The Day It All Began

Jun 24, 2010

Well, it wasn't actually that day. Looking back now, I can see that it all began at lot earlier. But one fine Spring day in a classroom at a small university in West Texas, I got my first taste of what it feels like to be rejected for one's faith.

At a staunch Southern Baptist college, I had one radical professor who insisted we read the Bible with new eyes, like we had never been exposed to it before. Mind you, he was talking to a room full of life-long Christians, most (if not all) raised in strict, conservative evangelical homes. We had been memorizing scripture since before we could write. And this doctor of theology wanted us to read the New Testament without preconceived notions, to think for ourselves for the first time in our lives.

I was secretly thrilled for the challenge. So I did. Or at least, I tried.

It was in classroom discussion later in the semester, that I opened my mouth and uttered an interpretation that differed wildly from everything any of us had ever been taught. And the looks I got were some of the angriest I have yet encountered.

Several of my friends refused to speak with me. Some for nearly a month. It rocked my little world in such a way, that I never again criticized the accepted doctrine while attending university. At least not while the critics were listening, and only vaguely, tangentially when in the company of my dearest friends.

And for the next fifteen years, I towed the doctrinal line in public, and harbored doubts and questions in private. Until a couple years ago, when the exhaustion of all that deceit finally got to me, when I was maligned and judged by people who had no real insight into my life or my faith. When a casual comment revealed months of hurtful gossip, and I walked away.

I have mentioned before that I am not an open book. My internal workings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are not on public display to be perused, discussed, judged, and dismissed. I developed the art of concealment in response to well-meaning Christians who behaved as though transparency was a requirement rather than an option. And I learned long ago, in that fateful classroom, that to avoid the pain of rejection and judgement, I had to keep my big questions, doubts, and ideas to myself.

It is thanks to dear friends like the Agnostic Pentecostal, and new-found sojourners like Rachel Held Evans, that I hold some semblance of hope that I can work out this faith and all its questions. And maybe this time, just maybe, I won't be rejected. Maybe I'm not actually wrong for seeing the world differently. Maybe I'll be ok.

4 Response to "The Day It All Began"

Sarah Says:

It is hard coming back from doubt, questions, especially questions of faith. I understand what it is like to live a bipolar Christian life--public/private--the walking contradiction. We all need hope; I believe certain people are placed in our path to give us hope.

knighton Says:

Thank you, Sarah. So much.

Jeff Says:

Hey you - have you read Gibran's interpretation of Thomas? Not because it has some magic to it that will help, but because what you think about it would be interesting to your readers. But, if it's too internal, maybe another day. Some day in GLORRRRAEY!

knighton Says:

Hey yourself! I haven't read Gibran, but I'll add it to my list. Next up is Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus and, after that, Rachel Held Evan's Evolving in Monkey Town. I'll be sure to post my thoughts on them all.