I've written you so many emails in my head, but the events of the last week on the FB page have compelled me to follow through. I know you don't know me from Adam, but I stumbled on the SCCL blog several months ago at exactly the right time. I proceeded to read everything--I started at the beginning of the blog and read each post and every comment. I then read your Adverbs blog, (and the Hammerhead blog...OMFG!!!! hahaha) and I also read as far back as FB would let me on the SCCL page. What I found was a haven of different opinions, and my God, it was healing. The grace that had never been offered to so many of us was freely offered to even the most offensive commenters. And more than that, I felt like I came to know you. You have the most amazing way of putting your soul into your writing, and when I sit down to read your stuff, I feel like I'm sitting down for coffee with a kindred spirit.
Almost all of what you write about could have been lifted from the pages of my life. I was born into a cult, and I coped with the abuses by fitting the mold as best I could, and I was good at it. I planned to stay there for the rest of my life. The only reason I got out is because, in spite of everything, I'd met real Jesus there (that's what I call him to differentiate him from flannelgraph jesus, the jesus of CC...haha) and it was through that relationship that I knew I had to go away to school (Bible college, of course). I was gone for 5 years before I began to see the church for what it really was.
The point is, when I finally began to see what was really going on throughout my childhood and into adulthood, my world collapsed around me. The problem with a black and white worldview is that the moment I realized ONE piece was grey, my entire world no longer made sense. In that one moment, I realized my understanding of the world was impossible. Suddenly I didn't trust anything I had ever learned, heard or believed. Not one. fucking. word. Even my relationship with real Jesus was out because I could no longer trust myself at all--if I had bought in to all that abusive shit all those years, how could I trust myself to have any kind of real relationship with anyone, especially someone invisible? I moved into agnosticism and then became full on atheist. I still remember the moment when I was sure that He didn't exist--I have never, ever felt more alone.
This quote from your Adverbs blog was like reading my own diary: "...I am only a part-time atheist and not a full-time one... and even when I'm an atheist I still hurl my trust in Jesus and sob in my Father's arms - the arms I hope are there. Because during the times I don't believe in God and trust in him anyway, that's when it's faith."
When I was a full-on aethist, I prayed this prayer over and over "I know you're not real, I know I just imagined you. But, please, please can you just pretend to be real? Because I can't take life without you." I felt like the one thing that I'd thought had gotten me safely through all the shit had turned out to be a crutch of my imagination, and I was left without the one safe place I'd thought I could trust. It took me 2 years after that initial world-falling-apart moment to begin to even be able to consider taking some steps toward dealing with the shit and moving toward healing.
I eventually found a therapist and began sorting through the past in earnest. Slowly I moved back to a more agnostic place, and now I'd consider myself a part-time aethist/agnostic/real jesus person (Xtian is still an off-limits label for me and may always be--too triggering). Some parts of me believe real Jesus exists and have relationship with him, some parts of me believe he exists and think he doesn't give 2 shits about me, and some parts of me are still sure that I just made him up to get me through the shitty situation I was born into. It's interesting living in the gray after so many years of having everything so neatly labelled and sorted, but I'm loving it. I feel alive and connected to the world more often than not for the first time in years.
And that's where SCCL comes into the picture. I'd gotten to the place where I'd realized that I do not buy into the all-or-nothing, inerrancy-of-the-Bible, we-have-it-all-figured-out-and-everyone-else-is-wrong sort of Xtianity that I'd grown up with, but that left me lost and broken-hearted. It felt like if I didn't believe that, then I was without hope of being able to be part of any sort of church or faith community again. All I'd ever experienced was a dogmatic community, and I couldn't fathom being able to find a place where it was OK that I held my understanding of real Jesus loosely and that I didn't necessarily toe the party line on a lot of 'fundamental' ideas about Jesus and the church. That's when I stumbled into the community that has grown around SCCL. You all gave me hope that I could find real, meaningful community with people who believed all kinds of things about God and the Bible, and for the first time in a long, long time, I didn't feel so alone.
My life has shifted drastically since I first came upon the SCCL community, and I'm really grateful. For the first time in years, I have not only considered church a possibility in the far off future, but I have actually visited a few churches. If you had asked me 6 months ago if I would have gone to church last Sunday, I would have laughed in your face. But instead I found myself at an Anglican church, (scandal! I judged the 'chosen frozen' so harshly in my growing up days) crying through the whole thing and connecting with real Jesus in a corporate setting for the first time in years. This is nothing short of a miracle for me.
So in light of the drama this week on SCCL, I wanted to let you know that what you do has meaning and you have had a real, tangible effect on my life. I know you've gotten a lot of shit from people over the years, but from my perspective, this bout with Jeff has been particularly brutal. I want you to know that though we've never met, you are on my heart and mind often, and I've thought about you almost constantly these last few days. It's so disconcerting when someone like Jeff starts thrashing about in the haven that SCCL usually is, and I especially hate it for you, since I know you have your own personal shit going on. I wanted to let you know that I'm sorry and I care that church stuff has been sucky. I will continue to send love, comfort, courage and peace your way. Thanks for being you."