Confession of a Theological Arsonist

I need to repent.

It’s no secret that I practice my faith in a different way than most people. I’ve come to realize my faith is more meaningful when I am free to disassemble and rebuild. It feels more authentic when I can abandon any theology at any time. It is liberating.

I am happy to burn it all down and worship in the ashes. I’m comfortable in the process of demolishing and reconstructing. It is a profoundly destructive process, but it is a way I can cope with the intricacies of religion, faith, and the human experience. It helps me make sense of things that just don’t make sense.

I think this is a better way to find the truth, but I’ve come to realize that not everyone thinks like I do.

I understand that many people have built intricate systems of faith to help them make sense of God and life. It is comforting to have certainty about their situation; it brings them hope. I understand that. I can’t blame them for that.

The religious systems that we build are often necessary, even if they are frequently misguided. They are attempts to reach upwards toward God and, on some level, we need to feel that our striving helps. In the end, these are feeble attempts, but they can help us understand the nature of the God that created and sustains the entire universe.

I’ve been on a journey from being spiritually and culturally agnostic, into conservative Christianity only to find myself shifting to the left. I’ve methodically deconstructed many of my beliefs because it helps me understand God. But, I’ve been guilty of trying to make everyone else see things the way I see them. I’ve written aggressive and controversial things in an attempt to start a dialogue that I thought would be subversive. That failed. It is normal and acceptable that people will dig in their heels as we try to drag them from their comfort zones. They weren’t ready, and they may never be. I have to fine with that. That is part of my journey.

Because I found authenticity in spiritual deconstruction I thought other people would too. I tried to light a fire under other people’s faith systems. I never intended to completely destroy their faith, I just wanted them to experience the freedom that I felt. I can’t do that anymore. That’s spiritual arson.

My faith has been reborn in refining fire and it is my hope that others will experience that too. I wanted my writing to be helpful, however, I now realize it’s not my job to take people to the foundations of their faith. I don’t have that authority.

I still think it is imperative that we discuss the important topics and we must also retain a level of confidence in our own beliefs. I don’t, however, feel it is necessary—or beneficial—to coerce people into ideologies they aren’t ready or willing to consider. Rather, it is worthwhile to use discourse as a means to help influence people into a more refined and irenic perception of their own and other people’s beliefs. Truth is important but the path that we walk to get there is often just as important. It matters how we use our influence.

So, I apologize if my offhand comments on faith have impacted you negatively. If my criticism of prosperity gospel, Calvinism, biblical inerrancy or young earth creationism has cut too deeply, I ask for forgiveness. I now know that most people believe these things for the right reasons. I don’t think you are ignorant or intentionally deceptive. I realize that we are all just doing our best to understand this damaged world using our own fallible human experience as a guide.

I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t continue to write about my faith, even the difficult parts. I will continue to pose questions with confidence, but without any expectation. I will only write for myself, as a way to challenge and refine my own beliefs. I will use my writing as a way to express my own thoughts, doubts, and fears. I have no doubt that my writing will continue to be misguided, potentially destructive and offensive but I think it also has the potential to bring hope to those that, like me, don’t find security in certainty (not that there is anything wrong with that).

My challenge now is to accept that all ideologies are born out of specific, well-groomed worldviews. I need to realize that, ultimately, people don’t have as much choice in the theologies they believe as we would assume. I must not try to destroy other people’s ideologies only to implant my own. Rather, I need to appreciate our differences and celebrate our similarities, as we sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron. Maybe that is a challenge for you as well?