I’d like to think that my natural curiosity and intelligence lead me out of fundamental Christianity. However, I know that is only partially true. Much of my journey out was guided by the soft questions of those with another view.
Although my family never discussed evolution vs creationism, we were involved with people who were vocal creationists. I remember seeing a film reel at the Anglican parish in town when I was about 6 or 8. It was ‘disproving’ evolution. A phrase I heard at the Alliance church was “my God is big enough to have created the earth in 6 days.”
Personally, I thought the ‘days’ were figurative as a time period describing the earth’s revolution in relation to the sun made no sense if there were no earth or sun. But I was scared that Adam and Eve were real people. I made up all sorts of theories such as the retroactive fall to atone for dinosaurs killing other dinosaurs and lions not being capable of eating grass. Accordingly, heaven would be working back in time to fix all the horrors of life.
When I was 16 I encountered my first Christian evolutionist. I was climbing trees when my cousin’s friend remarked how obvious my ape-ancestry was. I reacted as if it were blasphemy. He calmly stated that he was confident in evolution, that it was amazing, and not contradictory to the idea of God.
My cousin’s friends also shattered my stereotypes of Catholics, social drinkers, and intellectuals. Sitting under the stars after a day of hiking there on those rock cliffs
listening to classical music, sipping wine and discussing issues like social justice and clay art was a tipping point. What I had been told about ‘those people’ was wrong.
Taking biology and physics at university was another small step. An uncle was a big promoter of intelligent design. He couldn’t believe that God was the great deciever who would make the earth look older to trick us. I didn’t research the theory, but since it acknowleged evolution without denying God, I thought it was great. One of my biology professors sadly told me that he was a Christian but that he could not reconcile his faith with his knowlege. I blamed it on a literal interpretation of Genesis and went on my merry way.
One time in a high school debate I remember discussing those verses about “husbands love your wives, wives submit to your husbands…” I have no idea why we were discussing that. I said that I would be glad to submit to someone who loved me enough to lay down his life for me. It was what I had been taught was the ideal. My English teacher gave me a look. He didn’t say anything but the pity came through. And I thought, maybe I’m seeing it wrong. Maybe there is a love that doesn’t demand placing myself beneath someone.
Even though I always hated head coverings and had glorious fights with my mom on Sunday mornings about it, I eventually became an advocate. Out of fear.
One time in university I got locked out of my house on a -30 C winter day and decided to hang out at the Bible College down the street until my roomie got home. I walked into the first classroom and sat in the back. The lecture was on headcoverings. The prof finished the lecture early which he remarked never happened, taking it as affirmation from God, I asked if I could speak. I had the same heart-pounding adrenalin heat rush that I had been taught to identify with the Holy Spirit asking me to do something.
He let me come up to the front and talk to the class about why I wore headcoverings. I don’t remember what I said but apparently his students believed I was a plant asked to do an object lesson. The kids asked me questions. The prof did too.
Most I could answer- I had been trained well. But the last question the prof asked was, “so you do this because someone in the 1940’s told you to and said it was God? How do you know it was God’s voice and not their own?”
I had never thought to question the authority of the entire governing body of our church.
Later, after a severe bout of post-partum depression, I was talking to a counsellor about my fear of what God thought about women. She encouraged me to seek truth instead of rely on what certain men (from early church fathers, Martin Luther, church leaders …) and women had said. So I decided to look at the verses in the Bible from the perspective that God loves women as much as men.
I wrote up some thoughts and sent them in to the church leaders. I was told, in love, that Jesus had no women disciples and that I needed to be in submission to whatever the head guys of the church decided God wanted for women. Even though I was using the bible and going back to the Greek and Hebrew my essay on why women can teach was disregarded because I was a woman. A more accurate translation of this verse couldn’t be heard.
My husband read my work. He then asked the last question, “You’ve shown one way to interpret the bible, but your church makes an idol of the Bible. Why give so much weight to what Paul said at all?”
I could question biblical inerrancy?
During a class we had a guest speaker do a talk on hermeneutics. He was a former pastor. After class I asked him why he left pastoring. He said that he could not believe in a god who denied the humanity of anyone as the bible did of women and other groups. So I wasn’t the only one who had troubles with the bible’s treatment of women and non-chosen peoples.
A coworker who had left Christianity also echoed his views. People left christianity because they were too compassionate?
A few months later I heard John Shelby Spong on the radio discussing the bible. I devoured his books with much skepticism. Then, at the urging of a Christian writer, I read Laughter of Aphrodite by Carol Christ. And many other books and authors.
The God of the Bible was exposed as a human attempt to understand the divine, connect with the spiritual, and control people.
I found Common Sense Athiest from a link on my cousin’s blog. And then de-conversion.com There were intelligent, compassionate former Christians.
I had found a safe place to question and questions that lead me to a safe place.