I don’t miss being a Christian.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to be one. I’m not even against organized religion or God. Being a Christian just didn’t work out for me. It wasn’t in the cards anymore. The first twenty years of my life, however, were shaped by this weighty “C” word.
Church. Twice a week, no excuses. Plus bible study. Then college came. Church again, but this time there was “small group” meeting with other Christians your age to talk about Jesus and life and read the bible together. On campus ministry. Off campus ministry. But as anyone who calls themselves a Christian will tell you, it’s more than Sunday morning. Are you listening to the right music? Do you read the right books? Are you dating a Godly person? Are your clothes modest enough? Before you decide an opinion on anything, you better consult the Bible first. And Lord help you if you have sex before marriage or too much to drink one night. Identifying as a Christian is not just believing Jesus is your risen Savior; it’s belonging to an entire subculture of music, hair, fashion, and, most of all, life choices.
I kept hearing the pastor say over and over again that “the love of Jesus sets us free.” But the more I dove into Christianity the more I felt strangled. And as I started to walk away slowly, step by step, I felt more freedom than I’d ever found before. I was making my own choices; I was following my heart now, not someone’s suggestions for what my life should be. So, as I said, being a Christian just didn’t work out for me. Walking away from this has helped me grow exponentially as a person. I tried Christianity for a long time. And I don’t miss it.
But as much as I hate to admit it, I miss my Christian friends. I miss the community.
I’ve had a couple years in the “real world” now. I have made all kinds of different friends and acquaintances I never could have made if I called myself Christian. I have friends to party with. Friends to dance with. Friends to go to raves with. Friends to study with. Friends to laugh hysterically at Youtube videos with. Friends to watch Gilmore Girls with.
But how bout friendships I’ve made within the last two years where we actively care about one another?
I have 30+ people to call up if I want to party, but about two people — maybe three, tops — who seem to actually care about me.
And after years of being a Christian, my heart is crying out for this deep, true friendship very few people under the age of 25 and outside religious faith know how to do.
Church, in a way, comes with prepackaged friends, and damn good ones. Members of your small group will listen to your plights, meet you for coffee, care about you endlessly, and pray for you nightly. Christian friends will actively encourage you and build you up so you can become your best self. But maybe it’s just because Jesus says so.
Without Jesus, true friendships take more work. Being a good friend is no longer required; now, it’s a choice. And if you’re not so kind and welcome to others, there’s no unfortunate image of the disappointment of God or fellow church members; it’s just you and your own conscience. No more accountability partners or prayer groups; it’s all you, baby.
Sometimes I wish I could just walk back through some church doors and become reacquainted with that community again. But then I remember how I’d just sit through sermons and think about how impertinent all these issues are to what’s happening in the majority of the world right now, and I go back to the lonely agnostic bed I had to make for myself.
Where are these rich friendships hiding? Are they really all locked behind church walls? Do I really actively have to believe in Jesus to have good friends? I know what you’re thinking – why can’t this emotionally needy person just be friends with Christians already? But you see, the thing about Christians is that once they find out you’re a “non-believer,” their ultimate goal becomes to save you and to bring you to their side. Trust me, I was a Christian once too. And, no, they won’t just blindly be my friend — there’s too much at risk. Being unequally yoked could lead to possible drunken escapades or premarital sex or a questioning of faith that they may not be strong enough to handle.
So here I am, empty-handed. Jesus, I’m sorry. I just could no longer sing those songs that say you’re the only thing that matters. But your followers, man…they really know how to do friendship.