not confusing "dones" with "don't cares"

theres still a lot to care about

I’m definitely slow on blogging these days. Lots of thoughts swirling around in my head and little to no time to sit down and give them a chance to come out. However, I have been having a great time facilitating some Faith Shift Processing Parties in different cities this Winter and Spring. Portland and Nashville so far in January and next up is Seattle and Phoenix, and just added Berkeley at American Baptist Seminary of the West, yeah! If you are in any of those areas and want to come play, here are the details.

One of the best parts for me is getting to meet some people I have known online in real life, hang out with some dear friends, and make new ones, too. To me, there’s nothing better than in-the-flesh!

The stories are all so beautiful and raw and tender and hard and brave.

And one thing I’ve been even more reminded is that there’s an incredible amount of sincerity out there when it comes to faith–so many dedicated, sincere, faithful, true Jesus people who are trying to find their way as their faith shifts, often with little or no support (and a lot of times with a bunch of resistance!).

I keep hearing the same theme weaved throughout different conversations: most everyone isn’t “done” when it comes to faith.

It’s just that they’re “done” when it comes to where they’ve been and not sure what that means for the future.

I think sometimes the “dones”ย are misperceived. It sounds as if we don’t care anymore or if leaving is a simple solution. The truth is, getting to that point was usually a long, weird, windy road that came with a lot of grief, pain, instability, and loss. While ambivalence and a sense of odd freedom can come at the end of feeling “done” with church-and-faith-as-we-knew-it, it doesn’t mean there’s no sense of caring anymore.

Many just care about different things that a lot of people in church circles aren’t talking about.

I always say, “the world is crying out for hope, while we’re talking about theology”ย in an effort to remember that so many of our theological conversations seem big to us but are actually not-even-on-the-radar for the majority of the population of the world who are trying to feed their families and make it through the day. In a similar vein, I’d say, “While we’re spinning our wheels talking about who’s in and who’s out and who’s right and who’s wrong, a whole bunch of people have moved on and are creating the kingdom of God in all kinds of beautiful & simple & surprising ways.”

Here are some things that I keep hearing that men and women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and experiences seem to be “done” with:

  • Church services where you sit in pews, look forward, sing some songs, and listen to someone tell you what the Bible says.
  • Passivity in response to injustice.
  • Fighting over the same issues over and over again and never getting anywhere new.
  • “Serving”
  • Church as a place to go.
  • Unhealthy systems that perpetuate dysfunction and misappropriated power.
  • People telling us how and where and when our gifts can be used.
  • Lack of diverse and robust spiritual formation that takes into account practice & senses & experience & a wider view of God’s creativity.
  • Surface conversations.
  • Systems that don’t fully include LBGQT friends and family.
  • Churches that continually disempower women.
  • Controlling leaders.
  • Simple, trite, scripturized answers to complicated questions.
  • “But the Bible says…”
  • Apathy and the church only serving itself.
  • Christian buzzwords that mean nothing in the real world.
  • Homogeneous groups where everyone looks the same, acts the same, believes the same.
  • “Right belief” over practice, law over love.
  • Worshipping the Bible instead of following Jesus.

I’m 100% sure there are so many more, and I’d love to hear what you would add.

Despite so many I know being done with all or some of these,ย I am also struck by what people do, indeed, seem to care about and are longing for and sometimes desperate to find to no avail.

These are the things it seems like a lot of people I know really care about these days, in no particular order:

  • Equality for all not in words but in action and systemic change.
  • Deep and meaningful community.
  • Diversity and friendship and connection with people across typical divides.
  • Integrating mind and body and soul into our spiritual disciplines.
  • Wrestling with the Bible–or at least staring at it and considering wrestling with it again.
  • Two way relationships where we receive and give as equals.
  • Dignified dialogue in safe spaces.
  • Jesus-centered practices and initiatives that help restore dignity and call out God’s image in others.
  • Discovering renewed images of God.
  • Truly agenda-free friendships.
  • Robust theological conversations where no one’s trying to convince anyone of anything but a place to listen and learn and consider and wonder and be curious.
  • Not knowing all kinds of spiritual things anymore and being okay with that.
  • Living systems.
  • New forms of “church” without the trappings.
  • Paths to rebuild faith after so much of it has unraveled.
  • How to love God, others, ourselves and be loved by God, others, ourselves.

