BY GUEST BLOGGER: G. C. Koukouris (a Geektheist Christian)
FOR SAUL, IT ALL STARTED WITH a sudden flash of light and a spiritual revelation on the road to Damascus. We might imagine how startled Saul was from this experience that it caused him to go blind. There was no 12-step book, no self-help gurus—Saul persecuted followers of Jesus—his road back began with an encounter with the Sacred. A cosmic two-by-four to the face is what it took to get Saul back on track to become Paul, a revolutionary thinker who brought us the first known writings of Christianity—predating the gospel narratives. For Moses it was an encounter with a burning bush that put him on the road back.
The road back from any kind of violent trauma often involves the difficult struggle of starting over; sometimes from scratch. For those who struggle to be Christian in a world where Christianity has become grossly misrepresented by Christianism, a curse word on the lips of so many who’ve been tortured and/or emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally abused it means either leaving a faith behind (along with part of our identity, leaving a large gap in its wake) to find more secure ground—or, staying behind to pick up the pieces of a shattered faith.
I’m writing this article not simply as an article, but also, as a letter from one struggling Christian to another. Not as a clergy (pastor, priest, or minister), but as a fellow parishioner of the pew; an average guy who’s a single father, working a medium paying job and struggling week-to-week—all the while, struggling to reclaim a hijacked faith. Asking the big questions, wrestling with my identity, and finding my voice in the vastness of the universe. I too have felt trampled upon, powerless, and broken. And so this article is a letter to every Christian who is struggling to pick up the pieces. To mend what has been shattered.
If you are one of those who have made the exodus out of Christianism and have moved on, transitioning into other faith systems, atheism, agnosticism, or no system at all then this article may cease to apply to you. And I hope you’ve found happiness in the path you’ve chosen: I wish you well.
For everyone else who’s decided to stay, let’s pick up the pieces.
“Anyone who lives on milk, still being an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.”—Hebrews 5: 13
As children our lives seemed so magical—the simple bliss of childhood, let alone a childhood growing up in Fundieland. Almost every need is provided for: there’s milk in the fridge and bread in the cupboard; there was always food on the table; and plenty of toys to play with; plus, there was a nice bedroom with a bed to lay our head upon. We didn’t care to conceive of who, or what, provided these provisions. Or the process and hard work that went into providing them. As kids we just took it for granted.
Presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, the hidden Easter Basket at Easter, the folded up dollar bill in the Ziploc (the one we’d tucked under our pillow the previous night) were all too adequate pieces of evidence that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy were as real as we thought ourselves to be. We never questioned, but our behavior—whether good or bad—was predicated upon the beliefs we were programmed with as kids. The curious mind of a child was held in place by well thought out pseudo answers.
But for the young Christianist growing up, another story was ingrained into an impressionable consciousness. A story about an enchanted garden, inhabited by a talking snake and magic fruit; we were told about an exiled prince of Egypt who spoke to a burning bush and a giant fish who swallowed a man at sea; we were captivated by a young virgin who’d never known a male’s touch and yet she was able to get pregnant and birth a baby born in a stable. And a Jewish carpenter who walked on water. Were even told about a young boy from a distant planet called Krypton who escaped the explosion of his planet (oh wait, that’s the origin of Superman, never mind).
If that wasn’t enough… the young Christianist was indoctrinated (infected) with the idea of how wretched he or she was; of a God who created the wretched human and loved humanity SO much (except LGBT people, of course), that He participated in the enablement of the murder of His “Only Begotten Son” so we could all feel better about ourselves, feel accepted (except LGBT people still) and be included in God’s special club called HEAVEN. And so life for the Christianist becomes about ‘who’s in and who’s out’.
And the young Christianist ate it up—with wide-eyes and glossy stares, on the edge of their pews, hanging on every literal word that came out of their Christianist pastor’s mouth. In case they forgot, each Christianist was given their own cue cards with lines to memorize. The young Christianist’s life was simple in the bubble of Fundieland, entangled in the blissful world provided for them by their pastors. Like with Neverland, all one has to do is believe and no one has to grow up.
THE COSMIC TWO-BY-FOUR
Eventually something shifts. Something happens in the mind and heart of the child that rocks her world. For some it’s a subtle transition, but for others, this conversion manifests in more extreme and dramatic ways. The violent trauma of being hit in the face with a cosmic two-by-four can make us disoriented and, like Saul, blind.
