Monday, May 9, 2011

Coming Out & 'Creation'

About a week ago, I sat down with one of the couples my wife and I know and told them, rather bluntly, that I'm no longer a Christian. While I had anticipated a number of questions from them—since he's a minister and she is a fellow graduate student at the seminary—I didn't anticipate the silence. The problem was, I think, that I never really let either of them in on my journey. For all they knew, I was just as deeply committed to the Christian faith as they were.

A few days later, my fellow student emailed me a list of questions, trying to be more constructive than simple expressing shock. It was nice of her to make the attempt, and I felt like I was able to say more clearly what changed and why. Even more, I think she realized that any sadness I expressed in my "coming out" was due, on the one hand, to my recognition of their sadness, and on the other, to a real sense that God has "died." I've lived for almost 30 years thinking that God was there, helping me along, hearing my prayers, etc., and now I'm forcing myself to think about the world apart from the help of God—at least the God talked about within Christianity—and that transition carries with it a sense of grief.

(More on this and 'Creation' after the jump...)

The sadness bit might not seem like a big deal if you're not from the Evangelical bubble. My wife and I have talked to a number of folks in the area who have never darkened the doorstep of a church, and a lot of them have been surprised that my de-conversion would be anything worth talking about to others. But for insiders, well, there's this strong sense that you're either "for us" or "against us," and my leaving the church makes me one of them, those people who consciously decide to be "against" the church. To many, like my parents (whom I'll talk to in a couple weeks), I'm also punching my ticket to hell. So, understandably, they're sad. Moreover, I'm not-so-subtly suggesting that their way of seeing the world isn't at all compelling to me, and that I'm choosing to chart a different course. Generally, people don't like hearing such things.

In a surprising coincidence, my wife told me about a movie she had just watched on Darwin's publication of On the Origin of Species, called "Creation." It's not quite a biopic, but it does give a glimpse into Darwin (Paul Bettany) and his tumultuous life as it led toward his penning of Origin. He faced more than a little turmoil, especially from his wife (Jennifer Connelly), who was a devout Christian, and who (despite her love for her husband) couldn't simply allow him to write something that seriously undermined the faith of so many in a Creator. As one character tells Darwin: "You've done it! You've killed God!" Darwin initially shrinks back from such a strong statement, but by the end of the film, we see Darwin coming to grips with his loss of faith.

I can't describe all the ways this film resonated with me, let alone offer substantive critical comments about the film itself—such comments were never my forté anyway—but I recommend the film nonetheless for anyone who is transitioning out of religious belief and into something other, whatever that "other" may be.

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