Christianity for the Rest of Us

Christianity for the Rest of Us


Ex-Catholic & Ex-Evangelicals: Why Did You Leave?

posted by Diana Butler Bass

As part of my next book, I’m asking for stories, comments, and insights on why people have left Roman Catholicism or conservative evangelical churches (either independent ones or, most especially, the Southern Baptist Convention).  Are you a former Roman Catholic or former conservative evangelical?  Or are you someone who is thinking of leaving one of these faith communities?  I’m curious:  Why did you leave and where have you landed?  If a survey taker asked you, “What is your religious identification?,” how would you answer? 

For many years, I attended a Bible church in Scottsdale, Arizona.  From there I went on to an evangelical college and seminary.  After a time, however, I had too many life experiences that didn’t fit in the evangelical box–and too many theological questions that those communities couldn’t answer.  I actually wrote an entire book on why I left and became an Episcopalian (called Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community).  You don’t need to write a whole book, but a few sentences would really help my project.
Tell me something of your story–I love to hear from you.  You can also contact me through my website, www.dianabutlerbass.com.  
And ex-mainline types, don’t worry.  I’ll be asking you some questions in the near future!


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Elaine White

posted July 16, 2010 at 1:01 pm


I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition. I attended a Baptist private university and married a Baptist, who claimed God healed him of polio when he was a boy. We became nondenominational missionaries and started churches on college campuses for 12 years, after the pattern of Campus Crusade, only we actually planted churches, rather than being a para-church ministry.
I moved back to the United States,longing for a more thoughtful approach to faith and joined the Presbyterian Church USA. Later, I moved to the Episcopal Church, and now I do not attend at all.
My faith is still important to me, however, I do not still believe in the formulaic, linear, creedal, approach to following Christ. I find the pomp of the Episcopal Church to be contrary to what Christ taught. I practice loving God and loving my neighbor. I don’t have time for weekly “salvation” messages accompanied by a message on tithing. I don’t want to be entertained either.



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brazenbird

posted July 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm


I left evangelical Christianity very slowly, over a ten year period after moving from my home state to a completely different environment: more liberal, less churched. When I moved I wanted nothing more than to get plugged into a church with my new husband (an ex-Catholic). But church after church left either one of us or both of us feeling irritated or upset or sad.
I started reading a lot and talking online to people of different faiths and cultures and very slowly my eyes started to open up. I began allowing myself to question those issues that were always present but that I just kept shoving in the back of my brain’s closet: how can a loving God hate gays? How can a loving God kill his own Son? How can a loving God… And also thinking a lot about moral relativism. As a child I just repeated what I heard in church but now, as an adult, I was still repeating them but they didn’t make a lick of sense!
At one point I threw out the baby with the bath water – I was so tired. I was so tired that I just didn’t care if I ended up in Hell. I thought, “God either loves me or he doesn’t.” The thing that was MOST confusing for me was that I was told being a Christian gave me peace. Really? Because between worrying about who the Anti-Christ is and preparing for the end of days and worrying over who is sinning and who is not, never mind worrying over my own constant state of lack and ugliness, I never felt peace. Never.
It’s of no surprise to me now, looking back, that I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder a year after moving. And it’s also no surprise to me that after attending a shamanic healing retreat two years ago, where a lot of light bulbs went off for me (and where, I found Jesus again) that I’ve slowly come off my need for medications for both. The anxiety went away immediately and the depression has slowly abated over the last two years.
I left evangelical Christianity because it was slowly killing me. It also stripped me of the ability to trust my gut, my self, my heart. I wasn’t taught to trust God, I was taught to trust the people God put in place as pastors: namely, white men. Perhaps it’s partly my personality to blame, perhaps I wasn’t a good fit. Perhaps I grew out of the need for black and white boundaries and rules.
I have since found my home in the Episcopal Church which I am ever-so-slowly becoming acquainted. I find peace there, I find the liturgy calming and sure. I find the openness and welcoming nature a balm. I find the encouragement to THINK for oneself encouraging beyond words. And I have had to learn through Sara Miles’ book that church is less about where a person goes to find the right checklist about what to believe and more about growing together in community and allowing that place to be a place full of servants working together for a better world. In that process we all grow more Christ-like in our own ways.
I continue to read books like McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity,” Marcus Borg’s books, Diana Butler Bass’ books, non-Christian affiliated books about history and the history of the church, books about scriptures, books that explain how we’ve come to believe what we believe – Pagels for instance. And this reading helps me enormously.
I’m finally at the point where there is joy in the journey. Finally I trust myself. But more importantly, I’m learning to see and trust God through the process.



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Phil Madeira

posted July 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm


Diana,
My name is Phil Madeira. I’m a musician in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m a member of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA).
I grew up in an Evangelical household, back when “Evangelical” was a word which was a term used to differentiate between a reasonable believer and a fundamentalist.
My father, an amazing Christian, was the pastor of a Conservative Baptist (CBA) church in Rhode Island. He preached against Viet Nam, organized a charity for Haiti, and was the president of Habitat for Humanity in Rhode Island, all the while being someone who read the Bible as God’s Word. (Not a literalist, by the way).
My mother, who’d grown up Lutheran, was largely responsible for our church recognizing that women should be deacons, a radical move for a Baptist Church in the early ’70s.
If my father was the typical Evangelical, I’d be happy to align myself with that word, but Dad was a different breed. All these years later, I cannot define my faith with that word.
After a long stint in Christian Music, I broke away from the herd and found myself playing alongside of great musicians, some of them people of faith, some of them more ambiguous. I simultaneously found my way from Evangelical circles into the wider pastures of the Episcopal Church.
Though not a Calvinist, I had attended a Presbyterian Church (PCA- very conservative) during my Christian Music years in Nashville. I had even served as an elder, despite my renegade mindset. I would lobby for women to serve in leadership, but was never taken seriously. I found the focus on finite theology to be nearly nauseating.
When I left the PCA, I made my way to my neighborhood Episcopal Church, where I was served the common cup by a woman. This brief moment had a significant impact upon me, and eventually I became confirmed in the ECUSA.
In this tradition, I find the Creeds, the Prayer Book, and the Eucharist to be the focal points which continue to anchor the essentials of Orthodoxy to my soul. The celebration of the mystery of God, in tandem with the Nicene Creed, helps me keep perspective, and reminds me that I am not a gatekeeper nor a protector of God’s image. God doesn’t need that from me.
I have no interest in “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”, as many Evangelicals might think would be the case with we exiles. I believe as much now as I ever did when it comes to the Resurrection, the Atonement, even the virgin birth. I can’t help that, and I don’t wish to hurt it.
I’m not interested in protecting God’s real estate.
The Evangelical fixation on a literal Hell, on “us versus them”, on gender issues (even God’s gender), and the continued alignment with the extreme Right, has made me realize that I not only don’t want to belong in that crowd, I am no longer welcome there.
All these years later, Evangelicalism is just another term for Fundamentalism, which is a sad thing.
Good luck with your book.
pm



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Pat

posted July 16, 2010 at 1:48 pm


I haven’t left yet, but I have thought that I might feel more at home in an Episcopalian church. Let me first say that I am highly aware there is no perfect church and I am not looking for one; just one in which there is room for dialogue and a higher degree of tolerance for those who are different. What makes the struggle so painful for me is that I love God’s Church and know that I am called to serve it. Leaving for another is not a guarantee of no problems, but rather a different set of problems. When you’re wedded to the Church as I am, you long to see it be all that it can be and yet, I sometimes wonder if all the struggle is part of God’s divine plan and we just have to find a way to maintain in the struggle? Certainly in the midst of struggle I have grown and learned a lot, but I’m also weary and worn down by the resistance to change and the alienation of those who could be vital, contributing members of the church. I’m saddened by the catering to members who give the most money and do the most whining, all the while younger people with good ideas are distanced. I’m saddened by those who cannot be taken into membership because they have a difference of opinion on an issue. Isn’t the church the best place for us all to gather and work out our differences together? If I’m lacking in some area and need correction, what better place to get it than in the fellowship of believers? Rather, some churches find it easier just to tell people they’re not welcome.
If asked for my religious affiliation, my answer would depend on the survey taker’s questionnaire. Quakers are very seldom listed, so I would probably have to choose Evangelical. If the answer were open or more geared towards church affiliation, I would say Evangelical Friends. Personally, after my experience, I kind of feel that evangelicalism has watered down the Friends (Quaker) tradition–at least in my particular context.
On a side note, I’ll have to pick up that book you wrote.



