fusing: the 10 commandments.

Well, like so many other areas of my life, sometimes when I make plans, they fall apart. I had wanted to work on this series a few weeks ago as I prepare to take a summer blog break, but just never got to it in the hubbub of May, all 5 of my kids being home for a few days (so grateful and rare these days as they grow up), and wrapping up the Refuge semester.

However, I am ready to go for it! 6 posts in 6 days to walk through the major themes in Faith ShiftFusing, Shifting, Returning, Unraveling, Severing, and Rebuilding.  Last night was a processing party in Denver so that I could capture the content on video and figure out a way to host an online one, too. I was reminded, yet again, how grateful I am to intersect with so many awesome and brave men & women who are walking through such hard and beautiful shifts in their faith.

It is an honor and privilege to get to hear the stories and always helps me gather hope and feel less crazy, less alone

I know some of you have read Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and what I share here over the next few days will be familiar.  My intent isn’t to process through the whole book but just to give a taste of these big movements together.  As I mention here and in the book, too, these are the words that I use to describe these seasons in our journey. You might describe or draw it differently. But I continue to find that it helps so much to have language to help flesh out what in the $(#&!^*!@!? is going on inside of us when everything we once believed comes apart and we are trying to find our way forward.

And part of moving forward is looking back, considering where we’ve been.

That’s the stage of Fusing.

From Faith Shift: Three steps comprise Fusing: believing (the point where we come to faith), learning (where we begin to embrace an influx of theology, spiritual knowledge, and group expectations), and doing (when we start actively serving, volunteering, and participating). Often these responses occur in a rush—all at the same time or very close together. Sometimes it takes a while for a believer to begin doing what his or her faith teaches” (p. 24).

This nifty chart for the journey is sometimes helpful in fleshing out some of the ingredients of what I call Fusing.  (I loved The Critical Journey when I first read it in 2002).

The three core values of Fusing are certainty, conformity, and affiliation.

Certainty about core doctrinal beliefs that feel unshakeable and clear.

Conformity and learning the norms of the group. Most of the groups and systems in Fusing are homogeneous. There’s a clear sense of what it means to be part, what we need to believe, do, think, or act appropriately in the system.

And affiliation–being part of something bigger than us, having a “family” and a team to belong to.

Oh, how sometimes I miss these three things dearly! They served their purpose in my faith journey for a long time. At some point, though, they tend to outlast their usefulness and we long for something more (more on that tomorrow).

Affiliation, conformity, and certainty are intrinsically part of Fusing and help form what I call “10 Commandments of a Fused Faith,” the unstated and unwritten rules of behavior and belief that guide our thoughts, feelings, and actions as believers (p. 33).

These commandments summarize what directed us during the Fusing process and illustrate what we begin to leave behind as our faith shifts. Each of us has different ones that come from our own unique experience.

Here are mine:

My 10 Commandments of a Fused Faith

  1. You shall go to church every Sunday.
  2. You shall not express any negative emotions.
  3. You shall vote Republican.
  4. You shall never forget that the Bible is 100 percent accurate, literally true, and perfectly clear.
  5. You shall not rock the boat or create division in any way.
  6. You shall try really hard to connect with God (and if you don’t, you are doing something wrong).
  7. You shall volunteer and then volunteer some more. And then volunteer some more.
  8. You shall achieve spiritual growth through consistent Bible study and participation in small groups.
  9. You shall avoid non-Christian people, places, and things because they will lead you down a bad path.
  10. You shall always work hard to earn God’s love (p. 33-34).

What are yours?

Try not to evaluate or edit them. They’re not good or bad or right or wrong. They just are. As you consider your own fused faith commandments, they might feel comical, angering, painful, or a host of other possibilities. Regardless, it’s important to recognize them as part of our story. It might be easy to look back and pass harsh judgment on your commandments—I know it is for me.

But I am learning that a more helpful response is to honestly acknowledge the truth of that time in my life as just that. I don’t live under those beliefs anymore, but they shaped and guided me for many years.

I’d love to hear some of your 10 commandments, if you’re willing to share as few or many as you’d like.

