, but rather grey– they just saw that I didn’t 100% agree with them and that made me the enemy. That made me the bad guy.
One comment specifically stood out to me. Someone who used to be a prominent figure in my old church said, in short, that I didn’t have a strong foundation for my morals because I saw the issue as grey.
A full-grown adult, one that I used to look up to in the CHURCH, felt the need to criticize a 20-year-old’s morals and the very being of who I am because I have differing opinions from him.
I still get anxious reading the comments.
First, all these people made me angry. Then, I tried to forget about them, but I couldn’t.
I felt rejected.
I felt like the church had put a target on my back and made me “enemy number one.”
The comments on this Facebook post, and the feelings of rejection and disconnect, led my brain to make a decision about my life, one that I could’t argue with.
I felt that I was being told that I am not worthy of being a Christian. That I can’t be, that I shouldn’t be. I didn’t belong to the church or to the people with different opinions. This post turned the very foundation of my life upside down and shattered it completely.
I couldn’t pray for months. Every time I tried, my chest would tighten up and I couldn’t breathe. Even if I tried to pray because I was anxious, I would just get more anxious. My mind would scream over any words I tried to give to God, “You can’t pray, you’re not a Christian, you can’t do this. You aren’t that person, you aren’t a person who can pray. You can’t. You can’t. You can’t.”
Since I couldn’t even pray, reading my Bible was out of the question. Christian music that usually lifted me up filled my head with anxiety instead. I was ripped from the world I used to be so absorbed in and was forced to fend for myself.
I felt completely alone.
I couldn’t explain this anyone. It didn’t make sense to me- and it still doesn’t. Mental illness is hard. It sucks. It almost killed my faith.
I wanted to keep this to myself for a while, dwell in my rejection and loneliness. But in therapy, I opened up about how badly this was affecting me. We talked about my emotions and anxiety and I slowly started understanding my feelings toward the whole issue. It was good to talk to someone who could help me muddle through my complicated thoughts.
The next few months weren’t easy- it wasn’t just like a switch I could flip to suddenly feel like I was allowed to be a Christian again. Everything I saw on the Internet written and posted by religious people turned me away. The church is full of judgement and hate. The very people who are instructed to love without conditions hate everyone who disagrees with them. (Obviously not every Christian is like this, but the loudest ones are)
I am someone who grew up in the church. If I feel rejected and pushed away from God due to His followers, imagine how people who didn’t grow up in church feel.
We cannot continue to live like this. This is just one story, one example, of how God’s people turned someone away from God. Thankfully, God didn’t give up on me. I am struggling to find my way back to Him, and religion makes it hard. God’s love is undeniable and irresistible- it’s religion that pushes (sometimes drags) people away.
God’s people are the reason so many don’t find Him.
This must change. We must take God as He is, and take His people for who they are. Jesus calls us to LOVE, and that is it. We are not supposed to change the world- we’re supposed to show people His love, and let HIM change the world. We are not supposed to tell people their sinful lives will put them in Hell- we’re supposed to show them what a holy life looks like, introduce them to Jesus, and let HIM do the work of turning them away from sin.
We are not called to change people. We are not called to convince them our opinions are right. We are not called to make enemies of all who don’t 100% agree with Him. Acting like Pharisees will only drive people away.
In the Bible, the Pharisees followed the rules of the Bible. The Pharisees made sure other people knew when they were sinning and doing something wrong. They quoted scriptures to prove they were in the right. Yet, Jesus chose to sit with sinners above the super religious Pharisees. Jesus was not a fan of those who drove people away.
I used to be ashamed of my anger and frustration toward modern-day Pharisees. I hid it from God and kept it to myself, let it fester and sour in my chest. However, now I see that Jesus was the same way- He was angry with how they treated people, what they said to sinners, how they used God’s Word as ammunition against those they saw as enemies. So am I in the wrong for being angry and frustrated? I don’t think I am. I think Jesus would feel the same way if He were walking among us today.
This is the first post of multiple in a new series, “Separating God and Religion.” I am going to be covering many topics that have been on my mind lately, including politics and gay marriage. I’m sure many religious people are going to hate the things I have to say, but God has been pulling on my heart to speak out against the way people are living. Stay tuned for more over the next few weeks.