I was born into a family of devoted Christians and attended church regularly. After twenty-eight years, I decided to stop attending church. I still consider myself a Christian, but I am done with organized religion, at least for now.
I gleaned a lot from my time in the church. I had a community that cared for me, and I cared for them. I volunteered there a lot. I sang, ministered, gave tithes to causes in which I believed. I even traveled, locally and internationally, doing altruistic work. In 2008, at the age of nineteen, I went to D.R. Congo and Zambia to minister and provide aid to schools and communities that my church supported. I traveled to Zambia again, in 2010. The church taught me to care for and about others, especially the impoverished. I owe a lot of the empathy I possess, to my faith.
Despite the good attributes, the Christian culture I grew up in was also highly tribal and insular. It was quintessentially straight, cisgender, Republican, evangelical, and fundamentalist. I had a very narrow view of what justice meant because of this – the empathy my church exhibited was extended only to those who were like itself. Whenever it showed interest in helping other groups who were of a different tribe, it was always under the guise of proselytization. It took time and education, but I started to see the damage that was, and is, done by the rhetoric of those claiming religious expression as justification for their prejudices.
My life had been built around wanting to care for and help other people. My dilemma was, I started to care for populations who were being hurt by those who taught me to care in the first place. It is no secret, for example, that the LGBTQ community still copes with marginalization from religious zealots, and, in the U.S., Christians are one of the largest groups of religious extremists. There were many reasons why I left my church, but much of it had to do with how I saw people from my faith, and church, treat other groups – not just LGBTQ individuals but people from other faiths, classes, or cultures, etc.
Besides my experiences as a person of faith, I spent the last several years working for a large insurance company’s behavioral health department. This started as just a job for me but has blossomed into a career. In my capacity, I spend a lot of time working with various mental and behavioral health clinicians: LPC’s, LMFT’s, Psy. D’s, and others. I developed relationships with a few individuals and got to know them and the work they did, and this became a pursuit of mine, settling on an MSW as a precursor to hopefully becoming an LCSW.
In 2013, I took the plunge and started college. I was six years removed from high school and had no prior college experience, as my original career aspiration was to be a chef, but this desire had since changed. I began college in the same year I got married, and for the last four years, I have balanced my home life, working full-time, and attending school full-time. I’ve worked very hard and had great success academically while maintaining excellent remarks at my job and a positive home life.
I wish I could say everything had been perfect but the stress of life sometimes provides some unexpected turns. In the last four years, my wife and I have struggled financially to the point that we had to move in with her mother. My parent’s marriage of thirty years dissolved as a result my mother’s alcoholism. My marriage struggled under the weight of everything going on, and we separated for a period. And again, I recently left the church I had attended all my life to eliminate the conflict of interest of having been a member and ministry leader but also advocating for populations of people whom they would deem “sinners.”
My empathy now extends to more than just the impoverished. It extends to all who have been marginalized, disenfranchised, or even disillusioned. It is drawn from my experiences as a person of faith who has endured a lot of struggle, hardships, and many tough questions about God and what it means to have faith. Throughout my struggles, I found people that helped guide me on my path and harness my experiences into a tool for growth and transformation.
Blogging started as an expressive outlet when I felt I had few people to talk to about my beliefs without scaring them or soliciting concerned questions or looks that always ended in, “we’ll be praying for you.” Now, the purpose of my writing is to hopefully help anyone else who fights to make sense of the preconceived notions he or she may have about faith, and life itself.
I tend to write about personal experiences, or situations I am familiar with, through narrative. I also write opinion pieces that deal with particular aspects of theology where I’ve contended with traditional views. I have been published several times by the Unfundamentalist Christians blog on patheos.com. You can also find my work on goodmenproject.com.
If you enjoy my work, please help me reach more people by sharing what you like on social media. And if you have any questions for me, comments on my blogs, or topic suggestions to write about, feel free to contact me, or follow me on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you!
Peace, love, and grace to you all!