Are People Who Leave Church “Prideful”?

As more and more people opt to exit the conventional, weekly church model, notice is taken. At the moment, it’s little blogger types like me who speak against little blogger types like me because the big guys, the leaders that Christians put into place to rule over them, are allowing peer pressure to do its job.

Not all people see the church building, and what it represents, in the same light. The Church at Auvers, by Vincent Van Gogh, circa 1890

Not all people see the church building, and what it represents, in the same light. The Church at Auvers, by Vincent Van Gogh, circa 1890

But in time, they’ll speak. (Right now they’re busy with homosexual marriage, Islam, and everybody’s favorite, the presidential election. Has one of them made an automated call to you yet, telling you to vote the way Jesus would vote?)

Among my peers, however, chatter is chittering, and I have run across more than one blog, or Facebook post, that denounces those of us who leave man-made church services as prideful, arrogant because we feel like we’re smarter than the rest of the herd, and don’t need to be told what to do.

Well, while there is something intellectually desirable about a resistance to blindly accepting everything we’re told, many of us who jump the fence don’t do so because we can’t handle people thinking differently. What stifles us is the level of mediocrity to which we are encouraged to reach.

Conventional Teaching

Awhile ago, I ran across an acquaintance from church days, and in the course of conversation, it came about that this generous, kind, good-hearted woman is undergoing yet another surgery to correct a condition that she was told, after the first surgery, should be resolved.

It wasn’t, and there is no guarantee that this latest procedure, which she sort of needs to continue living, will do the trick either.

“I don’t know what God is trying to teach me in all this,” she said. “I’ve thought and prayed and asked Him, but these things keep happening.”

Provincial Afternoon, inspirational original oil painting of French landscape and two girls reading by Steve Henderson

Reading Scripture, for ourselves and without “guidance” from people who insist they know better than we do, is a pleasurable, leisurely activity. Provincial Afternoon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

“Maybe it’s not that you’re bad or wrong,” I offered, “but that the technology isn’t as good as what the medical establishment says it is.”

“Well . . . maybe,” she replied, “but I think Satan is in all this. You know how God allowed Satan to work in Job’s life; well, I think He’s given him a hand in mine.”


Where Is the Love We Hear About?

I honestly didn’t know what to say. This woman — did I mention that she was generous, kind and good-hearted? — exudes compassion to the underdog because she spent a childhood as one. Like many, the draw to Jesus was His unconditional love, something she struggled to grasp simply because she — like most of us human beings — had never seen it put into place in the world market around her. The promise of genuine, worthy, honest, real love sounded too good to be true. And apparently, within many religious systems, it is.

Does God show unconditional love to His damaged children by saying to Satan,

“Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life” ? (Job 2:6)

Okay, He said it in the book of Job, in which, while it may or may not be historically true (come on, English majors, it reads like a story), the person under attack is a man who had everything: houses, kids, cattle, fame, esteem, both Boardwalk and Park Place with hotels on them. The book of Job is an expository on the fallacies of our various teachings about God — expressed through the words of Job’s “friends” — and there is no need for us, our Father’s precious children, to walk around in fear that God will toss us, like a piece of meat, to the dogs.

And yet we do. And we continue to do so because we know so little about the Bible, and Christ’s teaching, and this mind-blowing concept of unconditional love that many of us — after 10, 20, 30, 40, years of attending man-made church services, socially segregated Sunday School, and thematically inspired small groups, hang our head and say,

“I’m just a sinner. I deserve everything I get.”

For all that we quote John 3:16, do we ever take it seriously?

The god Worth Avoiding

Throughout more than 25 years of my existence as a Christian, I kept my distance from God, because I didn’t find Him a particularly trustworthy guy: He spends His entire day determined to shake me from my comfort zone, punishes me for unworthy thoughts, insists that I awake at 4 a.m. to spend Quiet Time with Him; specifies certain ministries as acceptable but many others as not; and has laid down a bunch of rules and regulations concerning what I should eat, whether I can imbibe, how low the front of my blouse can go, how far I can push swearing (“dang,” is okay, “damn” is not, unless I’m talking about the status of the majority of humanity), and, according to celebrity religious leaders whom I dislike and distrust because their fruit reeks but apparently He has put into place to direct my life, how to vote.

