Deconstruction Part 3 (finally!)

10497369_10152344455433129_6857021992303971449_o

It happened again this week. I ran into a person that attends a church I used to attend. After a couple of minutes of awkward conversation, THAT question pops up. “So where are you going to church now?” The easy way out would be to say the name of the last church I attended on a regular basis. But that feels dishonest to me, misleading to say the least. On the other hand, I didn’t want to get into a long discussion about why I don’t attend church anymore either. In this particular case I answered in the way I do most of the time, “well, we were going to X church after we left W church, but we aren’t going anywhere currently.” Usually that’s enough for each of us to move on.

And so I return to the discussion of my deconstruction from christianity. Why don’t I attend church anymore? I previously wrote about this topic here, https://marvborst.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/deconstructing-pt-1/, here https://marvborst.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/deconstruction-pt-2-sort-of/, and here https://marvborst.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/momentary-numbness/. To recap briefly, a few years ago I began to research nagging questions I had about my faith and god. Ultimately I came to a position called Christian Universalism. Christian Universalism has several different forms, but the basic belief is that God doesn’t do ECT, Eternal Conscientious Torment. It could be that god saves all, as is referenced in the Bible in several places, or that god allows punishment for a period of time before reestablishing the individual to heaven, or it could be what is called Annihilation, which teaches that non-believers cease to exist when they die, so no eternal torment. I’ll say right here that Annihilation never made sense to me.

At this point my wife and I really felt that Christian Universalism was the answer, and we were comfortable with that. But we didn’t stop our research there. We continued to read books, articles and watch documentaries on the history of christianity. The more we did, the more questions we had about christianity specifically and religion in general. Our excitement about finding the “answers” in Universalism faded as we began to see major issues with what christianity taught, and had evolved into over the centuries. The turning point for me was the realization that I no longer was sure that Jesus was god, and that he died for my sins.

Around this time we began to meet weekly with a couple who were having some of the same issues and questions. Coming from the same church background, one of the couple had come to a place of atheism while the other was dealing with the loss of community from slowly leaving church. During this time I briefly slipped into atheism, while my wife never stopped thinking that there was a spiritual world, just not the one we had spent our entire lives in. My wife and I also began to really look at alternative theories about how we came to be.

I didn’t stay in the atheistic camp that long. I do believe there is something beyond what we see now. Rob Bell has a great talk on what he calls Everything Is Spiritual. It doesn’t give answers, just things to think about. And so I find myself at a place that I call being an agnostic with hope. Agnostic because I truly don’t know what the truth is, and “with hope” because I still hope for a loving force or being in an afterlife. Could be god, could be something else. I don’t know. It could be that this life is all there is. My research has shown me what I don’t believe, the holes and problems and blind faith in things that my christian faith had. But research hasn’t given me concrete answers to what is. We can’t have that in this life, we can only guess and follow our feelings. For some, that means unwavering faith in a god we can’t see or feel. For others that means believing that this life is it, we evolved from nothing and we return to nothing. For others there is a belief in a conscientiousness¬†after we die, becoming part of the “force” so to speak.

For me, I’ll continue to pursue truth, without the expectation that I’ll find ultimate answers in this life, and with the hope of a life of some sort after death. I have peace in all of this, the messy business of not knowing. I’ll continue to follow the teachings of Jesus, who I greatly respect even though I no longer believe he was god. I’ll continue to be amazed at the make believe of my former faith. So that’s a summery of my deconstruction, I asked questions, I followed those questions where they led me, I lost my faith, I gained my freedom.

In a future post, I’ll list some of the books and authors and researchers that influenced me during this time of learning. I’m happy to discuss these issues with anyone who would like to. On Messenger is probably the best way.

Advertisements

Saying Goodbye

1483774_10151819661258129_940808015_o

I haven’t posted in a while. There’s a lot of reasons for this, I’ve taken on several projects, I’m knee deep in the renovation of my home, I’m actively creating art for my Patreon page, I’m involved in a new business venture.

But more than anything I just listed, I’ve been emotionally wiped out by a death in the family. No, it’s not a human family member, thank god. But it hurts like one. Four weeks ago, our beautiful Lab/Husky mix, Koa, was hit by a car. His back was broken in two places and there was no realistic way to save him. Now people lose pets all the time, and we have had our fair share of pets die over the years. Dogs, cats, bunnies, living on a busy road claims it’s victims. But Koa was more than a pet. We adopted him 5 years ago, to help fill an empty place in our home after my mother passed away. At the shelter, while his siblings rushed the cage to bark and get our attention, he sat back and just looked at us. Kris and I looked at each other and said together, “I like that one”.

He was beautiful and gentle and an unbelievable mooch. For the past 5 years he has been our constant companion. He was always part of the family. Nearly a month since he died we still think we hear him at the door, or we’ll have food and think “Koa’s gonna love this”, only to remember he’s not there anymore. We cried when he was hit and we cried when we had to put him down. I’ve cried more often than I care to admit the past few weeks. There has been a dark cloud of sadness in the house.

