I miss my former church. I do. And I don’t think I was prepared for that feeling because of the certainty I had in my decision to leave.
This is an odd thing to admit because in doing so I feel like I am opening myself up to the arguments and passionate persuasions of people who tell me that they miss me in, I sense, an attempt to get me to come back. This then puts me in the complicated position of not knowing if or how to respond or explain to people why I felt I had to leave.
Do I break out into a random theological debate?
Or perhaps talk about my criticisms of the policies and protocols that enabled our legalistic culture?
Do I talk about the larger American, Christian church’s marriage to harmful, politically conservative rhetoric and the damage that does to racial and sexual minorities as well as the impoverished?
No. This doesn’t seem like the right thing to do at that moment for me. I stand there, and I say, “I miss you too.”
That’s all I feel I can muster at the moment because I don’t believe it’s my role to push over someone’s neatly organized filing cabinet of ideas about God, faith, Christianity, and the role of the Church. So I say, “I miss you too,” awkwardly, uncomfortably — that’s all I can say. But, it is true, I do miss you.
And, I’ll take responsibility for changing the status quo. There’s a reason we don’t see each other as much anymore. It’s because our relationship was grounded on our collective proximity to a fixed point (church) and the frequency in which we met at this point (Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays if you were in the choir or worship team). The reason we don’t see each other is I no longer meet at the same fixed point on the same days as you. And that’s sad; because that alone has changed the dynamic of many of my friendships and relationships with people.
And again, I do miss you, but there are some things you ought to know, things that I can’t say in the rare times that I now see you, and you tell me you miss me in a mournful sort of way:
- I left a church, not the church. The body of Christ is a large, expansive group of people that transcends the physical buildings we may or may not meet at on any particular day. The church even transcends all denominations which, for me, includes a much larger list than just those under the Protestant evangelical umbrella.
- I left church, not God. It always intrigued me how people correlated a person’s relationship with God and level of faith with their frequency of attendance and proximity to a church. It shows a very narrow understanding of who and what God is as well as a narrow historical view of our faith. Remember, the church is a body, not a building.
- I miss you, but please know, I have no plans to come back. There are many reasons why I’m gone. If you want to know them, ask me. But be warned, consider if you honestly want to hear the answer before you ask the question. Saying something you don’t want to hear won’t be a fun time for either of us. I hate small talk but, I’d rather carry on a superficial relationship than inadvertently offend you with some of my views, opinions, and beliefs.
- No, I have not buried my talents in the sand. When I left, the argument was made to me that I had “gifts” that I might be forfeiting by leaving the church. After all, I ministered, testified, worshiped, sang, and volunteered in the church. And it’s true; these are very church-centered activities, but I have found other ways to use them. The only thing I don’t get to do much anymore is sing. And I miss singing a lot, which is why I took advantage of the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at my recent Baccalaureate commencement. It may not have been worship but I still use my “talents” where and when I can.
- If you miss me, great, let’s get together! Coffee, dinner, a game or movie night? I’m happy to make plans with anyone of you. I promise you, I’m the same person. There is a host of other conversations and topics of things to talk about besides church or religion. There is a host of other things I’m sure we still have in common. Heck, we can even still talk about religion, just don’t be shocked or think I’m a heathen for having a different view other than the one we were taught to have at the church you still attend.
I changed the status quo, so I understand if some of you can’t pretend things are the same when they’re not. I get it, I do. Missing each other won’t change the fact that we’re on opposite sides of a fence now. So please just know that I am still me. I have a few different beliefs, that’s all. The beauty is, I won’t shove them down your throat or make you sign any documents stating you believe what I believe for us to remain friends.
If you ever need me, I’m here. I’m a flawed, imperfect being who made a choice to leave a place, but I’m still here and I miss you too.
Photo via Unsplash.
About Alex Camire
Alex Camire is a life-long Christian who currently works in behavioral health and case management and is in college pursuing a Masters in Social Work. He enjoys reading and writing on topics related to religion, science, law, and social justice.