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Questioning My Faith: Email Excerpts

Earlier this summer, a new friend asked me in an email if/when I first started questioning my faith. This is my response, edited slightly for clarity. I wanted to share it because it is honest but risky, and I want to be honest. I also want to ask you all the same question I ask her at the end... What about you? What's your story?

I think my questioning started in high school, when I was 14 or 15. I had a lot of self-loathing; most of it came from the gap between how others perceived me (the good Christian girl) and who I felt I was (someone who didn't understand if or how my faith worked outside of church walls...)

I didn't admit most of my questions and fears for years, and at the time I definitely accepted teachings that I don't anymore. The more I've seen and interacted with real life, picked up pieces of philosophy, and come to understand the methodology behind historical criticism, the more I've re-examined my beliefs. Having a friend who loves Jesus and is bi, or knowing someone who stops calling themselves a Christian because they are gay and are told they can't be both is very different than theorizing about the issue away from anyone who is personally affected by the conversation, you know? Also, a few years ago, a number of my friends' "Christian" marriages hit crises one right after each other. This caused me to become aware of and question the assumptions I held about the "rewards" for "purity" and why our sexual choices matter. These thoughts, and my experiences in full-time ministry also led to a whole slew of questions about how women are valued and given their identity in the church circles I was a part of.

My approach to all these questions has been shaped by two main tenets:

1. While in university, I was introduced to a perspective on the creation story that rocked my world view in two ways: it pointed out that the Bible is a collection of books from very different genres, and in the same way that I read a book of poems differently than a memoir or critical essay, portions of the Bible belong to different genres and require varying interpretive approaches. (as an English Lit major, this made SO MUCH SENSE.) Along with this, I understood for the first time that embracing evolution didn't have to threaten my belief that Jesus was a real person who lived, etc. The idea that I could examine what I had considered a "threatening" belief and find a compassionate/compatible stance with my central beliefs is one that has shifted how I approach almost everything (theologically speaking)

2. At least every year since the high school crisis, I face the question, "Do I really believe there is a god?" So far, the answer always comes up Yes. And of the options I'm aware of, the one I am most drawn to and trust is the Christian God. This isn't always an easy re-acceptance though. There are many times I've wished I weren't convinced of it all... One of my atheist friends and I were discussing the idea of conversion, and how it isn't as simple as it's often painted; she at one time WANTED to believe, but wasn't able to maintain it, despite her best attempts. I told her I understand because my story is the inverse; despite the mornings I've woken up thinking, "I wish I weren't a "Christian" anymore," I can't escape the internal conviction that there is something to it all. ("It all" being the belief that Jesus was a real person who lived and died and lived again, and that somehow, this makes a difference to how I'm able to interact with a God who actually loves me.)

In the last year, my heart has come to be more at rest with the questions - not that they aren't there, but the sense of distress they once caused me is mostly gone. I think it is in part because of the two things I just mentioned, and partially because I've found a community of friends with whom it is safe to ask pretty much anything.

Ok, this is getting long! Not sure if it answers your questions or not. I hope it does, or at least gives us more to discuss. And of course, I'm quite aware that my position/perspective may shift anytime...

What's your story? What events/conversations switched on the questions, so to speak?


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