Tomorrow–Shifting: when things get rumbly.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • I resonate with your top 10. A few others of mine that showed up in my journey
    * -You shall not take communion more than once on the same day, even if you are participating in a different service
    *-You shall learn and use appropriate churchy language in appropriate context
    *-You shall not ask questions, especially of leadership
    *-When leading, you shall have all the answers (or at least pretend like you do)
    *-You shall not speak of your doubts, fears, failings in the same places you are spiritually growing
    *-You shall not run, dance, swear, or express too many emotions in the house of God

    • oh, the “you shall not speak of your doubts, fears, failings in the same place you are spiritually growing.” totally get that one. it’s like they are mutually exclusive. thanks for sharing.

  • 1. be victorious (share only positive emotions)
    2. we like you because you make us laugh, so keep it up monkey boy
    3. our team (tribe, church, theology) is the one God likes best
    4. women are dangerous
    5. fear is the source of motivation- need more motivation? crank up fear
    6. God only anoints a few leaders plus they get the money
    7. “go with growers” – regular, struggling people are kind of worthless so pay them very little attention
    8. if you say what people already believe in a way it is either funny or unique they will think you are interesting and provocative and that is good, but do not actually ever challenge core beliefs
    9. don’t be weird
    10. make sure when you share the hard stuff about sex or drugs or ? that you have at least 3 years of victory over it. never, never share a current, on going failure

    is it in this stage that most of the spiritual abuse people experience occurs? or maybe more likely when they begin to make the break it is the effort to get folks back in the fold that it occurs. like other areas of life, I am both victim and perpetrator of the abuse.

    • this list feels so real. thank you. that’s such a good question, where does the “abuse” happen–in my opinion, fusing for sure. it’s where we learn so much, unspoken and spoken, and where control is often so prevalent in abusive systems. but it is truly tested when we shift and question those systems….it seems to me that’s when the claws come out and even more damage is done.

  • you shall do all of the following or you will be subjected to having your faith scrutinized and your salvation questioned…
    1. do 4 am “devotions” consistently or you may not truly be “one of us”
    2. tithe religiously, even if in doing so, you will not have enough money for food or your mortgage
    3. follow the leader blindly without asking questions
    4. be at every “church” function even if doing so causes hardship or stress in your family
    5. speak christianese
    6. condemn your brothers and sisters if they don’t look like they should
    7. do not speak about why someone has left “the church”
    8. shun those who leave or question
    9. pray eloquently and at length in order look truly spirit filled
    10. attend church without your spouse

    • thank you…”or you will be subjected to having your faith scrutinized and your salvation questioned…” so powerful!

  • So tonight I was challenged on no1 big time by a friend. We haven’t been in church for over a year. The more I tried to explain the more the words came out wrong, how do I explain my faithshift without sounding like I think I am superior, and then as I speak I hear myself from her perspective that I am just ‘not obedient’ and becoming ‘worldly’. It was an unpleasant evenig and yet I know her intentions are good…

    • i had the same thing happen to me… I was “in rebellion” 🙁

    • it is so hard to express, and that danger of communicating one way is right or wrong (either leaving or staying)…staying with our own story and accepting that people won’t understand is so hard to do! living with that tension of disapproval and misunderstanding is so a part of all of this. thank you so much for sharing, i know so many of us can relate!

    • Natalie, I hope you don’t have a lot more interactions that are so frustrating, perhaps painful. Just as encouragement, I have a close loved one who, after discussing my shift a bit, nearly screamed at me, “But what about Jesus?” (not grasping that I’d not actually “left” him). Fortunately we soon thereafter tacitly agreed to not discuss God, religion or Jesus and put our relationship on another level. That was years ago and things have gone fine since, tho I’m sad that I’m pretty sure this person still greatly fears I’ll spend eternity in hell.

      • Thanks, Howard and Kathy. I sometimes think being misunderstood is the worst thing in life. I think it’s one of the main reasons I believe in God… there has to be someone out there who ‘gets’ me! 🙂

  • Guess I was never “fused,” since I’ve always been a non conformist. My mistake was thinking that the best way to follow Jesus was in and through that “organization” called “church.” Now I see that was a big mistake, even though it made mom happy. Now we follow Jesus outside the walls. No stained glass in our lives. Quite the opposite. However, we have discovered some places where Jesus hangs out.