We will move on of course, that’s what you do with loss. But it’s hard to imagine not still missing him and feeling sad. For my family, Koa’s loss is the latest in difficult deaths. My mother’s passing in November of 2012 was followed by the sudden death of my brother in November 2016. Koa leaving us too soon just continues the sadness we feel.

I don’t have a point with this post, other than I needed to put my feeling into print, to work through the pain. To say thank you to Koa for the joy and companionship he gave us. To tell him we loved him and we miss him.

They Tore The Old Place Down

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 8.26.36 AM

Each year for the past 3 or 4 years, I have taken a day to just be alone. I usually pick a place to go that I used to live. I started doing this after my mother died. A close friend told me that I needed to process my feelings, to go somewhere and be still, unaffected by deadlines or other things. And so that’s what I do each year.

This year wasn’t a planned trip. My daughter had come to stay with us for a few days and ¬†I took her to the airport to fly home. I had taken the full day off from work, and she was safely at the airport by early afternoon and I had most of the day left to do whatever I wanted. The airport is only about 45 minutes from a small town that I lived in when I was a kid, one of my many stops along the way, so I decided to head there.

I lived in the tiny town of Castile roughly three years, including 1st and 2nd grade. My dad taught at a small college there. We came to Castile because my dad had contracted a disease that was debilitating him. Formerly a pastor, he didn’t have the energy to be a full time minister anymore. We moved into a small apartment that the college offered, in the building seen at the top of this post. We were upstairs and there were apartments in the down stairs.

I have fond memories of my life there. I had two close friends, Pat and Terry, and we enjoyed the small town and the freedom to roam the village. I especially remember going to a local store after school with Terry and getting a cup of cider. I developed a love of reading there at the town library, and sometimes I can still picture Tarzan in my mind the way I saw him when reading.

10155230_10152209797378129_3225032002090898956_n

The thing I remember the most is the time I spent with my dad. He would be home, physically worn out, basically bed ridden. We would play catch with a beanbag in his bedroom, a simple thing, but to me it was wonderful. He would tell me years later that he felt so bad that he couldn’t do more with me than catch. But I loved those times, I didn’t think of it as being cheated. Those moments are sacred to me.

I went back to Castile two years ago, walked the town, took pictures, talked with people that I probably went to school with, but didn’t remember. And I visited the old building that we had lived in. It was empty, condemned and leaning dangerously to one side, seemingly held up only by one large tree. I talked to some locals and they said the building was owned by an out of towner who hadn’t been there for years.

So now in 2018, I came back to town. I drove by the library, which looks very much as it did when I was 10. I drove past the cider mill and Pat and Terry’s old homes. I drove by the old school I went to, closed for many years and very rundown. And finally I drove to see the old apartment building. A block away I could see something was different, and as I pulled up I realized the old place was gone. A gaping space where the building once stood. It was a funny feeling, like my memories had been whisked away. Bittersweet. They had torn the old place down.

I’m still processing my feelings. The building itself was nothing. But the memories it represented, of the times with my folks, my dad, my early friends, the beginning of the journey, they are very real. It was a simple life, a bygone time. I miss the place.

Momentary Numbness

Reflect

A brief post about the journey. I have been planning on writing more on my deconstruction/faith journey. This should be Deconstruction Pt. 3. But it won’t be, at least not in the way I planned. Recently I spent a bit of time messaging with a friend and follower of this blog. The topic was the posts I have done on my deconstruction. It was a very good discussion. And it has led me to want to detail my journey in, well, detail. But I’m finding it a bit of a challenge to make the notes I need to make to accurately write about what happened to me.

It could be the things going on in my life at the moment. My recent cancer surgery has left me with some hefty bills. In addition my wife and sons and I have taken on the big challenge of renovating our 221 year old house (yes, that is not a typo, it’s old). Without going into detail, suffice it to say that it is expensive and time consuming and exhausting at times. In addition, I have launched a Patroen page (https://www.patreon.com/marvborst) to promote my art and raise money for the bills that are pressing. That means spending time creating new art.

Whatever the reason, I’m feeling a little numb these days. The political landscape is driving me crazy, so that probably plays into it. The truth is I have left the religious arena for good. And going back to examine how that happened seems exhausting. When it was happening in a big way there was a rush to it, a feeling both exciting and scary. Now there is a peace, but also a struggle to look back in detail.

I will continue this, I will write in much more detail about deconstruction, but not today. I’m tired of religion. But hey, tomorrow’s another day and maybe I’ll be ready!

Deconstruction Pt. 2… sort of.

10497369_10152344455433129_6857021992303971449_o

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted pt. 1 of my deconstruction story. The response from it was good, (although you wouldn’t know it from the likes at the bottom, click the Like button people if you enjoy a post!). I’ve been busy with life (https://www.patreon.com/posts/first-of-images-18749716) and haven’t revisited the deconstruction theme. Today’s post will only touch on the theme a little. This will be more about random thoughts on deconstruction.