We can all remember that certain shift that occurred when we were kids. I remember in early elementary school, the big controversy my childhood peers debated was the authenticity of professional wrestling (the WWF at the time, now called ‘sports entertainment’). Many kids were fanatically adamant to the point of kicking your ass: to them wrestling was 100% real. But what a jolt for those kids whose bubbles burst. We can all remember that feeling—that moment when all of our preconceived ideas about life came crashing down, obliterated. We may have felt the way Princess Leia did when she witnessed the sudden destruction of her home planet, Alderaan, at the hands of the Empire and her own father, as it turned out. It’s a shock that’s spawned out of that surreal moment when we accidentally stumbled upon our parents having sex (they didn’t do that, did they? Now they’re human); or the devastation we feel when it is revealed to us that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny don’t exist (although that explained a lot: bunnies don’t lay cream-filled eggs); and that sudden spotting of our teacher at the local grocery store (you mean to tell me she doesn’t live at school?); like Mr. Anderson in the MATRIX films, we are thrown into a type of spiritual fibrillation and everything is tilted ass-backwards when we realize, ‘there is no spoon’.
Where as with secular beliefs—Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny and so on—the typical child looses these beliefs and grows onto new ones. But for the Christianist, she carries her Christianist programming well into adulthood, and sometimes into their death. Thus the violent trauma experienced by the Christianist becomes increasingly magnified, and contributes to grief over the loss of the part of her identity that was tied up in that old programming. Everything familiar vanishes.
But the Christianist bubble can be shattered in many ways, bringing the Christianist to the brink of a strange and sometimes frightening world. It can come through being shoved into the mix of a growing religious pluralistic society; it can manifest in the form of religious studies classes or a seminary that forces the Christianist out of her comfort zone; and it most often comes as a result of abuse and torment by the Christianist churches one grew up in; but more prevalent in contemporary societies are the Christianists who have discovered themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and so forth, who have been shunned and persecuted by the Christianist communities they’ve trusted, some even family members. Rocked by an unconditional hatred that shatters one’s faith to pieces.
Everything the Christianist has come to believe and base their identity on has crumbled—destroyed and left broken, battered and disheveled, with a scarred self-esteem.
What does one do with that? When the Christianist is hit with this kind of trauma, in such a violent and jarring way. Do we throw it all away? Do we pick up the pieces, getting rid of the ones too damaged to salvage? Or, do we take on the difficult challenge of rebuilding from scratch?
It’s precisely this kind of questioning that sets the Christianist at the crossroads in her life and faith, in the struggle to be Christian. On the road to being Christ.
A majority of Christianists have reluctantly answered these questions by making a mass exodus out of Christianism (for them there was no other alternative), fueled by hate and anger (and fear); they’ve found refuge in other religious systems. Many have made a home in nature-based religions of the various Pagan traditions and offshoots; others have found comfort in eastern philosophies of Buddhism and Hinduism; and others still have given up religion altogether, inhabiting atheism and agnosticism, and they’ve found happiness in these choices—good for them. If that’s what works for them, then I’m happy that they’ve finally found some semblance of sanity and purpose in a chaotic world.
But what about those who’ve chosen to remain, those who choose the road back?
THE ROAD BACK
It always seems after the repeated, tragic devastation of a mid-western community do to floods, earthquakes, or tornadoes that the question arises (as I’ve often found my self wondering also) for those who choose to stay behind and rebuilt—often from scratch—“Why do they stay in that kind of environment?”
And so, as it is with the Christian, this similar question gets brought up by those outside of the Christian faith (and in the mind of the Christian as well), “Why do you stay?”
This is because the Christian in conventional society straddles three worlds. The first is the world of secular society, with its reduction of everything to simple biological function, where societies are built upon competing for survival. The second world is the world of the Christianist. A world that has overshadowed and hijacked authentic Christianity with an insistence on a literalistic and legalistic understanding and practice of Judeo-Christian teachings and scriptures; along with outdated models of supernatural theism, and falsely conceived atonement theories that continue as a stumbling block for most Christianists to real spiritual awakening. Instead we get ‘sinacism’. The third world is the world of the broader spiritual community that would just as soon see Christianity cut off, like a gardener that prunes the withered branches of a plant.
The road back is the road to self-recovery; and it’s also a road to self-discovery. We find something new on the road back, in picking up the pieces of our shattered Christianism; we find the budding growth of Christianity. And through all of the muddled and hard-to-hear voices of our beloved scriptures, we hear a very feint voice. The voice of the past. A voice of a young Jewish carpenter who invites us to have the conversation ourselves, and points us in the direction of GOD. Answering our questions with more questions with the intention of pointing us back to ourselves. We thirst for learning, and loving, and caring, and sharing, and seeing the part of ourselves we never knew. The parts that God knew all along. We find ourselves connected to the Christian and Jewish thinkers of the past, in order that we may become the thinkers and theologians of the future.
In rebuilding we’re healing—and realizing one truth more than anything: now that we’ve unearthed Christianity from the shattered remains of Christianism, we can never go back.
You can find George on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gckoukouris