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Julie Holm

posted July 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm


I had at least two reasons, since I left twice.
The first time was theological, though I didn’t call it that. When I was 20-something I was increasingly uncomfortable with a number of things I was expected to believe or do in the Roman Catholic Church. The biggest thing for me was praying for intercession to saints. The separation between the people and priests was secondary, but really bothered me in the context of the lack of respect I saw toward a nun who was involved with campus ministry where I was going to school.
When I left then, I ended up attending a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, initially attracted by it’s proximity to my home, and secondarily by it’s liturgy. But that flirtation only lasted 6 months, as my marriage broke up, and I went home to my parents, pregnant, and decided that I had not gained enough from the split to keep it up and cause my parents, who were exceptionally supportive, even more heartache. I was fortunate that they belonged to a church with some priests who were exceptionally compassionate, and I found myself quite happy again as a Roman Catholic. I just was one that prayed directly to God, and skipped the saint stuff.
About 5 years later I left again, this time because I wanted to marry again. I realized that staying with the Roman Catholic Church was going to mean that as a divorced and remarried Catholic I was not able to be active in the church any more. And I had a faith that needed to be shared, and desperately needed to be active. I started attending church with my husband, loved it, and on July 31, 1988 became a member of Little River United Church of Christ in Annandale, VA. My soul really resonated with this church, I was able to become very active, and the church really nurtured my spirituality. It was transformation central for me. Since then I’ve been very active in the church, and I am now a seminarian and expect in the next 2-3 years to become a pastor at a UCC Church somewhere.



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Bob Gross

posted July 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm


I grew up, and was nurtured in, the Roman Catholic Church. At a “Christian Awakening” retreat conducted by our local diocese, I invited Jesus to walk the road of life with me. Faith became more personal. While in the US Navy, I discerned a call to ordained ministry. At the time I was serving on an Aircraft Carrier and atteding both Catholic Mass and Protestant Worship. My first stop was the Catholic Chaplain who told me that when I was discharged I should go back to my home parish, wait a yea and then tell the pastor of my call. I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so I went to talk with the Baptist Chaplain who told me to, “wear out the knees of my pants in prayer.” I still was not satisfied, so I went to the Methodist Chaplain who invited me to coordinate the daily devotional services on the ship. In hindsight all three answers were exactly what I needed to hear.
I knew that if I were a priest, there were several issues that would be significant challenges for me. First, I could certainly affirm the “mystical presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, but transubstantiation was something else. Secondly, the church I grew up in had a statue of Mary, placed high and central on the raredos standing with her arms open, in front of a golden door. It could be said that Christ is the door, but Mary was in the way. Finally, and least significant, was the issue of celebacy.
From that time I entered on a journey that led me through Pentecostal fellowships, a Baptist church and IVCF before I landed at The Riverside Church in the City of New York. There I was ordained into the Christian ministry of the United Church of Christ.



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Candi

posted July 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm


This isn’t exactly what you asked, but I’m tossing it in for my mother who is 87 years old. She was reared in the Evangelical and Reformed Church in New York state. When she and my father married in Texas, they were members of a Lutheran church and finally wound up in the Presbyterian Church where she has happily been for over 50 years. (The E&R Church is now part of UCC.) E&R and PC(USA) are not so far apart. Now mother hears people speaking in negative terms about Evangelicals and she cannot understand why. The popular definition has changed so much since she was a child. It might be wise to define Evangelical, maybe even then and now.



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Stephen Ranney

posted July 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm


There were a lot of factors but one that stands out is that I realized I had an alternative in ‘mainline’ or middle of the road denominations, such as the ELCA where we are now. I had always had a stereotype in my mind since from earliest childhood in the evangelical world I had heard that denominational churches had forsaken the faith. Yet I found that they intelligently engage science and the Scriptures and at the same practice a vital relationship with Christ.



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Barbara Wedow Beam

posted July 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm


I was seriously RC, entered the convent at age 17. That didn’t last; I was really too young to know what I was doing. The reason I left the Church was that I met a man I wanted to marry and he was divorced. I was fired from my parochial school teaching job for marrying him. Actually the marriage was a big mistake, though I do have two great children as a result. I went to the Episcopal Church because I remembered my mother saying “They’re really almost like us.” It was many years and a divorce later that I felt called to holy orders. So that’s how I went from being “Sister Joseph Mary” to being “Mother Barbara.”



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Sara

posted July 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm


I grew up a conservative Methodist minister’s daughter…not exactly Southern Baptist, but it was along those same lines in our particular church. Lots of Christian school, from elementary through college, where I absorbed the usual teachings against homosexuality, abortion, pre-marital sex and etc. A lot of lovely, kind, caring people in these communities, but once I hit my early 20s I could no longer stay on board with the obsession with certain moral sins at the same time as there seemed to be a lot less interest in social injustice and real suffering. I still don’t get it. Certainly I still believe in God, but I am religion-less at present. I’m sure there’s a church somewhere that fits, but it isn’t the one I grew up in: where the folks would be horrified to learn that I worked on the Obama campaign or that I’m living with my boyfriend. I also need intellectual stimulation along with my spirituality: the typical three-bullet sermon that I could write myself doesn’t cut it. The closet thing I had to a “religious” community over the last ten years was an organic farm that I was a member of: that and yoga are the closest I get to spiritual feeling these days.



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Fran

posted July 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm


I will always be a catholic, but no longer with a capital C. I was brought up in the RC by an Irish-American mother; my brother has been a priest forever. I have loved some of the traditions and some of the saints of the Church (Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, Archbishop Romero). But I can accept no longer the crimes and misdemeanors of the Roman Magisterium. When I joined a “JustFaith” group at our local Trinity Episcopal parish in Santa Barbara, I realized that here at last were people who walked the walk (they were amazed to learn about the great social justice teachings of some of the earlier Popes; I had to confess that we seldom heard them preached from the pulpit). I’m proud to list my religious affiliation as American Episcopal, though I believe I’m really an American Ecumenical. One has to find a living and worshipful community however, dedicated to living Christ’s teachings – so you will find me at an Episcopal Eucharist Service on Sunday mornings.



