Strange and unprepared.

This is a post that I don’t know how to write, because I am afraid.

I see them in my mind’s eye, wary, expectant, probably judging already. They’ve noticed that I’m not the Dani they used to know and like. I’ve changed, and they are not okay with the change. I share things and say things and write things that they think are seriously wrong. Maybe they hold onto hope that one day I’ll “come to myself” again, like the prodigal son did. The ones who try to talk to me appeal to God, to the Bible, to the tradition of the Plymouth Brethren in which I grew up, to the memory of the Old Dani who was so devout and sincere and earnest in trying to live a life pleasing to God, the Dani that they looked up to or at least respected in some way.

This is a conversation I don’t know how to have.

How do I write about no longer identifying as a Christian in a way that won’t turn my entire world upside down?

I guess I’m doing it something like this. But I’m not holding onto hope for keeping my world aright.

The language of Christianity is still my mother tongue. The culture of Christianity is still my hometown. I don’t know anything else.

This is a strange place for me to be.

I plan to explore my deconversion further in future posts as I continue to work out how to interact with my world in a meaningful, constructive, honest way. In fact, that’s a large part of why I’m writing this. I need a space to document my thoughts and experiences honestly. A large part of what has been holding me back from writing on this blog is the fear of what will happen when people I love find out that I do not share their faith. And I can’t keep living with that fear. I can’t keep hiding.

While I’m not going to talk about the whys now (in part because I’m still working through things and in part because it’s just not the time for it), I am going to set some boundaries.

Many of the people who have reached out to me to express concern (or even just counter my points of view) are people with whom I have not shared a close relationship for years. Some of them are people I haven’t shared a close relationship with ever. It’s not appropriate to assume a level of closeness we don’t share in order to convince me of your rightness and my wrongness. Any messages I receive of that nature will be ignored, and any comments of that nature will be deleted.

Please respect my decision by not trying to convert me. I will afford you the same courtesy by not trying to deconvert you. Depending on our level of relationship, religious topics are not off limits by any means. I don’t expect you to refrain from mentioning going to church or camp, or referencing how you feel God is working in your life (so long as that doesn’t turn into a sneaky sermon). I understand that God is the central focus of your life, and I have no interest in changing that or forcing you to pretend that He’s not. If something is inappropriate or making me uncomfortable in our conversation, I’ll let you know. And I expect you to respect that.

If you feel the need to grieve, I understand completely. I’ve been there. Your feelings are your feelings, they are valid, and it is healthy to grieve something you feel is lost or damaged. But I am not responsible for making you feel better about my personal choices. You can grieve, but please don’t grieve at me. It may not seem like it to you, but this is at least as difficult for me as it is for you. This is not something that has happened quickly, or without great thought, many tears, lots of heartbreak, confusion, and fear — and I don’t owe it to anyone to help them deal with their feelings about my life.

And just like this is a post that I don’t know how to write, I don’t know how to end it, either.

Except maybe with a plea that I seem to voice quite a lot.

Be gentle with me.

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28 thoughts on “Strange and unprepared.

  1. I still think you’re amazing. Be gentle with yourself, too, okay? I felt like chucking all of Christendom yesterday because it has been a painful and lifelong fight in one way or another. I’m still clinging to threads of hope in my own faith, but I appreciate your narrative. You’re loved, regardless of affiliation, by many.

    You always owe it to yourself to be honest first. <3

  2. I think you probably already know how I feel about this. You’re walking down the path I’ve already trod. And you’re aware of the roots and rough places along the way — at least, you know they are there, so it won’t take you completely by surprise.

    You’re brave, Dani. Very few people ever have to courage to do this openly.

  3. Dani –

    Wow. Your story sounds so much like mine (thatsmeinthespotlight87.tumblr.com)! It’s a rough journey, but so worth it – hang in there! Your personal honesty is something that is to be respected. I’ve only been “out” with my friends and family for a few months, and while things are starting to normalize, I definitely still feel the pangs of social isolation and am just beginning to realize more deeply how much work is ahead in learning how to cope with things without the mindset I’ve developed from religious dogma. I feel like I have so much to “undo.”

    One of the biggest things that has helped to pull me through has been reading other people’s stories and realizing that I’m not alone. I’m looking into visiting a “Recovering from Religion” group.. perhaps there’s a group in your area, too: http://recoveringfromreligion.org/

    Best wishes! – Christiana

  4. Dani, thank you for these words. Several months ago, I long-time friend with whom I did a great deal of important, meaningful spiritual work “came out” to me about his deconversion, and he was not gentle. I know he’s not a bad guy…but he seemed to have no regard for the very real, difficult emotions his decision (and the way he communicated it) evoked in me. We parted badly, and though I care for him deeply, something remains broken between us. And it’s not just that we no longer share faith in God. Your words, your kind and gentle spirit, helped me heal just a bit today. The respect I read in your post for the reality of how difficult this can be for EVERYONE is what I imagine (or hope) he feels, too. Thank you for saying them out loud, here, and helping me release some of the the hurt and bitterness from my heart.

  5. Dani, I just want to say that you have a lot of courage doing this. I’ve lived for nearly 4 years now as an ex-Christian, and I haven’t had the courage to come out yet to family, I even blog under a screen name. I admire you for your boldness.

