Being done with church: When people reach the limit of what they can tolerate in their house of worship
Today may be your personal Exodus. This year may have been your last straw. You may have reached the limit of what you can tolerate from the Church and its people.
Perhaps you’ve been tending an uneasy peace with it all for a while now: the hypocrisy and bitterness and cruelty that call itself Love — and now you’ve finally been pushed beyond what you can take. You’ve watched the damage done by human beings like those who will fill the building you once called home on Sundays and you know that can’t go back.
Not this Sunday. Likely not next Sunday. Maybe never. You may be gone for good.
Friend, I don’t blame you a bit. I have eyes. I see what’s happening out there and I know what’s been happening within you because of it.
Your defection is quite reasonable, this secession a fully sound decision. You are right not to be alright with it all. In fact, to abide the enmity and coexist with the the cruelty would be the greater sin.
And that is why you will stay home this Sunday: because you are fully yielding to the voice within you that tells you this is no longer where you belong. You are listening to the prompt of your soul’s unrest, and though you may not know exactly where this leaves you or your faith, don’t worry — you will end up where you need to be when you need to be there. God is that big and that loving, which is the point. That building is not God. That building is not the answer and right now it may even be harming you.
I understand how painful this is; the defeat you feel, the feeling of failure that grips you but you do not deserve it. I know that you don’t withdraw without profound grief and that you are deeply burdened by this separation, and I want you to know that it’s okay. You haven’t made this decision hastily and it isn’t one you celebrate. It is simply where you have arrived as you’ve become the most authentic version of yourself. Better to be honest outside that building than to remain within it as a silent objector or an unwilling accomplice.
Any guilt you feel is unwarranted. You aren’t rejecting God as much as you are removing yourself from harm’s way. You’re refusing to wear something that no longer fits. You’ve outgrown this thing that doesn’t feel like Love anymore and you are seeking something that does — and this is what the spiritual journey has always been.
I’m not going to try and talk you into coming back, and I’m not going to promise that you will ever return. You may … or you might find that once outside that building, you are fully freed to run into the wide open spaces of this world, and to experience life and faith and beauty in ways you never thought possible, and you will come to believe again.
You may leave religion and run straight into the arms of God — or not. This is what emancipation from compromise looks like.
I’ll probably stick it out here for at least another week, but I haven’t looked much further ahead than that. I too feel the turbulence that you feel; the holy discontent with this religion I once found sustenance and joy within, and I may end up joining you soon out there on the outside.
But today, I just want you to know that if I don’t see you this Sunday, I’ll understand. Be encouraged.
Yuri A and Roman Zaiets
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com
John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.