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Marny

posted July 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm


I call myself an “accidental Episcopalian,” although i am very deliberate now. I used to answer the question about my faith background by saying, “well, my grandparents were Catholic,” so my parents were both brought up Catholic and my mother dutifully took my brother and I to church and CCD, largely, I believe, to avoid catching flak from my father’s conservative Catholic parents (if you knew my co-=dependent, peope-pleasing, sweet, lovely mother, that would make perfect sense). My mother’s mother, by-thte-by was actually an episocpalian who had duifully raised her children Catholic after marrying one but wne tback to her church when she became a widow in her early 60s.
Growing up, we went to church at least 2x/month and thought of ourselves as Catholics, although we didn’t go to public school. The beginning of the end for me was in 5th grade (this owuld have been about 1983 int he conservative archdiocese of Kansas City), when what at my (current) church we call acolytes were being recruited, but no girls need apply. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to serve at the altar as that I didn’t appreciate being told that I couldn’t. I continued going through the motions for a while. In 8th grade confirmation class, while preparing to make my “muture affirmation of faith,” I asked “What if I am not so sure I believe all this?” and was told, basically, not to worry about it and not to ask too many questions. Strike 2.
I think the high school sunday school class, with guest speakers presenting conservative positions on social issues that didn’t make sense to my emerging liberal-feminist self, along with the death of my paternal grandparents taking the pressure off my mother (my littlle brother was never confirmed) that was the end of the line. I didn’t so much decide to leave as just stop going. Throughout college and my early adulthood I basically thoguht of myself as a person (like many of my fellow Gen Xers) who just didn’t “do church,” although I always enjoyed discussing religion from a more sociological perspective and tried a few Quaker and UU services over the years.
When I was in graduate school in Nashville, TN, I entered an Episcopal Church (the wonderful St Augustines, which wasn’t featured in “Practicing Congregations,” but could have been) literally through the back door — they hired me on referral from a friend to provide nursery care. For more than a year, as I slowly got to know people and become more engaged in the community, I thought of and referred to it as “the church where I work.” One wednesday night (it’s the south, even Episcopalians go to church on Wednesday nights in the South), after a bad day in my first job after grad school, I decided at the spur of the moment to attend a worship service. it was shortly after my maternal grandmother (the Episcopalian) passed away, and I like to think that she gave me a gentle nudge in that direction. Not long after, I started going to the early Sunday service (before working with the kids at the later service) and I have missed very few Sundays since then, although I have moved and go to a different church now.
Developing (or reclaiming) my faith adn spirituality was, and still is, a process. For a long time, I described myself (in the inverse of the phrase popular amongst my peers) as “religious, but not particularly spiritual. Jim Adams’s book “So You Think You Are Not Religious” helped me feel good about being in church for the structure, ritual, and community even when I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I believed. Marcus Borg and Nora Gallagher helped me take the next steps.
Looking forward to reading the book!



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Joseph Connolly

posted July 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm


When I was a sophomore in a Catholic H.S. one of the Christian Brothers said that the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by the same author that the same time but the Gospel of John got stuck in between. I went home, pulled the Vulgate Bible off the shelf and read the two through as one work. (A Catholic teen reading the Bible then was, of course, not allowed, but I did it.) Reading it that way was a conversion experience. Why? The church I saw in front of me in my life was not the church I saw in these words.
Then I had the experience of going to a church in NYC which called the Rev. Carol Anderson, among the first to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, to be its “Rector.” Being a parishioner there was a political statement. Women were just as qualified as men.
I am now a pastor in the United Church of Christ. My mature thinking says this: no one should stand between the covenant relationship if the individual and God, or try to damage the covenant relationship between the individual and God with the possible exception of that individual. Hence, my thinking also says that the majority of the differences among denominations is how they govern themselves. Generally, the more top down, the more the hierarchy, perhaps unintentionally and with good will, tends to try to intervene. But that do. And that interaction is even true on the level of the individual. In a so called “free church” another individual can sometimes try to intervene between the covenant relationship of an individual with God.



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Karen

posted July 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm


For many years I was around people who wondered where there first love and excitement over finding God’s love had gone. We were in an evangelical, independent church that was becoming more conservative, fundamental, and political. When we first started to attend there, we were mildly out of step with the thinking of the average attender. But over time, the distance between us grew greater.
It was the rediscovery of God’s grace and amazing love that helped to lead us away from that church. For awhile, we weren’t part of any church, but enjoyed listening to podcasts from The God Journey by two former pastors, and sermons from Greg Boyd’s church.
We are now part of a wonderful body of Christians in an ELCA Lutheran Church where the leadership seeks to grow in their relationship to God. The liturgy reinforces the basic truths of our faith; I’m confident they can’t be forgotten. Where the community seems real and not based on what we do for the church. Actually, the church is focused on serving others. It’s such a contrast and so very Biblical.



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Pam Heatley

posted July 17, 2010 at 12:11 am


I believe that women should be ordained. I believe that homosexual people should be welcome to be fully participatory including ordination. I don’t believe that communion should be restricted. I think the role of women in the Catholic church is archaic. I think the politics that surround things like annulments, divorce, some infant baptisms etc is unfortunate and unfair.
I found my self talking more and more to people that were Catholic but didn’t REALLY believe the tenants of the Catholic church. I realized I was one of those people that continued to be part of something I really wasn’t part of. I was born into the Roman Catholic tradition but I just wasn’t Catholic.



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withyobadself

posted July 17, 2010 at 2:21 am


jesus was the messiah the jews were waiting for…jesus came to free the jews from the corrupt jewish religion…jesus message to the jews was …you dont have to slaughter animals to talk to god… just talk to him…god never stopped walking with you…man made up religion to control you and fool you into thinking you cant talk to god unless you follow the rules that is made up in mans religion… just talk to god…the jewish religion was threaten by jesus so they had the romans put jesus to death…jesus didnt die on the cross so that everyone who believed in him would go to heaven…jesus died on the cross to show people that when people want kill you just let them… you will only go to heaven… love your enemy…GOD NEVER QUIT WALKING WITH MAN… you can always just talk to god whenever you want… the romans made up the christian religion to control and gain power… the Vatican now has trillion of dollars invested in the world… churches in america are making the self claimed preachers rich… by telling the members they cant talk to god unless they follow the rules of the church…GOD BELONGS TO EVERYONE AND DOESNT NEED A RELIGION OR A BOOK TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF…



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Jonathan Harwell

posted July 17, 2010 at 8:17 am


I grew up in a family of Southern Baptist ministers and journalists, who recognized the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC as a threat to the Baptist tradition. I became a missionary with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship after college, serving for 2 years as a teacher in Albania.
CBF, which formed as an alternative to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (not so surprising in the long view, since the SBC was founded to support slavery), provided for years a safe haven for diverse people who held to the ideals of the historically radical Baptist tradition. These included ministers who happened to be women and/or GLBT persons, who were being purged from SBC membership along with their churches. However, an unsettling argument held the forefront of the CBF’s 2001 General Assembly in Atlanta, regarding the hiring of homosexual staff or missionaries. Having a friend who worked for CBF who happens to be lesbian, my wife and I were shocked to hear Keith Parks, a leader in the organization, say to the assembly that we needed to uphold a new policy against hiring homosexuals in order for us to attract conservative supporters. Speaking against a motion to rescind the policy, Parks proclaimed, “If this motion passes, we will exclude many, many people who want to join us.” Excluding many people from within was apparently less of a problem for him. My friend, who had nurtured young missionaries for years, whispered to me during the debate, “It’s like they’re letting us come to dinner, but they’re making us sit on the back porch.” The motion to rescind failed on a 701-502 vote. Fundamentalist tendencies had again marginalized authentic Baptists, even from within an organization founded to ward off this very sort of discriminatory religion.
I was reminded of a Southern Baptist minister in my family who happened to be lesbian, who said after attending an SBC meeting in the late 1980’s (during the latter days of the fundamentalist takeover) that she would never attend another. That CBF meeting was when I first articulated my thoughts to another Gen Xer about our loyalty to ideals rather than institutions. Since that time, I’ve felt much more at home in the smaller, more liberal Alliance of Baptists, as well as in Quaker meetings, both of which have more in common with radical Baptist roots than fundamentalism.