  • 1. Your shall always pray using happy English words – listening, silence and meditation should not be explored.
    2. You shall stay away from such things that are unchristian like the Enneagram
    3. You shall never call the use of the word “sin” a form of manipulation and control.
    4. You shall never ask the question “Did God Kill Jesus? Is God into violence, punishment and shame?”
    5. You shall never walk out of a church meeting because it is boring.
    6. You shall always share your faith as much as you can which consists of a lot of bad theology around the common ideas of original sin, penal substitution and eternal punishment.
    7. You shall always hold that Christianity is about propositional statements detached from a way of life and judge everyone for not believing “right.”
    8. You shall never question patriarchy, consumerism, colonialism and power.
    9. You shall stay away from anyone you think is different from you, especially the poor
    10. You shall go to church every Sunday disconnected from your local community where you live and read the Bible through a Western, individualistic lens.

  • This is really hard but I want to press on and get my heart to a good place. I am unhappy with my church building right now. It feels like they are Holy Spirit snobs. Like if you aren’t charismatic enough that just will not do and we will have nothing to do with you. Anyway here is a few of my commandments:
    1. There will be no ecumenical events.
    2. the more charismatic you are the more faith you have.
    3. trust the leadership knowing they heard from the Lord.
    4. men are head of the household.
    5. if you are in a Bible study or small group you are more spiritual or faithful.
    6. don’t talk about church problems at congregational meetings especially regarding money or attendance.
    7. all church boards must be in unity.
    8. liturgy is not spiritual.
    I am sure I have more. That is all for now.

  • Thanks for this Kathy. I’m reminded how good your “Faith Shift” book is (plug, plug). And that reviewing it was fun (on my blog… another plug). It really fills a needed niche to explain and prompt conversation about not only “shifting” but how we all tend to develop, common aspects of growing spiritually, how NOT to get or stay frustratingly stuck, etc.

    As to commandments, a BIG one for me that I don’t see mentioned much: Thou shalt lead others to Christ… and work at it every hour of every day (otherwise you’re uncaring towards the people you encounter because “without Christ” they will be going to hell).

  • My initial list of 10 are like a Christian checklist of do’s and donts that when correctly followed are supposed to mean you are living the “true Christian life”.
    1. Attend church every Sunday
    2. Dress modestly- spaghetti strap equals you’re asking for it!
    3. Read and listen to primarily Christian literature and music.
    4. Have only Christian friends- we wouldn’t want you falling down the wrong path by hanging out with non-Christians
    5. Attend bible studies weekly to show your sincerity
    6. Have a prayer journal/sermon notes journal filled with insight- actually had someone take mine and open it accusing me of missing church/ falling from faith bc there wasn’t an entry for every Sunday…
    7. Attend a Christian college
    8. Vote conservatively and participate in obnoxious sign holding rally’s for pro life or get-your-butt-to-church-you-are-going-to-hell sidewalk corner episodes
    9. No swearing, drinking, smoking, kissing, pre-marital sex…
    10. All life’s answers (and science’s answers) can be found in the Bible

  • 1. Go to Mass every Sunday and all Holy Days of OBLIGATION (or else it’s a mortal sin = Hell)
    2. Don’t take Communion if you have missed a Mass (or committed anything you know or think is a mortal sin) and haven’t been to confession to be absolved (because you will be heaping condemnation on yourself = Hell).
    3. Go to confession regularly…and take your kids and force your husband. (or else you are a crappy Catholic mom and everyone will go to Hell)
    4. Even though you prayed every prayer, used NFP ,and were an obedient practicing Catholic who wanted a 4th kid, but never conceived one, know that there is a reason God lets other mom’s have the big family you wanted…God still loves you. Looks like St. Jude the Patron Saint of impossible causes didn’t come through for you. Too bad.
    5. Offer up all your suffering to join with Christ’s suffering. People who don’t suffer aren’t as loved by God. If God loves you, he allows you to suffer to draw close to him, so be grateful!
    6. Volunteer for everything you can…catechesis, bible studies, VBS, retreat leader etc….A good Catholic mom never says ‘no’ to volunteering.
    7. Pray the Rosary as a family (even though you prefer to pray alone, and don’t feel a particular devotion to Jesus’ mom, Mary) because it will probably let you just squeak into Heaven.
    8. Don’t question the teaching of the Church. If you disagree it’s your malformed conscience, it’s not because we are wrong. Follow her rules or else: Hell!
    9. Do not advocate for marriage equality, married and/or women priests and remember that a pro-life stance trumps any other political policy.
    10. If you homeschool (which I do) use Catholic only curricula. (Note: My kids are unschooled…this never worked for me.) And don’t let your kids read books written by Atheists and no reading spiritual books by Protestants.
    11. Pretend the Priest sex abuse scandal didn’t happen.


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