    It’s going to be hard to move forward, I was in the same place, I didn’t want to leave Christianity, then once I did, I felt so lost, like everything I had known, and based my life on was gone, it’s like grieving process, that era of your life, who you were has died.

    However, once you finally learn how to accept yourself for who you are, and being to emotionally rebuild your life, and make changes, it’s incredibly liberating.

    I highly recommend that on top of writing the blog, and getting it all out there, that you pay a visit to the forums at ex-christian.net, it’s a great site, with many people who have been there too.

  6. Brave and beautiful. Your beliefs are yours to create now. Never again will you be compelled to accept something just because “it is written.” It’s not easy, but you’ve got this. Embrace the uncertainty; play in the freedom. Your heart will lead you to where you need to be. <3

  7. So glad you wrote this. My journey away from Christianity has been completely necessary for my healing from spiritual abuse, but man has it been the sloowest detox imaginable. There is a blogger named Christy Lamberton who captured my feelings pretty perfectly:

    “There’s a long, somewhat messy story behind my own spiritual journey that I don’t tell to everyone. I didn’t drift away from my faith. I dug it out of my bones with knives, so I’m not at all interested in debating the fitness of my personal spiritual journey. It was a necessary act of self-preservation, so whether it was good or bad is entirely immaterial.” http://christylambertson.com/on-being-a-none/

    Thank you so much for your bravery in writing this…….

  8. Go you. I hope you find your honesty and courage repaid with the gentleness you crave. I have found that gentleness in the most unexpected places. And you deserve it.

  9. No judgement! Just love! Anyone who is honest and open with themselves allows deep doubts or outright disbelief. Where you end up after that is part of your own, personal journey and has nothing to do with anyone but yourself. I wish you peace and strength!

  10. Hi Dani, thank you for sharing your journey. You are an outstanding writer and writing something like this is not easy. I hope I don’t accidentally overstep and offend, but I am curious about your change of mind. As a Christian myself, I feel God has called me to a ministry of strengthening the faith of college students who often walk away from the faith during their college years. It seems to me that many deconversions fall mainly into one of two categories: intellectual doubts or doubts arising from life. Of course, sometimes a combination of both categories is involved.

    The intellectual doubts are easy to understand. Course work is not designed to strengthen faith. Christian professors would uncomfortable pointing out evidence that supports their faith in God and the Bible. Atheist professors are very comfortable in pointing out evidence that supports their worldview. Students then get a biased view of the evidence. While science and Christianity are completely compatible, some Christians don’t know enough science to understand that and so they buy into the “science has disproved the Bible” myth.

    The doubts arising from life are a little more difficult. Part of it seems to be that the Christian experience just doesn’t match up to what was expected. Plus, other Christians (like the Westboro Baptists) can be pretty embarrassing. Christians are always portrayed in the media as uneducated, intolerant, unloving and unforgiving. Unfortunately, that caricature is too close to the truth sometimes. The militant atheists have been pushing the claim that every evil in the world is the result of religion. Who wants to be associated with that?

    But on the other hand, Christians are responsible for freeing the slaves, founding hospitals, restoring peace, etc.. Coming to a just assessment of the contributions of Christians as opposed to all religions requires a lot of time and energy and most people just won’t invest that much into the question.

    Here are my questions: Would you say that intellectual doubts played the larger role in your de-conversion? Or would it be doubts arising from life? Or perhaps doubts from some other source I have not yet identified?

    • I have to ask, why are you asking for details when she herself has said she does not feel like discussing them now? I am not trying to be rude by saying this, but she did ask for her boundaries to be respected. Please, respect those boundaries and don’t push her to answer at this time. I know what it is like to be completely disrespected when my own beliefs were in a state of flux, and it is a bad thing for all involved. I sincerely hope you are not trying to do this, but it is really easy to do. She needs her space on this issue, so please give it to her.

  11. I commend you Dani for claiming your honest and authentic life. I empathize with your story — perhaps more the fear and the trauma of a major life change. My own story of coming out (at 34!) was met with its share of opposition and unkindness in the name of religion. While I have not rejected Christianity, my entire life experience of faith has been completely dismissed by family and friends, because, as we all know, gay and Christian are mutually exclusive terms. Know that I join with the voices of support that affirm your journey and your person. Love and hugs!

  12. Found you through Lana… please know you are not alone. I’ve been out for more than 20 years and I identified so much with this post. When I deconverted, it was very hard on me emotionally to lose friends and my social standing, to suddenly be an alien in the only hometown I’d ever known. Please do not feel compelled to do anything people demand you do to make them feel more comfortable or accepting of your decision (because I see the demands for explanations are already happening on this very page). There are a lot more of us ex-Christians around than most people suspect; if you need resources or information, please don’t hesitate to ask. And if you don’t need either, then please rest easy in knowing that you are walking a road that is very well-traveled and that a silent parade of people walk beside you. You are very brave and I wish you all the best.

  13. Pingback: Because I can’t not: writing in community. | crooked neighbor, crooked heart.

  14. *slow clap*

    There are many days when I look at what is left of my faith (shredded, haphazardly patched together) & wonder why I try so hard to keep it together.

    Thank you for allowing us into your journey.

  15. Pingback: Gratitude Without Religion, Guilt, or Fear? | Awkward and Overwhelmed

  16. Pingback: The Dropouts: Dani Kelley « Plymouth Brethren Dropout

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