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Phyllis Amenda

posted July 17, 2010 at 10:29 am


I spent over 20 years at a large Foursquare Church in Fresno, CA. I gradually came to see that as a single female in my 30s, I was a 5th class citizen (behind: married men, single men, married women, divorced women, then never-married women). I also began to see that as a historian, I didn’t fit in a movement whose sense of history rarely extended past one’s own conversion. I just asked too many questions for a movement uncomfortable with ambiguity.
I had been baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian in my youth and when I moved to upstate NY, I returned “home” and have been an active member of an inclusive Episcopal parish for 11 years. My gifts are accepted and utilized without regard to my marital status, gender or employment. I worship with folks who accept ambiguity as we all try to live faithfully in this world.



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John E. Smith

posted July 17, 2010 at 11:02 am


Hi, Diana
Well, I am one of those known as an RC (Recovering Catholic). I was raised in a small town midwestern environment where Catholics were definitely in the minority. I was not aware of any great discomfort with my mother’s religion, even though I struggled with the rules and the resulting guilt from my inability to “be good.” This probably has to do with a certain rigidity in my personality, which shows up in an obsessive need to “follow the rules”. When I entered college, the discipline of weekly mass, confession, and communion began to disintegrate, leaving me . . . nowhere, really.
While I absorbed philosophy, spirituality, and moral codes intellectually, I had no real basis for living a daily life. I knew that the strictness of the Catholic faith, with a distinct lack of support for questioning, comparing, and experiencing at the layperson level, was not something to which I did not want to return.
I found my “solid ground” in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) quite by accident. A new job in a Disciples-affiliated college in a very small town, and a growing family of children, gave my wife and I the motivation to “try out” the local Disciples church. We found the ability to discuss, question, and even disagree refreshing. Since that time, we have been members of three DOC churches in very different places and of varying sizes.
The “wide tent” under which Disciples gather is quite an experience. We have everything from almost Fundamental to extremely liberal. I fall into the progressive liberal camp as much as anything and am pretty comfortable. To me, the ability to have these widely differing theological positions and still come together to worship, commune, and grow in our faith is the strength of this body of believers.
Thanks for asking.
John



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Robert Quirk (Rob)

posted July 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm


Here ya go Diana!
I left Roman Catholic religious life with the Salvatorians in 1997. I remained a practicing Catholic and I kept my options open. Having looked into the Unitarians, the United Church of Christ, and the Episcopal Church — I found a home in St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in River Hills, Wisconsin. Since I was a little kid growing up at St. Sebastian’s Catholic parish in Milwaukee, liturgy spoke to me. Eucharist and the “good stuff” of the Roman Church — along with a grandma that made religion fun and meaningful — helped to foster faith within. Grandma Quirk was Ms. Irish American Catholic with a rosary in each hand and a beer on her lap! She had a ready smile with beliefs and a faith that won me over…. Others in my family did not take to Catholicism as my grandma, Grace Marie Frances Hennessey-Quirk, did. My mom, as well, was attached to her religious faith when I was in early grade school, but as the years and her life-experience unfolded “within the fold” — she became an agnostic. The Roman Catholic Church did not make sense to her anymore — it failed to speak an language she could hear, or understand. Both my grandma and mom where the two most influential people in my life and I know of no other folk that have more integrity, character, love and authenticity than those two. They helped to form my spiritual center and interest in religion.
My close friends (I had a handful of them) also had an appreciation for their Catholic faith and helped me feel part of a real community. In college I was very involved in the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. I was invited to be the liturgy coordinator for a few years. Having known the Jesuits from a family connection and high school involvement, and a few run-in’s with the Conventual Franciscans, a big family connection with the Schoenstatt Sisters and Fathers of Mary and, finally, the diocesan priests at the Newman Center at UWEC — I felt a call to religious life and priesthood. Toward the end of my college years I investigated a variety of communities and chose the Paulist Fathers as the best fit. They were involved in Newman Centers, communications/media, and were the first American Catholic religious orders of men. I also wanted to be a lawyer — so after I graduated, I gave myself a year to discern more. In the mean time I taught religion at a Catholic high school in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. After a year of that I left for the Paulist Fathers.
The Paulist novitiate was an hour west of Manhattan (where the Mother House was — St. Paul The Apostle Church — midtown) on a 1200 acres of cold rocks and naked trees (the description we novices so fondly used). The novitiate, seminary (St. Paul’s College, Washington, DC) and rich experiences with the Paulists were excellent; however, after nearly five years, I needed to leave. Suffice it to say — nearly every pedestal I had up was toppled. I came out of the closet, wanted to experience more of a “normal” way of life (on a variety of fronts) and needed to explore. My Catholic faith was still viable and a desire to explore was strong. (As an aside, my novice class had 21 members, 16 went on to seminary, 8 were ordained and 0 are left in the community today) I found a job running a soup kitchen for the Franciscans in Boston. I eventually moved to Los Angeles to try my hand at comedy and acting while working as a youth minister in a Catholic parish. Along the way I experienced an old familiar, family disease and it found a home in me — alcoholism. Big Ouch! I returned home to Milwaukee and my mom and grandma found a treatment center to begin the healing.
Having picked-up a program of recovery, I was offered a position as administrative assistant and program director with Fr. Alvin Illig, CSP and the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association in Washington, DC. I took the job and worked with the PNCEA for three years (a story in iitself). However, long story-short, still having a sense of call to priesthood, I returned to Wisconsin and became a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. After two years I realized diocesan priesthood was not for me. The Salvatorians were a religious community that were progressive and inviting and they welcomed me with open arms. For five years I journeyed with is wonderful group of men and women and I felt my Celtic soul being fed. The “Irish curse” was also revived. I started to drink again. Instead of kicking me out of the community, the Salvatorians invited me to go to Guest House — a treatment center and program for Catholic priests and religious in Minnesota. The Salvatorians told me I was their diamond-in-the-rough and I would shine. In that wonderful program and place I journyed into my personhood and found “this guy” to be worthwhile. I also came to know many Catholic priests, brothers, and even bishops in ways and levels that most folk will never know…. My treatment counselor was a layman named Bob Martin. He helped to liven my soul.
This was a turning point and my experience of God, woundedness, and letting-go of expectation brought me to sobriety and a new journey in the Spirit. I sat across fro Bob Martin’s desk reflecting on, “What the hell does God wanted from me and this life?” I was truly miffed! Bob knew I love to cook, so he simply stated: “What God wants from you Rob is what is on the table — on the very plate in front of you. Not on my plate, or any other. Not what is in the refrigerator, or cupboard — nor what you had for dinner last night, or what you want to buy from the store for dinner tomorrow. What God wants for you is what is on YOUR plate and what is empty. That’s all.” I thought on it and started to get mad. “Bob”, I demanded, “That is NOT enough!” He replied, “Well, Rob, better be enough, because that’s all there is.” To say the least that took the wind right out of me. Bob saying, “That’s all there is!” was like a strong punch in the gut! I left Bob’s office and we left each other alone for a few days. I gave it a lot of thought and tears. I came to the realization, just the same, that Bob was right. Turning point. Light bulb!!
This August 1st I celebrate my 16th year of sobriety. I chose to leave the Salvatorians about two years into recovery and was very grateful for their caring and support. Also about two years later I decided to leave the Roman Catholic Church, because I did love the Roman Church. If I stayed, however, I would become angry – bitter. We needed to part, as I would not have the place to be honest with myself and the world. Honestsy is my reason for leaving the Roman Catholic Church. I still love and cherish that particular church and history with it.
On my Face Book page I state in one section: “I have a life-partner/husband– his name is Dan and we make our home in Whitefish Bay, WI. My family, friends, and church sustain me and drive me crazy too (they’d say the same of me) — I lived Catholic religious life with the Paulist Fathers and, then, the Salvatorians for many years and I am grateful for them. These communities helped to nurture a foundation and fire within for the love of God, self, and service to others. I found, however, the Episcopal Church a better fit for my expression of faith, spiritual journey and venture into ministry. God is big. Respect for the variety of religious and spiritual experience needs to be ample as well. An excellent (wicked:) sense of humor helps along the way too — thanks God!” I left the Roman Church in order to foster my own “honesty”, “integrity” and “respect” in order to live sobriety and thrive within a spirituality “authentic”. It is not that I believe the Roman Church generally lacks Honesty, Respect, Authenticity, or Integrity — however, I would lack these if I remained under that “structure”. Also, key to my view of church, I don’t want to be “under” a structure, but I do wish to thrive “within” the structure. I won’t go on and on here, but issues like homosexuality, polity, women’s ordination, sacraments, doctrines, abortion and other stances, etc… and how they fit or don’t fit with the qualities I previously mentioned is why I left one church and found a home in the Episcopal Church. I’ve found I could hold in my hands and heart what made sense from the Catholic tradition and leave the rest to the side (to be picked up later if that came to pass) and enjoy being church like my grandma taught/lived and at the same time hold and respect my mom’s agnostic leanings — the Episcopal encourages me in this regard and the RC does not. Today my Celtic-spiritual sensibilities let me know Grandma Grace walks with me as I find church the most amazing thing and the best fun!
I am, again, seeking ordained priesthood. This time in the Episcopal Church. Another in a series of WOW! Although I live in the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, Bishop Steve Miller won’t entertain ordaining a gay person – especially in a committed relationship (go-figure?!). Yet, I am discerning priesthood with the Diocese of Chicago and Bishop Jeff Lee (he’s an excellent person-leader-mentor and a friend your’s Diana). So, here I be, I belong to two wonderful faith communities in St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in River Hills, Wisconsin and Our Lady of the Annunciation in Gurnee, Illinois! Vibrant people and challenging communities. Indeed, what a journey….. Please keep me in prayer!
Diana, thanks for the opportunity to share this and I hope it helps you. I’ve been to a workshop of your’s in the Chicago this past Spring and I’ve read many of your books — most recently, “Strength For The Journey: A Pilgrimage Of Faith In Community.” Thank you my friend for who you are and what you do Diana!
Peace,
ROB Quirk



