How I Lost My Religion
Somehow, in the pursuit of God, I lost my religion.
Growing up, the love of God was real. I felt it in my family. I saw it in nature. I heard it in music. I wanted all I could get.
My Southern Baptist church defined the path for me. I set off eagerly down that path. But the further I went, the more lost I became.
For one thing, we claimed that if you didn’t go to our church you were on the highway to hell. This made friendships with anyone outside the church awkward, to say the least. Within the church, debate over how to “do church” right kept us in constant turmoil. I longed for God. I loved people. Increasingly, I hated religion.
The problem was that my whole life was religion. I had a Ph.D. in New Testament. I read the Bible in Greek. I was a pastor and seminary professor. Religion was how I paid the bills. My religious world was as safe as an episode of Leave It to Beaver. It told me who God was and who I was. It gave me credibility and a paycheck.
But there was a Voice, calling me out of my small, safe world. For seven years, I tried to ignore that Voice. It became impossible. God was relentless. In the fall of 2016, I traded Leave It to Beaver for Lost in Space.
Lost in Space
My first impression of space was loneliness. When I left my religious world, I left my friends. They shook their heads sadly at me and demoted me from “friend” to “missions project.” I was a lost sheep, and a dangerous one at that. Pastors warned their flocks about me. As much as this hurt, there was something worse.
It was deeply ingrained in me that
- Jesus was the only way to God and,
- Church was the only way to Jesus.
Therefore to leave church was to close the door to God. So there I was: Godless. Friendless. Lost in Space.
I went on a spiritual walkabout. I tried being an agnostic. I studied, and meditated on the Bhagavad Gita. I strained to detach, as the Buddha suggested. I tried being an atheist. The journey was rich in discovery but I I kept missing Jesus. I decided to give him a fresh look. I was amazed at what I saw.
When I re-read the gospels, it was obvious that Jesus hated religion as much as I did. His message was love, forgiveness, and radical inclusion. What got him in trouble was not drawing lines between people but erasing them. He crossed every human barrier in the name of love: gender, race, religion, social status.
Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, a mysterious, transcendent realm in which God is love, and love is bigger than everything, even death. Following Jesus was not religion. It was love.
Jesus’ only conflict was with religious people. Almost every harsh word Jesus spoke was aimed at religion. It was religious people who set Jesus up to be crucified. He loved them anyway. Nothing can stop the Kingdom of God.
I decided to follow Jesus, to pursue a life of authentic Christian spirituality. I traded the narrowness of doctrine for the pursuit of truth. I quit my religious activities and sought a transformational way of life. I left my judgmental religious community to love the whole world.
My journey continues. But not alone. I wholeheartedly invite you to join me.
Anchorpoint is where we seek authentic Christian spirituality in a spirit of love. Everyone is welcome. Here, we love each other. We do not judge. We share discoveries but never prescribe them. We let God guide each person’s life and trust the Great Shepherd to bring every lost sheep safely home.
I hope you will join in! A great way to get started it to sign up for the weekly Soul Food menu. I hope to get to know you!