post-election faith unraveling.

A few weeks ago I had the honor of hanging out with a bunch of folks from Brew Theology at a local pub in Denver talking Faith Shift. I loved the engagement and discussion and left reminded, yet again, how deeply this election has affected many people of faith, especially those from the evangelical stream.

For the many people already Unraveling in their faith, there was something about the election of Donald Trump that caused an even greater tumble down the slippery slope. And for those who were in the much-more-comfortable-but-still-weird stage of Shifting, still sitting in some form of church with a rumbling inside that “maybe what’s happening here related to our call as Christians isn’t quite right”, many have now entered into the free-fall and are feeling untethered, confused, disoriented, angry, sad, and lost–some for the first time and others in an even deeper way than before.

The reality of the statistic of 81% of white evangelicals voting that direction has weighed heavy and caused a lot of folks I know to seriously question what’s next for them in terms of faith and church.

Faith and church are two different things but they often get tangled up.

Losing beliefs isn’t the same as losing faith, either.

And we have to be really careful to not let systems ruin God for us.

But I also wanted to acknowledge just how brutally hard it is when the systems and churches and family and places-of-connection-and-worship-and-friendship-and-where-you-have-gone-every-week-for-a-long-long-time are no longer places you feel like you can belong.

This election cycle has brought out the worst in everyone. The ugliness, the fear, the memes, the constant onslaught.

Now, in a lot of ways, I think it’s bringing out the best in many, too. There’s a renewed passion for action,  reflection, learning, justice, collaboration, advocacy, prayer, seeking God, and loving our neighbors that I’m seeing all over the place that is glorious.

But underneath all the action and letters and phone calls and movement is also a ton of soul pain for people who can no longer identify with the tribe they have given their life, their families, their ministry, their money, their hearts to for many many years.

Who can’t align in their heads or their hearts that someone who built a campaign almost entirely on racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamaphobia, and blatant fear is so closely aligned with the movement that was supposed to be focused on the good news of Jesus and the opposite of empire.

Who are angry and hurt and feel betrayed.

Angry that this is the message LGBQT and black and brown and disabled friends received from their “brothers and sisters.”

Sad that fear won that round and appears to be on a roll.

Embarrassed that power and strength and might and separatism is what people think is good as followers of Jesus.

Disgusted that a full-blown narcissist abusive male with zero political experience was elected over a qualified woman because that’s how deep the grooves of patriarchy and misogyny really are.

Angry that _________ (you feel in the blank; it looks different for each of us).

I want to keep reminding everyone, especially those who have been taught that anger is sinful–it’s not. It depends on what we do with it, but it can be a very propelling emotion that moves us toward something different.

Also, it’s so important to remember that underneath anger is usually something deeper, often sadness and fear and shame.

How did I give myself to a system that believes this way?

What’s next now?

Will there be a place for me somewhere else?

How do I start over?

When will I stop crying?

Do they even care I’m not there anymore?

Do I stay and try to change things? 

What if I can never feel connected again?

What if my co-workers or neighbors or parents at school think that’s what I align with, too?

God, WTF? 

I know you have many more, some with a lot more swear words!

For me, I exited traditional evangelicalism a long time ago as part of my own faith shift and so this reality didn’t change that much for me except a renewed gratitude for the wild and crazy journey I’ve been on; I can celebrate what was but am definitely glad I don’t live there anymore.

However, this election has indeed caused more to unravel for me, and I have found myself experiencing some of those old feelings of anger and shame-that-I-ever-gave-myself-to-it-in-the-first-place and  separation from people who just don’t know what it feels like.

It’s just part of the PTSD (and yes, Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome is real) and part of my ever-unfolding story that I must keep reckoning with and finding my forward in.

Today, I just wanted to acknowledge those of you out here who have lost so much related to faith and church and all-you-once-knew as part of this election.

It hurts.

It sucks.

It’s scary.

It’s confusing.

I am glad you are channeling the hurt and unknown into movement–showing up, speaking truth, writing letters, practicing using your voice and rocking the boat when you once made nice.

Everyone navigates these waters in different ways, and my hope and prayer is that over time this season of transition can also be freeing, empowering, strengthening, propelling, as you grieve and wrestle and join the company of so many others who are finding new life, a wild and weird but renewed faith, and a beautiful freedom that doesn’t come cheap or easy.

You’re not crazy and you’re not alone.

//

ps: My February SheLoves magazine column came out next week–Before Us, After Us. “We rise because we must. We rise because we’re better together.” Keep rising, friends.

I also know that while many are experiencing an unraveling, this election has spurred many on to a new place of rebuilding faith, too, which is a beautiful thing. More on that next post.

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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.

8 Comments

  • I needed this so bad right now… Trying to figure it all out and still rise above…It has been a long year.

    Reply
    • thanks, karla. it sure has been a long year. i love what jon stewart said on colbert a few weeks ago “the presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public” 🙂 we’re all weary and will have to find ways to make it through the long road ahead.

      Reply
  • I have to admit that I have been puzzled by those who have had such a negative emotional response to the election. I have a number of friends (online) who are beside themselves with anger, grief, you name it and the language I read coming out of fellow believers is amazing. When I try reasoning, it never works, so all I can do is just listen. I don’t understand it, but it is what it is.

    Reply
  • Thank you Kathy! I am Canadian. I felt so depressed after the election of Donald Trump. Yet am inspired by all the people such as your self who are speaking out and living out of a vision that people like Jesus, Martin Luther King Junior, Desmond Tutu, Mary Daly, Coretta Scott King and many others have shown us. Thanks for shining your light and the many others who appreciate your blog.

    Reply
  • We know people who are disconnecting from the church over these issues and the church doesn’t understand why. Some are terrified and believe that their Christian acquaintances do not want to hear why. When people tell us that they know almost no one who acts like Jesus, and tell us they have completely lost their faith in religion and churches, we wonder if they can hang on to their faith in God. We’re not certain they know. For many of these people, they plan to never return. Never. Ever. Churches will be filled with tumbleweeds. Not people.

    The church has lost its way. For so many, its all about religion, not about Jesus. Its all about politics, not loving the unlovely. Its all about who’s in and who’s not. It’s all about thinking the right things and staying away from those who don’t. It’s all about building walls, not about loving our neighbors. Jesus and his teaching and example are not welcome.

    Reply

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