I want to talk about those people who didn’t just fade away from church. They walked out and slammed the door, stating they will never enter a church building again.
They once participated wholeheartedly in their churches. They were bathed in church customs, learned the doctrines, memorized biblical passages, and took notes with pens of different colors during the sermon. They went to Sunday school, prayer meetings, Vacation Bible School, and church camp. They evangelized their friends and went on mission outreaches. They tithed. They came early and stayed late, often doing menial chores in the church building. They weren’t just faithful members… they were the best members.
At some point they began to be plagued by nagging doubts and questions:
“If God loves the world so much why does he allow…?”
“If God is so powerful, why doesn’t he…?
“How can the pastor and my teachers be so certain that they are right?”
“What if none of this is true?”
When they gave voice to these unwelcome thoughts, their friends, family, and pastors shushed them, warning them to guard their minds against such things. When they persevered with their questions, loved ones reacted with even more pressure, warning them not to let the Devil seduce them lest they fall from the kingdom of God.
Finally, they could no longer tolerate the force-feeding. They summoned every ounce of courage they had to say aloud that they just didn’t believe anymore. As a result, they lost everything: family, community, often their jobs. The people they once depended on for love and acceptance now despised and rejected them.
Is it any wonder they’re angry? From their perspective, they’ve been lied to all their lives. They’re not just angry–they are enraged because they feel like they were brainwashed. They look around and see that much of the world still believes the things they once believed and they want to scream, “NO, THIS IS NOT TRUE!
Yet as furious as they are, they’re also lonely and displaced, and they miss that sense of belonging they once had. They hear the siren’s song of the hymn: “come home… come home….” But most of them can’t. They won’t ever again relinquish the right to think for themselves.
I have many things to say about this subject. But I want to end this post by saying something that I wish I’d been saying from the pulpit for the last thirty-five years:
Parents, your children are more important than your religion.
As they become grown, you have to respect their right to believe (or not believe) as they wish. You want them to visit you? You want to see your grandchildren? Then stop trying to force them back into your religion.
I know, I know. You don’t want to lose them to hell. But you could lose them right now if you don’t back off. Religion is about faith. So how about showing some faith in the people you love that they’ll find their own way? They might even turn out to know more than you.