So what do I mean by “deconstruction”? For my purposes, deconstruction is the breaking down or breaking away from something that has been the bedrock of my existence. For the first 50 something years of my life I was defined by what I believed. I have come to think of that as a bad thing. Why? Because what I believed relied a great deal on only showing one side of things and trying very hard to not be exposed to other schools of thoughts. Now if you had asked me if I was only seeing one side, I would have denied it. After all, I was active in christian apologetics, I went to a public school (okay, 10 of them, LOL. See my post on my school years and moving). I felt I was balanced in my viewpoints. But I wasn’t and when I began to seek answers to the nagging questions, I began to have those “aha” moments.

It’s funny, because I’ve been in this place for a couple of years now, and I now view my old life like someone having an out of body experience. I can see the blindness to other views, the unrecognized bias and the always trying to shoe horn things to fit my worldview. I struggle with balancing my old community of friends with my new beliefs. Some have gently tried to “save” me from where I am, using the very arguments I would have used if they were the ones deconstructing instead of me. But I feel free more than anything else.

So this post didn’t really tell much of the story, but I promise to post Pt. 2 in the next few days. Peace.

Needs A Little Work

Needs A Little Work.jpg

I took this photo a few years back. A classic T-Bird that was slowly fading away. I feel that way sometimes lately. Sometimes I feel the potential of what could be with restoration. It would take a lot of work, but this car could be restored to it’s previous glory. And I can feel that possibility about myself. And other days I wonder if that’s all gone. I had cancer recently, and it has made me face my mortality in a way I haven’t before. I think I always felt like I would live forever. But now I’m realizing that I may live a year, I may live 30 years, but it’s going so fast. I think I put off my goals while I did life, family, job, survival, all with the thot that I’d have time later. I may have time, but if I’m going to accomplish any of my goals I’d better get going. Or I can slowly fade away like this car.

Deconstructing Pt. 1

A week or so ago I wrote about some of the influences on my spiritual journey. It was a brief intro into authors who influenced my thinking. Francis Schaeffer, John Ortberg, Rob Bell are the three I mentioned. We’ll dig in a little here and begin tracing my journey out of american christianity.

A funny thing happened as I grew into my late 40’s. I began to question. As a Baptist, questioning was kinda frowned on. I was big into Apologetics from my mid 30’s into my 40’s, but this was something different. The apologetics and authors I read and listened to had justified why I was right to believe what I believed. I thought I was getting a balanced view, but actually I wasn’t. Lee Strobel’s Case For Faith and the following Case for… books were telling me that I was right to think and believe as I did as an evangelical christian. At first this was very comforting to me. Sure in the Old Testament God ordered the slaughter of entire groups of people, but apologist Norman Giesler convinced me that it was “humane” for God to order the killing of the children, because they would go to heaven as they were too young to understand they were sinners. But in the back of my mind, the nagging thought that something was wrong with this kind of thinking was still there.

And then something big happened. I was already starting to battle with the thought that all who didn’t specifically ask Jesus into their hearts would burn for eternity in hell. And my religious world view was starting to be rocked by Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis. But then Bell wrote a book about questioning the concept of hell, called Love Wins. He didn’t come out and say there was no hell, just asked a lot of very good questions, gave a lot of very good information about Jewish beliefs around the time of Christ. Suddenly I was free to question and think and study. Bell’s book blew my mind because I was raised to believe unconditionally that hell was a real place. I began to read and study, and more importantly to tell my wife what I was doing.

Funny thing, my wife had grown up in fundamentalism and she was not happy with what I was telling her. She was worried I was losing my salvation and going to hell. So she did what she is great at, she dug in and began to study, with the intention of showing me how wrong I was. The interesting thing was, I would bring home something I had read and she would research it and find that what we had believed wasn’t so black and white after all. This caused her to dig in even farther. We began to study Universalism. Now when I was growing up, and into my adult years, I always thought that universalism was a mixed bag of all roads lead to god kind of thing. New age or some mumbo jumbo. But our studies led us to the finding that in the early church universalism was a popular teaching. Now, there are several schools of thought about what happens when we die in universalism, and I won’t get into that here. But the main idea is that God doesn’t burn anyone for eternity in hell.

I was shocked at what we were finding and shocked that I had never been told about this line of thinking in the early NT church. I went to bible school, I grew up in the church, I served as a deacon and small group leader. You would have thought it would have come up somewhere, besides being mentioned as “all roads lead to” heresy. During this time, my wife and I watched a documentary called “Hellbound?” that dived into the thinking and controversy around universalism. Not intended to be overly in-depth, but instead to present an overview of the three main thoughts (universalism, Annihilationism, eternal conscious torment) about hell that the church has had over the last 2,000 years, we found it fascinating. Faced with what we had learned over the period of a couple of years, we planted our faith flag in Universalism and thought we had arrived. We were wrong, our journey wasn’t over. We’ll pickup the trail in the next post Deconstructing Pt. 2.