About once a year I wake up to find that I hate myself. This time it happened in the middle of a scorching summer evening. I woke from a nightmare in a familiar place and I subsequently consumed around a fifth of vodka and orange juice. Now I’m typing this out, trying to make sense of it all.
A short while ago I renounced my faith – unflinchingly, I might add. This has troubled some of my close friends and “consultants”, if you will. Shortly before I renounced my faith, my friend lectured me on my responsibility as a leader of Christian American youth. That’s the moment that the proverbial light bulb between my ears went off.
I am not a leader of the Christian American youth. I should not be seeking encouragement and recognition whenever my work on a manuscript leads to frustration and despair. However, I often find myself on the various social networks trying to convince the world that guns are bad, hoping that enough people will agree with me – so that I won’t be depressed all the time. (I mean it – guns are no good for the world.)
I’m a writer and I should be cooped up writing and thinking of appropriate ways to curve my pessimism and cynicism. I have no right to spread those things to other people. People need to discover those things on their own, not through an angry, bitter, Internet preacher.
Now, there are a multitude of reasons for this anger and frustration of mine. Try to bear with me as I unravel this web. Poets swear that every villain is nursing a broken heart, or several broken hearts; I tend to agree with them. I think the reason I enjoy writing fiction is because it allows me to tell stories about my heartbreaks while hiding behind the guise of untruth.
In regards to untruth, I’d like to present you with what was previously my beloved foma. A foma is a harmless, comforting untruth. More the to the point, the foma to which I’m referring, is God. For the past decade and half, give or take a few years, I’ve been trying to rationalize the existence of a creator. Early on in life, I was indoctrinated with every acceptable Christian doctrine that evangelicalism could muster, and I bought into it. I can recite to the tee, every single quip that dogmatic evangelicals can throw at a person. I know how evangelicals think and I know their views and rationale like the back of my hand.
Anyway, a few years back I abandoned evangelicalism altogether, in favor of a more monastic and justice oriented faith. For the most part, I find this to be a worthwhile, albeit futile, worldview. That’s why I still run in many social justice circles. I’m a proponent of progress, justice, and equality. I suppose that makes me a bit of a humanist. I know what you’re thinking and I concede that it’s my fault for having ideals that most people in the world would like to see burn. Most people would rather have pseudo freedoms and recreational gun fun, rather than give up their firearms, despite evidence that suggests more guns means more killing. But hey, who am I to question the constitution? God wrote it! I digress …
Back to my original point, I’m grieving the loss of my God. I’ve tried and I continue to try to experience this creator in the way that everyone raves about. I try to rationalize its existence, but the evidence and my experience only circles back to wishful thinking. I’m giving it a fair shot, studying apologetics and what not, but I don’t see anything that suggests the biblical narrative to be true. I’ve continually ignored my less than savory experiences and confrontations with adamant Christians as well. I made the observation recently that Christians are not in community with the poor, which I believe is a central tenet of their faith. For making this observation, I got my a** reamed and I was more or less disavowed. By the way, I still maintain that giving money and sending people on mission trips to poor countries does not qualify as community with the poor.
Regardless of Christians treating me with hostility and reprimanding me for my observations, I’ve studied nearly every branch of theological consideration in the past few years. (It’s only fair that I confess to occasionally lashing out and provoking people in my anguish.) I’ve found some delightfully appealing worldviews and ideals, but nothing really grounded in a way that honors the natural world. Again, I only see wishful thinking.
I’d like to address something else that deeply concerns me, as an aside. Religious people tend to be suspicious and even hostile toward science. (Yes, I know that science created the atom bomb.)
Science has always fascinated and excited me. One of my closest friends is currently researching Chromatin remodeling complexes. Essentially, this could help with DNA replication and repair. That would be a great help in the treatment of cancer. Hostility toward science bothers me because I’ve seen the fruits of science cure disease. I’ve seen hundreds of prayers for healing and I’ve never seen a single positive result – nothing ever happens. I was born with two autoimmune disorders; I’ve been in chronic pain for as long as I can remember. I find comfort in the thought that committed researchers are working to stop others from enduring a lifetime of pain.
Let’s move on. I recently returned to the Midwest to spend time with my family and finish a manuscript. My family is in shambles. We’re currently suffering through three divorces. One member of my family has bladder cancer and two members have Alzheimer’s. By the way, someone wanted to let me know that these things happen because of the fall of man. I’d like to throw out there that if this suffering is a side effect of “the fall”, God’s kind of an a**hole. Why would an omnipotent God, knowing what would happen, make us just the same? I digress … (Please don’t respond to this with open theism, I know, I know.)
A short back-story, if you’ll pardon it. I suffered through the worst tragedy of my life, around five years ago. I’ve never experienced any pain of this caliber and a result of this suffering is that I will never experience pain in this way, again. That is to say, it broke me and the marks aren’t fading away. As a result of this suffering, I floated around the world aimlessly for several years. Despite my vagabond ways, I always had a safe harbor to retreat to when I needed some downtime. You see, my sister and I have been pals our entire lives. We get along and she has a beautiful family. Well, she had a beautiful family. More to the point, she’s currently suffering through a divorce. Right, so I would periodically return to visit with her family and my nieces. I was certain that this happy little family would endure, despite my crumbling life and my inability to sustain the will to live. I would come to her home and remind myself that there are happy families in the world.
As usual I was wrong in my estimation. One day I naively approached her doorstep when she emerged with a few bags and a face streaked with tears. “We just don’t get along,” she muttered. My wife hugged her deeply and comforted her as she cried softly into her shoulder. My heart broke once more and I felt another swell of anger crash down on my resolve. I haven’t stepped foot in my safe harbor since that day, and I never will. It’s gone.
My point in all of this is that I’ve been completely overwhelmed for the better part of the year and I am struggling to adjust and cope with all of these developments. I need to stay the hell away from religious people, maybe people altogether. I need to retreat and rebuild my brain.
I’ll be spending the remainder of the year in a farmhouse, in a cabin and at an abandoned old shrine in the woods. During this time I’ll be working on a new manuscript and reevaluating my worldview and the condition of my soul, or lack thereof. Forest Life is FINALLY a wrap. It’s in the final stages of production and will be out soon, I promise! I’ll post updates, etc. But I’m removing myself from the alluring toxic siren that is social networking.
Keep me in your thoughts, write me letters and poems, if you like.