Help my unbelief


I’m often told by friends and blog readers that my “vibrant Christianity” is inspiring, that I “maintain remarkable stability in the face of incredible odds.”

But I wonder if they’d still say that if they knew the me who sometimes wonders if spirituality is real or just a coping mechanism for survival, the me whose panic drags her to the toilet the morning of an exam. The twenty-something whose anxiety causes her to still jump and feel a rush of shame redden my ears when a supervisor approaches me at work, even if nothing is wrong.

So why do I stay? Why do I cling to Jesus?

The other day, I admitted to my friend Cynthia Jeub:

tweetI explained it to my friend Aaron, who recently wrote a blog series on coming out as an atheist, like this:

“I know none of the things my heart wants to be true can be scientifically proven. I believe there is a God because I think I have experienced His presence. And I really admire this guy Jesus whether he was God or not. I think he was an incredible guy who didn’t take religious bullshit, and who wanted justice for the oppressed. And more than anything? I’d like to be like him and to shake the world up. But that’s all I know for sure anymore.”

But this is my story, and my other friends have different stories. I am finding healing within the context of Christianity, and my fragile faith is becoming my own. But not everyone does.

I’ve heard many people say your view of God is nearly identical to your view of your father.

So when friends have needed to leave their dysfunctional homes, sometimes their healing journey makes it necessary for them to leave Christianity entirely.

One friend described it as “ditching God” to “unravel the Good and Bad Shepherd.”

R.L. Stollar, community coordinator for Homeschoolers Anonymous, writes in his post The Scarlett Letter of Unbelief: “It’s hard enough on its own, this thing called belief. Life is filled with pain and suffering and when those elements get overwhelming, they reveal how fragile belief can be.”

Like my friends, I have tossed out all but the raw heartbeat of my faith, eliminating the poison for the cure. Finding what remained after the shattering. And only now can I safely rebuild.

Modern evangelical Christianity often values faith so highly that it fears the doubters. But as I commented on R.L. Stollar’s post last year, “the church needs to recognize that it is okay to be sad and okay to be messy and okay to be broken.”

What shows a “doubter” the Jesus we’ve read about more: an understanding hug, a cup of hot chocolate and Kleenex, or some memorized Bible verse thrown at them over and over until it has lost all meaning?

I don’t know how to explain the beautiful friends who were Jesus for me after I got kicked out of a church two years ago: some were agnostic or Buddhist or Catholic or Baptist. One of them was my pastor friend who played Jesus over 20 years ago.

And as I replied to Cynthia Jeub:


4 thoughts on “Help my unbelief

  1. Such a good post Eleanor. I relate so much to trying to cling to that part of me that feels like I have experienced God, and that thinks Jesus was amazing and revolutionary and everything I want to be-while at the same time trying to separate out the person of Jesus from the big pile of hate, ignorance, oppression and legalistic grossness that I see in the Church everywhere. I’m having to do my own faith rebuilding, and I can’t imagine how hard that would be after the pain I’ve seen inflicted on you. I want to hope there is a future of a church that embraces the grey areas and the questions and invites people in to sit with them wherever they are. I think the church is supposed to be about grace, relationship and exploring, but am overwhelmed by examples of the opposite. I’m so proud of the way you have gone about this process of stripping and separating out the parts that give you life from the parts that suck it out of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was going to write a LONG answer, but it’s more personal than I want to leave on a blog answer. One of these days we need to talk.
    Meanwhile be assured that many famous mystics, saints and people of faith throughout the ages believed THROUGH their unbelief. Be assured too that our G-d such as he is is the G-d of the broken, the lame and the halting. If we were perfect we wouldn’t need Him. Humans are not perfectible this side of heaven. All attempts, religious and secular, to create a perfect human succeed only in maiming the imperfect creatures we are and make us less than human.
    If you forgive me quoting Leonard Cohen at you (well, I understand he comes from a long line of mad rabbis) “There is a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.”
    Be not afraid.

    Liked by 1 person

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