Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations With Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.
Intro: Hey Pod Sisters. How do you feel about Pod Sisters? I’m trying it on for size. Let me know what you think. Anyway, today I don’t have a guest. It’s just me. I find myself at a point where I have been through some stuff. A faith deconstruction. Sometimes faith comes up on this show. Not because I bring it up, but a guest brings it up and I feel like you should probably know where I stand on this. The belief of God. Beliefs of faith. Where I’m coming from when I say things sometimes. So today, I am sharing my faith journey. It’s a deconstruction journey. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you learn something from it. I really hope this is helpful to you. I think a lot of people go through these journeys and they feel alone. I don’t want you to feel alone. I’ll link everything in the show notes, but there are some private groups that have gotten me through this over the years. So if you are a person who is going through this please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact me via e-mail, Facebook message me, tweet me, whatever. I am very happy to put you in touch with some of those people and some of those groups. They have been a lifeboat sometimes in this crazy ocean. So if that is something you need, please feel free to reach out. I hope you enjoy today’s podcast. I hope you get something from it. Thanks for joining me.
I grew up with a foot in two faith traditions. One steeped in ritual, scholarship and practice. The other caught up in perceptions of right and wrong. Heaven or hell.
On my mom’s side, the church culture was very much fundamentalist. Ministers did not shy away from sermons about “the end times” or “the apocalypse”. The only way to avoid hell and go to heaven was to ask Jesus into your heart. You did this by “Saying the Sinners Prayer” or “Walking the Roman Road to Salvation” This was done, by most kids, in the middle school years and it is pretty straight forward. You confess you are a sinner because you are a human and born with sin and you deserve to go to hell, you repent of your sins, you ask Jesus/God to forgive that sin and to come into your heart” and tada…you are saved. Made new. Your old self died and now you are born again. As long as you really meant it. There was constant fear over this “did I really mean it when I said it the first time” or “I have sinned again and need to prove to God/Jesus that I really want to be saved that I am worthy of saving” and I surely didn’t want to go to hell…so I’d just do it over and over out of fear of the alternative. Jen Hatmaker episode referencing church camp. Jen Hatmaker episode referencing deconstruction with Rachel Held Evans.
On my dad’s side the church culture was Catholic. One of the stipulations my Dad had was that he was fine with Mom picking our Sunday denomination, but he wanted my sister and me to attend Catholic school. I learned that faith practices and beliefs in the Catholic Church were incredibly different. There was no emphasis on heaven and hell. Who was right and wrong. There was ritual and practice and education. I say all this clearly understanding the issues with The Catholic Church. I know it is far from perfect. Yet, in a weird way…it felt safer than the other faith practice.
I remember the rejection of the Sunday faith I grew up in, but really could only pin it down recently. I was in the second grade. It was the Sunday that the minster at my parents church stood in the pulpit and told the congregation that Catholics weren’t real Christians and were going to hell. I remember looking at my Dad with wide eyes like “what the hell” is this guy talking about. My Dad just patted my knee and said don’t worry about it. We can talk later. To my recollection, we never did.
I have had many many issues with the capital C Church over the years. I quit church all together in college because I could and I didn’t know where to turn. I had no problem with God or even at that point Jesus. It was the Church that I took issue with. It’s treatment of women. How I was personally treated just because of my gender. It’s treatment of minorities and in particular the history of the denomination I grew up in and how and why it was founded. It’s treatment of the LGBTQIA community and what that did to friends I grew up with. I wanted to believe that God was bigger than all of this. I wanted to believe that God created us all. Wonderfully different with all kinds of perfectly perfect imperfections. That it wasn’t something to fix, but to love. What I was taught growing up didn’t mirror how big I thought God’s love could be.
After college and two years in the real world, Stephen (my husband) and I got married and moved to NYC. Stephen had grown up a Presbyterian and I was willing to give it a whirl because, why not? We did not attend regularly, but the first Sunday we attended I found fascinating. It was the end of Summer and the church was clearly on its last week of “the summer church” season, before everyone got back to the business of real life and everything that comes with a Fall schedule. The minister, a woman, and a grammy award winning saxophone player gave the most interesting musical sermon I had ever heard. This place was different and I was hooked. There was no hell, fire and brimstone. There was peace and grace. We attended off and on throughout the Fall and into the Spring. We found ourself in church that year on Mother’s Day. There were so many baptisms. Not that surprising for the holiday. However, the one thing I found so surprising and very much refreshing that Sunday was that there were two Dad’s who were baptizing their daughter into the church. I had found in this church what I wasn’t sure really existed in the Christian faith. A place where everyone belonged and everyone was welcome. Just how I imagine God would want it. There really were Christians out there living out the “Love Thy Neighbor” command.
I have found it easier over the years and, in particular now, to have a personal relationship with Mary rather than Jesus. Although I talk to both. I think because I know the historical Mary was very much the mother of Jesus of Nazareth…and is considered a saint in the Catholic Church…I’m comfortable with this. Being a mom and a woman…I feel like we would relate to each other better and she would understand what I am going through. I also try to see God more from the feminine than the masculine which I think stems from the overbearing maleness of church that I grew up in.
This past year, I was introduced, thanks to a close friend, to an inter faith group of women who meet monthly. It is a group of Jewish, Christian and Muslim women who get together once a month and discuss their faith. Not from a goal to convert. That is not allowed. We go strictly to learn about each others faith experiences and traditions. It has made such an impact on my faith. I simply went to go and meet amazing women who worshipped God in their own amazing traditions and I have done that and I have made some amazing friends! The one thing I didn’t expect was my own spiritual growth. In addition to going to different churches I have been to both a mosque and a temple and have felt God’s presence in both. I also have a much deeper appreciation of how the three Abrahamic faiths fit together.
For me, belief in God is easier. I have seen evidence of God. Christianity is my hang up. I see how perceived leaders of the church have molded their flock through fear. This fear has created quite a split between me and family and friends over the years. They are not sure what to do with me and on more than one occasion concern for my salvation has been expressed. This fear has also created an us vs. them mentality that I see play out often. It is something I do not want to be a part of. It is not something I want for my son. Do I identify as Christian? It is something I struggle with. For me, there is so much baggage wrapped up into that word. For now, I find the Progressive Christian label to be a better fit for me. But I’m still not sure where I will end up. In many ways the deconstruction is complete, but the rebuilding is not yet finished.
I have learned that if you are a person who has gone through a faith crisis. Be it Christian or something else. It is okay! You are not alone. I think you are most likely a better person for it. You have thought through some hard stuff. The journey of self discovery is not easy. I think a deconstruction of faith is even more difficult especially if you grew up in a tradition where if you end up not believing on the other side…its hell. I get it. I maintain the belief though that the Creator of the Universe is bigger than that. That the creator created me and you from a place of love. That you and I are WANTED and that you and me are perfectly imperfect.
Outro: Hey, Pod Sisters. I’m still trying this on for size. Again, tell me what you think. I hope you enjoyed todays episode. I really hope you got something from it. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my deconstruction story with you. Like I said at the top. If there is anything you need when it comes to faith deconstruction or anything else on this podcast. Please feel free to reach out to me. Tweet me, private message me, e-mail me. I am here. So many of these things I have been through. This, in particular, has been on my heart a while. It’s not easy. There will be people who hear this on this podcast who may or may not have heard this whole story who are pretty concerned who will reach out to me because they are worried about me. So that will be fun. Anyway, I will link everything in the show notes. If you have any questions feel free to reach out. Until next time, I’ll see ya soon.