Changing how you view the world and where you fit within it is a really brave thing to do. So what do we do when we lose our community, our family, our social identity? I see you, Exvangelical!
“I believe that the thing that caused us to ask enough questions to land us at a decision to leave a belief system, is also the thing that can lead us to THRIVING.”
Have you heard the phrase “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!”?
I’ve been spending a lot of time watching, reading, listening to people wrestling with their beliefs and faith systems. Some of it is quite painful to hear.
I’m in a Facebook group for exvangelicals. This group hosts over 10,000 members. That’s a lot of beautiful humans wrestling with the departure of a faith system.
Sometimes I see celebrations of freedom from their particular oppressive system.
Most of the time, though, I see humans asking questions trying to process the why and how and what’s next. Many are getting help outside this group for the abuse they suffered and PTSD. Others just want to figure out how to play their guitar and sing without connecting to ALL that came with being a worship leader. And others are trying to navigate how to keep relationships with family members after walking away from a formal church structure.
Friends, this is a real thing. Changing how you view the world and where you fit within that is a really brave thing to do.
Most of us were given a framework of how and what to believe. It started when we were infants and formed with each year of our life. But we weren’t really given a framework for unbelieving. This is a scary process that affects our identities and self-worth….just for starters!
So why do people do this?
Why change their beliefs and throw away all the security they once had? Why risk so much? Why can’t they just have faith that believing “this” will prove itself later? Why would they want to “give up”? Why would they want to “betray” their relationships? Couldn’t they just press into “prayer and reading” more? Why not be part of the change from the inside? Why do a few bad apples have to spoil the whole bunch?
The thing is, we have some very brave and intuitive people rising out of some really dark years of abuse, narcissistic leadership, misogyny, bigotry, racism, and supremacy. We have some people who have chosen to start listening beyond the pew they’ve resided in for so many years. We have humans who are speaking up to an ideology that isn’t JUST for all people. We have women who are seeing value in themselves beyond “mom, wife and women’s group leader”. We are seeing men break under the burden of power. We are seeing all genders (he, she, they) speak up for personal agency and alignment.
We are seeing a revolution towards love.
These humans are calling the bluff on systematic religion and asking it to prove itself. They aren’t taking cliche answers or religious norms as a means to solving the beauty and problem of life. And they aren’t afraid of hell….some of them have been living it right in front of the pulpit.
So what do we do with this modern-day exodus? It’s not going away.
My heart breaks daily as I read the pain people have from leaving a system of belief that was once their whole life. This pain, though, isn’t actually because they left…that’s the freedom part they are experiencing. The pain is in how they were treated by their faith communities (sometimes political communities) for asking the hard questions.
You see, we are wired to connect!
From birth, our ability to grow, develop and thrive as a human is dependent not just on the food we take in, but on how we interact with other humans. Depriving a baby of human connection is critical to their success to thrive. Yes, we have an amazing ability to survive many difficult things, but surviving and thriving aren’t the same thing.
So what do we do when we lose our community, our family, our social identity?
I will leave the details of the psychology of that to the pros, but it’s pretty obvious that we see ourselves gravitate towards a new community. Thus we can find an online community of over 10,000 people that feel something similar to what we are feeling.
I believe that a new space of connection is highly needed. I need it too! But it has to be more than just people who feel like I do. Exvangelicals didn’t get to a 10,000 group because they wanted to wallow in shared pain. They got there because someone else could finally see them and hear them as they wanted to be seen and heard. “Someone else gets me!” This is the point where we enter a new community, but the next phase is the question of “what do I do now?”.
And this…this is where I see people get stuck and confused.
I believe that the thing that caused us to ask enough questions to land us at a decision to leave a faith (political, cultural, etc) belief system, is also the thing that can lead us to THRIVING.
We have the power to change the words we use, the vantage point we see the world from, and whose stories we tune into.
Oppressive systems of belief say:
There is one truth we don’t waiver from. All other “truths” are wrong.
You only need this “one thing” as your guide.
What you want isn’t relevant.
You are broken and can’t be trusted.
My body is bad.
Deprivation is spirituality.
Inside this community is good, outside is bad.
Your value is in what you believe/profess.
Behavior modification over teaching agency.
Punishment is motivation.
Exclusive vs Inclusive
Science matters to prove our point, but irrelevant when it contradicts our doctrines or violates “our rights”.
(We can use that list for political groups, cultural or race beliefs, faith systems of ALL kinds, and even family structures.)
We can think differently than that list. We can believe in something more life-giving and inclusive. We can own what we believe with inner alignment. And those beliefs can sit within a community that believes something different from me.
My heart is for liberation, justice, diversity, and authentic living.
That’s why I’m here at ReThink. I want to be part of cultivating the community while providing frameworks for THRIVING.
There is a way forward for exvangelicals and it’s actually a quite spiritual way forward.
Stay tuned as we release a sacred space FOR YOU filled with all the personal agency and authenticity you can find!
PS ~ you don’t have to believe the same things as me to be part of my community. I relish the idea of diverse thinking! :)