Back when I first began this journey towards agnosticism, regular church attendance was noticeably lacking until eventually it stopped all together. Whenever I would run into a Christian friend, the inevitable “So, where are you going to church now?” would rear it’s ugly head. The assumption being that, obviously, I was still attending somewhere, the only question was where. When the relationship warranted more than a cursory “I’m between churches right now” response, I would whip out my “Spiritual Colon Cleanse” analogy.
While it’s a little scatological and will certainly lend itself to numerous poop jokes throughout this post, I had no idea at the time how apt an analogy it would prove to be. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here’s the basic gist of my shitty analogy. I was feeling very bogged down in my faith. I couldn’t tell my faith from religiosity and I was tired of Christianity as an organized religion. As a pastor’s kid, I had seen the inner workings since the day I was born, seeing all the nonstop dysfunction and because of it I was spiritually constipated. Nothing was flowing for me because everything I did felt liturgical. I would be praying in church and think, “Why are we talking to God like this and why does this pastor find it necessary to say ‘Father God’ at the beginning of every frickin’ sentence?”
So I figured a Spiritual Colon Cleanse was the only way to get things moving again. I needed to strip everything down to its basic elements and lose all the extra crap. Basically, if the only reason I did something was because that was how I had always done it, then I wasn’t going to do it anymore until I could do it for a genuine reason. I desperately needed my faith to be genuine. Why? Because much of the stuff that I had been taught growing up didn’t apply to the world outside of my little Christian bubble (i.e. gay people are porn-addicts or were sexually abused as children or are pedophiles, etc.). And now that I was outside of that bubble (bartending while trying to find a big boy job) I needed to flush out all that shit and find a healthy functional faith that could work in the real world. If the things that I was stepping away from were genuine, then I would miss them and I would go back to them and embrace them because they had value and not because they were a comfort blanket that I had always carried. I refused to be a spiritual Linus.
Here’s the thing, I don’t miss most of it! Especially all of those things that told me who I should be instead of helping me see who I am. Now that I can see who I really am, I can embrace all of it, the good and the bad. I can play to my strengths and work on my weaknesses. And all of the other beautiful things about the church…community, morality, love, joy, generosity…guess what! They don’t belong to Christianity. Christianity co-opted them and tried to tell me that I can’t have them unless I tithe and go to church and call myself a Christian. But it’s a lie and all those feelings of constipation were just my heart telling me the truth. Over the last couple years, I’ve seen so many beautiful parts of humanity that operate outside the realm of Evangelical Christianity that I was blind to for so many years. And I feel more content and at peace now then I have in a very long time.
In the end, my little cleanse worked in a way I never anticipated. While I thought I was flushing out religiosity, I was actually flushing out Christianity.