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Anne

posted July 19, 2010 at 9:54 am


I was raised Catholic, including 12 years of Catholic education. While some of that education was the kind that people remark on when saying why they left the church (mean nuns!), it was post Vatican II, so its theology was excellent for a child. I mean that it taught that God was very loving and that it was hard to go to hell: someone would have to make a series of decisions leading them away from God with full comprehension of what they were doing. I had a priest tell me in confession that “being gay is not a sin.” All of this was in southern Indiana, where you would think I would have heard lots of conservative talk and views. I didn’t.
So I did end up leaving because my partner and I are lesbians, and the church still condemns our relationship and essentially has no place for us. We also have an eight-year-old daughter, and we could not see raising her in a church that disrespected us and failed to acknowledge our relationship. We joined a local United Methodist church that is amazingly inclusive and works to make sure the greater UMC keeps moving toward greater inclusion of everyone, including the LGBT community. We all get treated really well, including our daughter, who is not considered weird for having two moms.



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Danforth J.

posted July 19, 2010 at 9:54 pm


I grew up as a 3rd generation+ evangelical/fundamentalist Christian. I graduated from Moody Bible Institute and went into missions overseas for over 10 years. The access of the internet and my graduate studies got me questioning many things, first the concept of hell. It took me a few years to toss it out. I also finally realized that I was just using people in the ministry. I would do friendship evangelism… become friends with someone, and if they didn’t eventually respond to the Gospel message, I would drift away from them. I eventually had to leave missions (I couldn’t be exactly forthcoming with my family or home church) and went through a de-conversion over the next several years after returning to the U.S. I along with my family still really value community, and so we joined the UCC. It is still pretty “churchy” for me, but I appreciate it so much that they value me for who I am, and not for what I believe. We live in a small community, so belonging to a church also has social benefits. So, outwardly, I identify with the Christian religion still, but inwardly I’m an agnostic. When people ask me direct questions about my affiliations, I tend to deflect their questions with questions of my own. It is just how I have to survive in this community and with my extended family.



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Nixon is Lord

posted July 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm


I would go to communion at a local mainline protestant church, but I’d rather not drink the wine from a cup from which the next person’s dog just drank; giving communion to an animal is simply the latest sign that religion is simply another thing people do to pretend that they’re important to the universe.
The idea of someone thinking that religion is important enough to get out of bed over, get dressed up in strange clothes and give “communion” to something that cleans its own privates with its tongue is simply too bizarre. Mainline religion is now beyond parody and rapidly getting to be as intellectually vapid as the Fundiegelicals.



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james

posted July 24, 2010 at 9:12 pm


I don’t know if this bit of information will be helpful, but it did surprise me. According to the US Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion (2008): without former Catholic input, Protestantism would be a minority in the US (albeit a large minority): 47%. Thanks to former Catholics, 52% of the United States is Protestant. The 5% has made a difference.
Of those Americans (10%) who have stopped considering themselves Catholic, almost half join other Christian (Protestant/Episcopal churches) and the other half stay unaffiliated. Finally, 10% of Protestants say they are former Catholics and 8% of Catholics (24% of US population) say they are former Protestants.
A religious cross-fertilization is taking place. Interesting!
Finally, have you thought of calling your book, “Religious Cross-Fertilization”??



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Randy

posted July 25, 2010 at 1:33 am


I left the catholic faith because i could not find myself able to forgive the church for letting priest hurt children. It is not so much the act in which we all fail and fall short. It is the cover up and allowing of the priest to stay in their positions after it was clear they had harmed children that is what I can not get pass.



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SUPER HEBREW!

posted July 25, 2010 at 3:19 am


I left the christian religion to become a Jew, I make alot more money now. Also thanks to the jewish religion I get to oppress women.



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SUPER HEBREW!

posted July 25, 2010 at 3:23 am


?? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ????? ???? ?????? ???



