A Moment of Honesty, Expanded

I’m porting a twitter rant over to the blog today. This isn’t the brave kind of honesty, more like the “I’ve never felt more disconnected from everything so I don’t really care anymore who thinks what about my faith” level of honesty.

If I’m honest with myself, salvation is a meaningless term for me anymore. Maybe it always was. I’ve always felt like I’m on the outside looking in, trying to manufacture experiences I don’t understand, trying to live vicariously through encouraging others.

My faith has always been “sideways” – people oriented – whether it means being a chameleon to fit in or whether I genuinely care about someone. It’s not always very easy to tell the difference either. But a “relationship” with God? “Love Jesus”? I have no idea.

I pray in the hope it eventually means something, or because someone’s in need and I have nothing else to give them. Do I get any peace out of it ever? Ha. Have I ever felt a return response from the Divine? No idea.

Worship? There’s another meaningless activity to me. Don’t try to tell me it’s not about “feelings”. I’m not asking for euphoria, or for someone else’s experience, just to find any meaning at all. If it’s supposed to be all about God, well, then there’s my problem again.

He’s consistently “not there” in any way anybody I’ve ever read or heard has described it. Fundamentalism and the evangelical church had no answers for me here any more than my own desperate reaches for faith have in the years since. Like there’s nothing in me at all.

I still aspire to following Jesus, I still want to go this way, but it feels much more like an intellectual assent and a self-absorbed scratching and clawing to do something meaningful on my own steam, with no other power behind it at all than a vague belief that there is Truth.

I can’t help but think my experience isn’t much different at all than a non-Christian person who gives a damn. The difference being the feeling that I’ve missed the boat somehow, among the experiences of so many of my peers.

To put it another way, I’m not in this to feel good, but Christianity, or rather, nearly every ritual or discipline associated with it, is so thoroughly unrewarding to my soul that I have to wonder if I’ve still got the wrong thing entirely.

PS: I don’t mean any of this as an assertion that no one’s spiritual experience has any meaning to it, or even that they just think they have found meaning and have been deceived. This is my own moment of honesty.

Part 2:

Something I just want to talk out here… I missed the Xian talk in the past week or two (June 2018) about suicide and depression, sparked by Anthony Bourdain’s passing. Maybe I don’t have much to add to this conversation, considering this thing I wrote, but oh well.

Back in the day when this sort of thing would come up, we’d usually come away with the conclusion that no matter how fulfilling or rewarding your life is, it’s all empty and meaningless without Jesus (as your savior).

No wonder, then, someone would choose to end their life – “it’s all vanity”, they believe we “come descended from monkeys” anyway, there’s no purpose for us here, the fame and riches get old where “moth and rust doth corrupt”. Right?

I grew up in a decidedly Christian home, was a “good boy”, accepted Jesus when I was 11, read the Bible and prayed regularly and attended church – I wasn’t an amazing specimen of Christian, but I did care deep inside, I wasn’t faking, I wanted it all to be real.

I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that I’ve dealt with depression for about as long as I can remember (Facebook memories, bless ’em, certainly help me remember the last ~10 years too). PTSD & family conflict has cranked that up some recently, but it’s been there awhile.

I don’t want to go into detail too much even though it’s directly relevant here, but my dad has also struggled with depression a very long time. I suspect we’re both genetically inclined (he has Parkinson’s, which often comes with depression as well).

He is also, all disagreements we’ve had aside, someone who’s given all for his faith: he cares deeply, and this isn’t just a sideshow for him. I don’t want to speak for him too much here, but of what he has told me, this battle with depression is still very much real for him.

I feel that we both have internalized a lot of our struggle as spiritual – a problem with us, our hearts – but if the people around us have been any judge of character at all, we tend to have a *much* lower view of ourselves than others do.

He’s been successful in his career, he is quick to ascribe his success to God’s grace, and I’ve been so far highly successful in my career, and life in general. No major failings to speak of, no albatrosses around our necks.

Jesus or “God’s will” hasn’t been any more of a fix to this root struggle than a walk in the forest. Community/church engagement/faith have at times been a big support for me to push the dark clouds away, but I fail to see how this strategy gives us high ground over “the world”.

I’d say my faith and commitment to it has been as big a trigger for depression as it has been a help – a friend or comforting religious salve coming alongside one day, and a frustrated weight of guilt the next.

If it’s (the rare) feeling of the real presence of the Divine in worship one day, it’s a crushing weight of loneliness and failure later in the week that I’ve somehow become far from him or his people.

Still claiming faith, and still going through depression, I just don’t see the grounds for that kind of condescending statement to the world.

We condemn the prosperity gospel when it comes to more tangible things like wealth, but where else do we tacitly accept it?

Sometimes it seems easier to take my chances with meeting Jesus early than to try to stick it out with my physical existence, but that’s not really the way faith is supposed to deal with depression, eh – not gonna find that idea propped up in ye olde Christian book store.

So, I don’t know. A hopeful Xian view of life and humanity and this Earth can make a difference in this world – I mean, that’s basically my faith at this point, but there’s a difference between that and pretending my faith inherently provides relief from earthly ills.

I’m done sitting and telling The World™ they’ve got it wrong, as if living a life of love and bringing healing to their corner of the world is just asking for emptiness and suicide because they don’t know Jesus like I do. I’d be a damned hypocrite.

We can sit in comfort with the hurting, find ways to heal the Earth we find ourselves in and the people in it, because we love them, because we’ve seen Love modeled by the one who is Love, but the same ills are inside us all.

We won’t have any real interest in changing anything about our world as long as deep down we see faith as a crutch to fall back on – a catch-all term for everything we can’t or don’t want to explain or own.

Mainly I want to get across that this isn’t necessarily about faith, and bad hearts, and hopelessness apart from Jesus, or anything else along those lines. The faithful and faith-less alike struggle. Are we making the burden heavier, or helping to share the load?

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