Got an email today from a friend at church. He has noticed my dwindling presence at church and bible study, particularly after last Thursday night (bible study night) where I was tweeting about the TV show I was watching. His message hasn’t come across as nasty, rather puzzled and worried. However, it is still condescending, which he probably doesn’t intend, as it is kind of his style.
There was no small amount of preaching, too. He expressed concern that I am spending less time with other Christians, sharing in the Word and learning. There was a familiar quote from Hebrews. There was a denigration of “tick-the-box Christianity”. There was a “should”. Remarkably similar to messages other people have received who I know have left the church.
I was surprised at my own reaction. It was kind of hard to read, actually, and I may have been in mild shock afterwards. All the more because I know he has what he thinks are my best interests at heart.
I’ve been thinking about how to reply, which I am not going to rush into. I’ve mentioned before that I am “on a spiritual quest” and said to his wife (who is technically the study leader) a few weeks ago my line that “I am not as Christian as I was a year ago”.
What is clear is that there are (approximately) two things I need to point out in any reply. The first is that I am learning about the bible, about the church and its history, and about Christianity in new ways. But the church itself is not helping. We are (were?) trying to study Jeremiah, unfortunately sans-study-guide. Other members of my study are not really interested in what scholars have to say about this work and its place in history, particularly where it conflicts with the church’s traditional teaching. This is not edifying or instructive – it’s wilful ignorance.
The second thing is that I have permission to explore. I can still hear the words of Jesus telling me “Go explore and see what there is outside of what you’ve grown up with. I’ll always be here if you decide to come back.” There is no expectation that I have to return. In fact, I get the impression that he even asked Cernunnos to come watch over me! All very Pagan and my friend would find this all quite incredulous.
I’m debating whether or not to tell him not to pray for me. I suspect such a move would not work.
One thing this email has goaded me to do, though, is to send two other emails withdrawing from the music roster and from the evening cooking roster. And I should probably hand back my church key, too.
I haven’t replied yet. Working my way up to it. I hate that it will have to be carefully written. But that’s the reality of the situation.