What do you care about still?

I’ve heard all of these in the past few months in some shape or form, and they bring me hope and remind me that I’m not alone in my done-with-what-was and a continued trek toward what-is-and-what-could-be.

I think those are some pretty challenging things worth caring about.

I’m glad so many aren’t done with that.

I know I’m not.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

24 Comments

  • Thank you Kathy- I am nodding my head in furious agreement with you over here! I am so tired of people who are actually in the process of becoming more spiritually mature being labeled instead as…well, anything other than that: lazy, indifferent, selfish, backsliding, on and on. While certainly there are some people that aren’t being the most constructive about their faith journeys, I agree with you that the vast vast majority of people I talk with have really valid and spiritually healthy reasons for how they are feeling and why they are, in some ways, disengaging at the moment. We really do need to give more language to this, so that those sweet souls in transition know they’re not alone. Thanks for sharing your voice and language toward that end.

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    • thank you so much for reading and taking time to share, danielle. yes, we definitely need to figure out a way to re-frame this as spiritual growth instead of rebellion ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Kathy, when I look at the list of things to be “done” with, a theme that pops off the page seems to be “fear”: fear of change, of rejection, of thoughts that are outside the acceptable, of those outside the church, of the world, of the slippery slope, of doing something wrong, of looking different, of being unbiblical, of learning, and fear of God’s wrath. I’m done with fear. I’m tired of fear. It takes way too much energy.

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    • Carolyn, I so agree with you! It wasn’t until I became ‘done’ that I realised how much we live in fear as ‘institutional’ christians. My journey out was painful to the point of wanting to be dead, but I’m so grateful that I was forced into taking that journey. Even though the price was so high, I wouldn’t go back for anything. I’ve never known such freedom ๐Ÿ˜€

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    • Oh my god yes. The fear. It still has it’s nasty tentacles wrapped around me in spite of my hacking away at them. I was a fearful child before I was “born again” (whatever the hell that means) and honestly Christianity did nothing but magnify those fears, no matter how many “do not fear!” verses people hurled at me. I still am afraid of getting things wrong, of pissing off God or people or whoever but like you I’m over it. I can’t live like that because that is not living and I am working on re-crafting a faith that does not involve that paralyzing fear.

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      • thanks, jen. yeah, it’s amazing how deeply embedded “fear” is into the core of so much of our theology. it’s fascinating and sad to me, how the group that’s supposed to be the free-est, most-beloved, bravest people in town are often the most scared & insecure! something’s wrong with that.

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  • Kathy- I am another Kathy living only 25 miles from you and all I read from you so resonates with me. Single moms are invisible to the church and I am so busy patching 2 and 3 jobs together and always trying to find more income I spend Sunday morn in down time with my son and the 14 yr old Chinese exchange student I took in. He has never been to church in his life and doesn’t miss anything. My son and I miss church but my time is better spent catching up on chores and quality time with kids. I am always asking “Where is the church that will throw a party for a prostitute at 2am?” I want to go there. Thanks for so beautifully sharing your heart- which syncs with so many dispossessed and discouraged “dechurched” lovers of Jesus. You give me hope and I do hope to meet you and others of similar heart soon!

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  • Great post and great lists, Kathy! There’s a whole lot I could include in my list, especially if I went back a good number of years. I’m mostly comfortable now (for a few years) with my “faith shift”. Like many, I never felt it was “losing my faith” and certainly not “backsliding” (both terms we could stand to lose, along with “heresy” – doesn’t exist without “orthodoxy”). That despite my theological (and biblical understanding) shift being major… and still in some motion, of course.