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Ellen

posted July 25, 2010 at 9:24 am


I awoke this Sunday morning grateful that I didn’t have to go to church any more. I still believe in the living God but after years of moving from church to church, I feel that I can wing it for now without risking my immortal soul.
I grew up as the minister’s child in a white bread mainline church which was orderly, kind, and very nice. I lived in a constrained, polite fish bowl which I put behind me as soon as I left for college along with my private girls school uniform. As a young mother, I chose the Episcopal church in part for the liturgy but also a middle ground between my husband’s RC upbringing and my protestant one. I lived in a conservative diocese which fought women’s ordination in the ugliest way imaginable while at the same time seemed to turn its back on the poor and needy. I moved to the Roman Catholic church which made no pretense about women’s rights but at least had a marvelous tradition in serving the outcasts and those in need. I think my best church years were within that fold. But there was there was always the nagging question of the Eucharist. How did it become so closed and regulated? Where did the idea of restricted access come from? And where did the idea that only certain people could make the ritual “valid”.
Eventually I got interested in a non-denominational church because it seemed to take the faith walk most seriously. I had had reservations about non-denominational churches before because there was no accountability and no time tested tenets of faith. My reservation was a valid one. This church preached the Bible only but of course only the parts that pounded the tithing message, the name it and claim it message, planting seeds (more money for the church) and endless salvation threats, er messages. I left in disgust when disagreeing with the pastor meant you were not being faithful to God. I knew when I left that I wouldn’t be going anywhere else for a time. But I was afraid that I would loose my faith and drift off into heresy.
For a while I kept up the discipline of daily Bible reading and prayer but it wasn’t really feeding my soul. It had become another ritual and an insurance policy…I was afraid of going astray. But I realized my spiritual formation was on-going and had been a compilation of the many Christian traditions I had been a part of. I had read the Bible cover to cover two or three times and had been in many Bible study groups and felt that perhaps I had enough of a Biblical foundation to safely put the good book aside for the time being. I enjoy reading religious books, blogs and listening to Podcasts of sermons too, but I feel most churches are way too fixed on self-preservation and preaching the Gospel rather than living it.
So for now, my offering goes to Doctors without Borders and other charities. My work is my ministry as I
meet the broken-hearted and lost every day. I quietly encourage the faith of the dispirited, pray for others and try to walk humbly with my God. I hope I please Him.



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laura

posted July 26, 2010 at 6:49 pm


I was raised in an extremely conservative, oppressive Catholic family headed by an abusive, cold, unloving father who spent his days telling the world that girls and women were to serve men and to be wives and mothers only and that my mother and I were to be silent until spoken to. He spent his nights visiting my bedroom.
When I was a teenager, I went the usual route of abuse victims and became sexually active at a pretty young age (although by current standards, not so young). I became pregnant.
My parents put me in a Catholic home for pregnant girls and then insisted the child be “put up” for adoption. They were present during the delivery, I deliverd the baby and she was taken immediately from the room. I never had more than a fleeting glance of her. I was not permitted to see or hold my own daughter. I was then told I had no choice but to sign the papers.
I was slapped and told never to speak of it, never to express any emotion about it, and my father and my mother both acted as if nothing had ever happened.
From then on, I knew that the Catholic Church, or at least what it had become, was a sick and diseased place, an evil place. A lie. There was no mercy, no love, no kindness, no truth, no forgiveness there, just lies and abuse and deciet all meant to serve an abusive, oppressive few.
I spent many years seeking God — or seeking a place in which God’s love was made manifest, because, in spite of everything, I’d always been keenly aware of God and his equally keen awareness of me.
Recently, I found “home” in the Episcopalian Church. The inclusiveness, the kindness, the love, the genuine mercy and forgiveness, the sincere desire to meet the needs of those less fortunate or troubled or lost spoke to me a thousand times more clearly than anything I’d ever encountered in my own Catholic home and upbringing or during my several attempts to return to the Catholic Church.



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Gerry

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:11 am


At 77, my journey has been long. Raised Roman Catholic, I strayed as a teen and returned at 25 to seriously pursue “religion.” I married “Catholic” and raised my kids in it,but at age 44 I heard some scripture quoted that offered “salvation.” I prayed, and immediately knew something was different. I now had a real relationship with God, and knew I was “saved.”
Looking back now, I know I was almost immediately “detoured” into the Catholic Charismatic movement.About 4 more years and I left Catholicism–though my amily didn’t.
A quarter century later I found what the bible was really about. This happened because I read an article by a “Christian leader” I knew in which he said “dispensationalists are enemies of Christianity.”
I knew he was tolerant of Catholics, so I wrote and asked him why he was so “against” dispies. (I knew nothing about dispensationalism at the time.)His reply was not convincing so I looked into it myself. Since that time I have been leaning more and more about what God’s Word means when “rightly divided” and dispensationally considered.(II Timothy 2:15.)
I started a website after leaving the Catholic Church:
http://xcatholic.yuku.com



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Lauren Gough

posted July 30, 2010 at 2:06 am


I was a Roman Catholic and in the convent when the 74 ordinations occured. I knew God was calling me to serve the Church but I was not called to religious life. I became an Episcopalian not only because of the sacramental nature of its eucharistic theology but also because of its democratically based polity.



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Megan

posted July 31, 2010 at 12:40 am


The defining moment in deciding to leave the evangelical church was when my minister gave a sermon on Hosea and referred to Gomer as a “slut.” As a graduate student in journalism, whose area of research is discourse analysis, I tend to pay attention to word choice. Thirty-some years ago, when I first became a Christian, a Christian man wouldn’t have been caught dead using a word like that in public. Even Hollywood avoids the word except on the tongues of the vilest of characters.
That nobody in my entire megachurch complained about such oafish word selection shocked me. It suggested misogyny had become such an accepted element of evangelical culture that people didn’t even question it. Shortly after that, Cal Thomas (also an evangelical) used the exact same word in a column about “Sex and the City”. If these were isolated incidents, I might have written the men off as bad apples, but they only confirmed my many previous experiences with the lack of chivalry in the evangelical church. As Jesus said, out of the mouth flows that which fills the heart.
I count myself blessed to have had a lapsed Mormon father who cared about me in a way my church did not. It wasn’t until late in my father’s life that I discovered Dad had been raised by a Mormon polygamist bishop, which may explain his own rejection of organized religion as an adult. It wasn’t a coincidence I left my church shortly after my father’s death, finding nothing of substance in my religion to fill the void in my life.
The good news is that six months after I stopped attending church the moderate depression I’d struggled with for years completely lifted. I became more content with my life and my marriage. Had I known that leaving church would have such a positive effect, I would have done it years earlier.
I now think the sermon content may have actually caused the depression, or at least contributed to it. I was raised by a somewhat narcissistic mother: I could do nothing right; my brother could do nothing wrong. Rather than healing me of my childhood wounds, my religion actually reinforced them. I’ve also since read in Genesis that the devil has enmity toward women and now believe the tolerance for misogyny in a church should be seen as a serious red flag. I meet so many Christian women who suffer from depression and can’t help wondering if they, like me, might suffer from “doctrinal depression.”
Though I’ve absolutely loved the past four years away from church, I’ve considered finding a new church someday, most likely in the mainline church, which in my experience isn’t as hostile toward women.



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Roger

posted July 31, 2010 at 1:13 am


I grew up in a small town in the Pacific NW, third generation pentecostal. My family attended every service offered during the week, and all special services as they arose. My parents volunteered hours of their time to Sunday School and other activities. My spiritual eyes and soul were piqued when I attended a Presbyterian church during a college years summer job. This was my first exposure to anything outside of my denomination. Struggling with my sexuality in light of my faith I started attending an “Ex-gay” ministry. At the same time, I discovered the Episcopal Church. It was there that I found a new spiritual home, and spiritual freedom. I fell in love with the liturgy, the aesthetics, the music, the theology, and most importantly, the connection to believers throughout history. My upbringing was a 20th century faith only, having no connection to, or acknowledgment of 2000 years of Christian believing and experience. I write this during the “Anne Rice” announcement/denouncement, and I fully understand and applaud her reasoning. But I must say that I am proud of the Episcopal Church and its willingness to stand up and find its own way to practice the great commission, “love God AND your neighbor”.