    So, with personal pain and angst behind, I love to watch and try to “help” as individuals, groups of people, churches and denominations try to deal with “faith shift” as well. The Internet certainly does a lot to help… and so do books and libraries. There one can follow some of the vital and fascinating history of “shifting”. Most of it began around the time of the birth of our nation…. E.g., both Adams and Jefferson gave deep thought, study and conversation (mainly in several letters after both had been President) to their personal study and life devotion relative to religion, Christian faith, the Bible, critical approaches to it, etc. (“Historical-critical” studies – not yet under that term – were pretty new, beginning to explode around then.) So it took around a century for that “wave” to build so much that we got the big “fundamentalist” reaction. And now another century for that to get moderated and the “social gospel” to become more sophisticated (and what was then “social gospel” lacks any universal label, that I’m aware of).

    So speaking historically, culturally and theologically, we can thank the many devoted scholars of over 200 years for helping put so many of us in a position to either build a faith from childhood, or shift to one in which your “done with” list as well as your “sought for” one can be a reality… and with solid intellectual and emotional support. Oh… btw, one of my “care for” items is definitely the Bible: Still fascinated with it on many levels, for the great variety of things it teaches, points to, inspires us in, etc…. not least how faith shifted greatly over the centuries of its composition.

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    • i always love your thoughts and realize in this moment i haven’t responded to your email. argh, sorry, sometimes things just get lost! peace to you from here to there.

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      • No problem… I had begun to wonder if you’d missed seeing it and would eventually have checked… but now you’ve “bought yourself some time” ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • OHMYGOSH, Kathy! You hit the nail on the head! I’m so done with so much of what you said and embracing so much of what you listed. ๐Ÿ™‚ And, there was nothing like chatting with you over tea last year . . . just so real and I’m just so grateful. {hugs}

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  • So true! As I have unraveled and re-evaluated my beliefs over the past few years, I feel like everyone in my life thinks I’m just giving the big F-you to God, Christianity, and church, when nothing could be further from the truth! If anything, I find myself thinking about faith and spiritual things even MORE than ever. I can’t stop thinking about them. I’m constantly reading blogs and articles about faith and church and religion, and honestly I wish I could just stop caring for even five seconds, turn off that part of my brain and, I don’t know, think about freaking Kim Kardashian for half a day instead of obsessing over what I believe and what others believe and where God fits into my world specifically and the world in general. I’d LOVE to not care. (well, maybe not forever, just for a little while!) That would make this whole damn thing much easier.

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    • that made me laugh, the kim kardashian thing. much more fun to think about, ha! the transition out is so hard and i do like that thought of breaking codependent cycles in this whole story..what it looks like to have a “healthy detachment” (yeah, i just read codependent no more again this past semester in our healing group). so much easier said than done! i love what you share here, keep letting it rip.

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  • Hello old friend! You covered much with tender accuracy. I am also Done with having to possess certainty and definable beliefs. I now live in ease with ambiguity and it is So Freeing.

    I think you and your readers might like this golden oldie from my blog vault about Losing My Codependent Church Self.. it was the pivotal moment I began my trek from devoted Christian to devoted Done. Here’s the link….http://www.pamhogeweide.com/2012/08/04/losing-my-codependent-church-self/

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    • i love that post! so good in so many ways…breaking free of that codependent cycle is no small thing, my friend. love you! miss you!

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  • I so agree!! Ah…to see what’s been on my mind put into print. I had no idea so many people felt the same as me. Though I now know it’s not true, I’ve just been told I’m “rebellious” or have “walked away from God”. What I’ve walked away from is “church-as-I-knew-it”! Next time my parents ask me “Did you find a ‘church’ yet?” or “Did you go to ‘church’?”, I think I’m just going to hand them your DONE list & answer “Yes!” cuz the (real) Church is all around me & I participate regularly! Thanks again, Kathy.

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