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Mary

posted August 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm


I have always had this yearning inside of me to connect with Christ in the love and oneness that he came down to teach us. I innately knew that I did not have any original sin about me and that instead I was born perfect. The imperfection would take over in my head as society took its toll undoing what I knew to be true. I never understood the sick fascination and morbid fixation of Jesus’ death. It was the reconnection of “love and oneness” that our brother was sent to rejoin us with. If you know this as a young child the church was very confusing and stagnating. There were many occasions I was directed to leave but I did not want to pay the personal price that family, church and society would victimize me with. With that said, right and wrong were ingrained in me as I grew up.
The final straw that enabled me to make a stand and do the right thing came in the form of apathetic behavior that I have only witnessed in impoverished areas. A group of us got together and taught an ecumenical program called “Alpha” at our Parish. It was a Christian based curriculum that allowed Christians to come together and celebrate their likenesses. We had two very successful 8 week sessions of the Alpha program and were in the midst of our third. In addition, several Christian Churches, Catholic included were putting on this program in their own churches within our Metro area.
One fine evening we had a gentleman and a Priest crash the program. It was not that everyone was not welcome but this was in the middle of the study and one could tell they were up to no good. The Priest stood up and proceeded to interrupt the program by chastising Catholics for buying this Protestant crap and informed the Protestants that they would be burning in hell as they did not believe in the Eucharist. I scanned the room for some semblance of back bone from my friends to come to some type of defense for our Protestant guests. There was nary a one. I instantly got up, walked to the door, opened them and said very graciously, but firmly, “Gentleman, it is time for you to leave, Alpha is not about our differences and the Eucharist is not a weapon.” The party crashers said nothing and neither responded or moved. They knew they didn’t have to. My wonderful spiritual friends all retaliated and our leader in a quivering voice said, “Mary, you cannot talk to a priest like that.” I replied, “The hell I can’t! We are the Church, not some hateful idiot in a collar. This, this is an example of why our children are being raped. These men are not elevated above us.” And then I left. Alpha was shut down by our spineless Parish Priest and the Parishioners obliged.
My mother refused to speak to me for a year and I lost numerous friends.
I will close this with a joke that sums today’s Catholic Church up in a nutshell. Did you hear about Barbara? Upon her death she walked right thru the pearly gates and straight to Jesus and asked, “Where’s the Church?”



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Mary

posted August 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm


I have always had this yearning inside of me to connect with Christ in the love and oneness that he came down to teach us. I innately knew that I did not have any original sin about me and that instead I was born perfect. The imperfection would take over in my head as society took its toll undoing what I knew to be true. I never understood the sick fascination and morbid fixation of Jesus’ death. It was the reconnection of “love and oneness” that our brother was sent to rejoin us with. If you know this as a young child the church was very confusing and stagnating. There were many occasions I was directed to leave but I did not want to pay the personal price that family, church and society would victimize me with. With that said, right and wrong were ingrained in me as I grew up.
The final straw that enabled me to make a stand and do the right thing came in the form of apathetic behavior that I have only witnessed in impoverished areas. A group of us got together and taught an ecumenical program called “Alpha” at our Parish. It was a Christian based curriculum that allowed Christians to come together and celebrate their likenesses. We had two very successful 8 week sessions of the Alpha program and were in the midst of our third. In addition, several Christian Churches, Catholic included were putting on this program in their own churches within our Metro area.
One fine evening we had a gentleman and a Priest crash the program. It was not that everyone was not welcome but this was in the middle of the study and one could tell they were up to no good. The Priest stood up and proceeded to interrupt the program by chastising Catholics for buying this Protestant crap and informed the Protestants that they would be burning in hell as they did not believe in the Eucharist. I scanned the room for some semblance of back bone from my friends to come to some type of defense for our Protestant guests. There was nary a one. I instantly got up, walked to the door, opened them and said very graciously, but firmly, “Gentleman, it is time for you to leave, Alpha is not about our differences and the Eucharist is not a weapon.” The party crashers said nothing and neither responded or moved. They knew they didn’t have to. My wonderful spiritual friends all retaliated and our leader in a quivering voice said, “Mary, you cannot talk to a priest like that.” I replied, “The hell I can’t! We are the Church, not some hateful idiot in a collar. This, this is an example of why our children are being raped. These men are not elevated above us.” And then I left. Alpha was shut down by our spineless Parish Priest and the Parishioners obliged.
My mother refused to speak to me for a year and I lost numerous friends.
I will close this with a joke that sums today’s Catholic Church up in a nutshell. Did you hear about Barbara? Upon her death she walked right thru the pearly gates and straight to Jesus and asked, “Where’s the Church?”



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Mary

posted August 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm


I have always had this yearning inside of me to connect with Christ in the love and oneness that he came down to teach us. I innately knew that I did not have any original sin about me and that instead I was born perfect. The imperfection would take over in my head as society took its toll undoing what I knew to be true. I never understood the sick fascination and morbid fixation of Jesus’ death. It was the reconnection of “love and oneness” that our brother was sent to rejoin us with. If you know this as a young child the church was very confusing and stagnating. There were many occasions I was directed to leave but I did not want to pay the personal price that family, church and society would victimize me with. With that said, right and wrong were ingrained in me as I grew up.
The final straw that enabled me to make a stand and do the right thing came in the form of apathetic behavior that I have only witnessed in impoverished areas. A group of us got together and taught an ecumenical program called “Alpha” at our Parish. It was a Christian based curriculum that allowed Christians to come together and celebrate their likenesses. We had two very successful 8 week sessions of the Alpha program and were in the midst of our third. In addition, several Christian Churches, Catholic included were putting on this program in their own churches within our Metro area.
One fine evening we had a gentleman and a Priest crash the program. It was not that everyone was not welcome but this was in the middle of the study and one could tell they were up to no good. The Priest stood up and proceeded to interrupt the program by chastising Catholics for buying this Protestant crap and informed the Protestants that they would be burning in hell as they did not believe in the Eucharist. I scanned the room for some semblance of back bone from my friends to come to some type of defense for our Protestant guests. There was nary a one. I instantly got up, walked to the door, opened them and said very graciously, but firmly, “Gentleman, it is time for you to leave, Alpha is not about our differences and the Eucharist is not a weapon.” The party crashers said nothing and neither responded or moved. They knew they didn’t have to. My wonderful spiritual friends all retaliated and our leader in a quivering voice said, “Mary, you cannot talk to a priest like that.” I replied, “The hell I can’t! We are the Church, not some hateful idiot in a collar. This, this is an example of why our children are being raped. These men are not elevated above us.” And then I left. Alpha was shut down by our spineless Parish Priest and the Parishioners obliged.
My mother refused to speak to me for a year and I lost numerous friends.
I will close this with a joke that sums today’s Catholic Church up in a nutshell. Did you hear about Barbara? Upon her death she walked right thru the pearly gates and straight to Jesus and asked, “Where’s the Church?”



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LED bulbs

posted August 27, 2010 at 10:02 pm


Are pleased to re-visit your blog, from which I learned a lot of knowledge, and totally agree with your point of view, I hope you can be the exhibitions, once again thank you for sharing such a wonderful text. I will wait to see what’s! Thank you!i love LED bulbs very much .



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Gayle

posted November 19, 2010 at 10:33 pm


I was a cradle Catholic, attended 16 years of Catholic elementary, high school and college. I left the church for years and returned as a young adult and joined an inner city African American congregation. Our parish was taken over and ran by the Jesuits. That’s when I became very active and they forced me to open my eyes to many of the injustices in the community in which our parish was located. I started an after school and summer program at the parish and ran it for several years. Eventually the Jesuits left and in came a slew of conservative diocesan deacons and priests to run the parish. The empowerment I experienced as a woman with the Jesuits was all of a sudden GONE — and gone for good. With the new administration came new ideas. A deacon from the suburbs, who served as parish administrator basically called my work useless, although the parish was without a pastor for two years. In those two years the parishioners watched me fill the void of pastor. Once a new diocesan pastor was assigned, I believe he felt I was competition to him because parishioners had become accustomed to calling me first when loved-ones were dying or had passed away or needed to be baptized, what have you. I was let go shortly after that. My family was so angry that most of us have not returned to that parish in particular, much less a Catholic church. I was not the only woman that this happened to in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. It is a mess. The Bishop is very ill, is not respected or liked by his clergy members, and has dragged his feet on making decisions about the future of the church. I must say even before this happened to me in 2010, I was feeling at odds with the church because it seemed to have jumped in bed with the conservative movement in the US. I am saddened that things had to happen the way they did, but happy to be away from an institution that I consider to be largely, sexist, racist and concerned more for serving the wealthy suburbanite than those in need.



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Jason Fowler

posted December 4, 2010 at 5:43 pm


Hi Diana,
I thought I’d chime in. My father was a Southern Baptist pastor until I was eight when my parents divorced. He became a Church of the Brethren pastor and we (my Mom, my sister and I- minus my brothers who went off to college,etc.)stayed in the Southern Baptist stream until I was in high school. I was getting too old for the youth group and the college and career program was not for me. Around when this was happening a friend invited me to a homegroup of a non-denominational, charismatic congregation. I was enlivened by the community of believers that befriended me and by my new discovery of the reality of the presence and giftings of the Holy Spirit in my life and those around me.
I became an intern with the youth pastor at the charismatic church, then helped him attempt a church plant for GenXers in Washington D.C. and eventually as that waned went out to Kansas City to check out the International House of Prayer which went 24/7 when I was there. I moved back to Virginia and married my awesome wife.
Eventually we left the non-denominational, charismatic congregation we had been a part of and left Northern Virginia altogether- with a vision in our hearts for seeking a deeper mode of Christian community, a faith that went beyond churchianity, and a new life that was more centered on the purposes and mission of GOD’s upside down kingdom rather than the suburban, middle class values of comfortable affluence and upward mobility. My walk with GOD had outgrown the theological boxes of both my Southern Baptist upbringing and my charismatic church experience- although- I have not abandoned these perspectives totally- but tossed out what I feel was man made institution or bad religious culture and continue to build on what I have become that is born of the Holy Spirit. I no longer despise where I’ve come from but I feel sad that we all draw boxes around ourselves and GOD and refuse to go on in our spiritual journey with Jesus. That is a brief summary and there is more but I’ll end by saying right now I’m looking for sustainable traditions. -shalom! JF



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Studentjohn36

posted December 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm


I was raised by parents who were the oddest couple; an artist who was an incurable alcoholic for half of the year, and who would totally stay dry for 6 months, do brilliant work, then fall off the wagon for another 6 months, year in, year out. But he was never an abusive dad. My mother became more and more church-ey as time went on and when the inevitable divorce came (I was 13) off to boarding school I was sent, so the lawyers could have clear field of fire. Now at that private school I was confimed and sang in the chapel choir and was an altar server. It gave me something to do, I loved the music and the special dressing up in cassock & surplice.
Then 3 years later, my mother re-married and fell hook, line & sinker into the low-Anglican Evangelical church. I was pulled out of private school and sent to big-city high school. Bible study Wednesday Night, Church Sunday morning, Youth Bible camp in summer. All the good sense that I learned in boarding school went right out the window in this new fire & brimstone world.
35 years later, my ex-wife can’t understand why I’m gay.



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Mr. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus

posted December 24, 2010 at 2:20 am


Studentjohn36 says:
35 years later, my ex-wife can’t understand why I’m gay.
Mr. Incredible says:
That’s easy.
You chose to go homosexual after years of temptation, of surrendering to the suggestions of the sin nature. You just gave in to the temptation to choose the homosexual, lifestyle-orientation option.



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Maggy

posted October 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm


**This is a blog post that I wrote a few years ago that addresses the questions you are asking. I’m sorry it’s so long, but it a good explanation of my history with religion.**

The older I get, the more aware I become of a most sad fact of life: religious people can be incredibly huge stumbling blocks between other people and God. I was raised in an evangelical protestant faith and attended the same conservative private christian school from preschool until I graduated high school. Between the hymns, scripture, and a somewhat biased education, I was also taught (among many other things both good and bad) that people who were of different races from my own should be looked at somewhat suspiciously; Catholics were idol worshippers who were going to hell, in fact, anyone who didn’t believe the way I did would be headed there; and the only good christians were non-smoking, non-drinking dull people who didn’t dance, barely laughed, and were generally unhappy. Oh, and since I was female, I was also taught to sew. Sadly I bought into this for a long time growing up and well into my teens. I’m ashamed of that now. As I got older, I realized more and more that what I’d been taught was mostly bunk. And even if it wasn’t, I certainly didn’t want anything to do with a God like that. No thank you.

I ran away as fast as I could and for years had no interest in anything to do with God or religion. Eventually I went back to college and majored in Social Work. My thoughts about Catholics were still very muddy, but the best program in my area was at a small local Catholic college, so that’s where I went. While there, I was offered a part time job doing social work at the convent (which doubled as a long term care and assisted living facility) connected to the college.

All of a sudden I was surrounded by these amazing women who laughed, cried, joked, danced, partied, drank alcohol sometimes, smoked sometimes, argued with each other, loved God, and accepted and cared deeply for me. They were also very concerned for my spiritual life, and weren’t afraid to ask questions. Nor were they afraid of my honest answers. I so well remember an elderly Sister in her late 80’s who went for a walk with me in the outdoor garden one sunny day. She smiled serenely as I outlined what I’d been taught, and how that was why religion just wasn’t for me, then just as serenely said “Well, darling, I don’t know where they got their information because they’re just wrong. Read your New Testament. My Jesus loved a good party. He loved hanging out with his friends. He loved his Mom. He had a special girl. He got mad at people and cried sometimes. Sure he was God, but he was also human. That was the point.”

For the first time in my life, I was around people who taught me, through their actions and behavior, that God was benevolent and kind, and loved me no matter what my religion, race, or creed. Oh I wanted more of that!! Daily mass, the rosary, vespers, the Saints, the Blessed Mother. I’ve heard and read so many appalling stories of growing up Catholic, and the cruelty of Catholic school nuns, and I’ve always been grateful that I came to the faith as an adult, because I could appreciate the beauty of the faith without the guilt or the distaste.

Many of the Sisters that I knew and loved during my time at the convent are dead now, but their legacy lives on through me, and I’m sure they rejoiced when I joined the Anglican Catholic church near my home here in IL.

The evangelicals that I knew early in my life were blocks that made me turn and run away from God for many years. Those dear Sisters were the bricks that lined my path back to God and to a strong faith that sustains me today.



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Trish

posted January 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm


I haven’t left the Catholic church, but I do attend Protestant/Evangelical services in my community every so often. I get so much more out of my time there. I love the preaching and how it applies to my life. The Catholic church is just obsessed with sex….it seems ALL we hear about is abortion and NFP and my fellow parishioners can’t wait until church is over with it seems. Some leave directly after communion.



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