In 25-plus years of church attendance, I didn’t receive any significant message to the contrary. Surrounded by people whose major interpretation of the good news is that we won’t go to hell, even though many people we love will be there, I did not find my faith challenged and growing so much as apathetic, and desperate to maintain the status quo.

As long as I showed up, raised my hand when told to do so, and volunteered for the ministries God was “leading” me into, my Christianity, I was assured, was fine.

But it wasn’t, something I never knew until I eventually left, and began seriously reading the Bible with a willingness to ask questions about the things I didn’t understand. I found out that God didn’t get mad when I stopped at a passage and said, “This doesn’t seem like you, God — it seems mean and irritable. Is there another way to look at it?”

Often, there was — and never, was it something I had heard from the pulpit.

Leaving a religious system is a lot like no longer watching TV or movies — you don’t feel superior about this; you feel free. You don’t look down on the people still trapped — you just wish that they could see.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage all God’s children — whether they attend church or not — to take seriously this concept of our Father’s love.

Posts complementing this one are

Leaving Church: Is It Rebellious, or Obedient?

What Does “Real” Church Look Like?

Why You Don’t — And Won’t — Fit In


About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
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2 Responses to Are People Who Leave Church “Prideful”?

  1. Quilt_lady12 says:

    Not to say one thing or another to your viewpoint, Carolyn, but I for one, am more than appreciative that the book of Job and book of Psalms are in Scripture…both of which have sustained me though some of the darkest days of my life!! The bottom line as I see it, is that the “rain falls alike on the just and the unjust”…after all, this is not our eternity in a way, YET…this is our test…does God cause these things?…hopefully not, but HE obviously allows them…yet I love the Jewish perspective of bad events in our lives…these are meant to bless us at some point…though that may or may not come in this current life…it may happen in the next one!! Whether they are correct or not, it is a happier way to view events…and one that has enabled them who live with daily terrorism and loss of loved ones, to get through such things. That viewpoint has also helped me to release some of the evil done against me/us…esp. that from kin which is the most painful!! And again, no matter how smart we are…I see no way that a finite mind can hardly begin to really understand an infinite GOD!! We are barely scratching the surface, no matter how hard we study, pray or try…seems to me…

    It is interesting your observation about whether one is proud or not in leaving a church…cause isn’t it always said by some anyway, of those still in the particular church or group, that you left because you were not allowed to run things?? Well, dear…heehee…no matter what a person says, does not mean tis true right?? That is what my Mama always told me…never mind what they say, cause does not make it true!! But sometimes tis easier to ignore than other times…and where you live, being a rather small fishbowl…something like that actually could have some impact upon your lives after leaving….hopefully not upon you and yours there!!

    • Hi, Quilt Lady — your handle reminds me that I’ve got a project in my sewing room that really, really wants me to pick it up again! Like you, I am comforted by Job. I didn’t used to be — it’s a rough book, and the thought that God would allow things to that level was discomforting. (It’s funny — most of us are accepting to being tested and tried like Job, but don’t feel confident enough in the end to say, “Ah, but his fortunes were restored, better than before [although it’s difficult to see how one can “replace” children], AND while he was still alive.” That latter part, I was always taught was beyond me to say.) The comfort I find in Job is the puzzle of what it’s saying — really, those words of the “friends” make sense to us because much of it sounds like familiar teaching; however, in the end God declares that they “have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” It caused me to go back and look more closely at their words — like most misleading teaching, it has the essence of seeming right, but the ultimate fruit of the teaching, followed to the end, isn’t good.

      You’re right — when a person leaves a group, those left behind murmur about their unwillingness to be part of the team, their desire to run things and be boss. That’s an amusing thought considering that in most evangelical churches the options for women are highly limited: they can be deaconnesses of windows (that was an actual position in a church we once attended), and then, if they work hard enough and submit properly to all those above them, may possibly move up to the coveted deaconess of baby showers. As we didn’t attend Sunday School, I knew that the office of deaconess was permanently barred from me, so walking away didn’t represent any loss of status.

      Yes, that small town thing is difficult, but to a certain extent, even those who live in large cities can suffer the same thing, especially if they wrap their lives and social being around a group, like their church. Once they leave, they lose all their “friends,” and that can be an eye opener. While it is challenging, it’s best for all of us when we live in accordance with who we are, and stand strong for the beliefs that we have. People will always talk. Some people will always listen and judge.But if we live our lives in accordance with the talkers and the listeners, then we won’t live our lives at all.

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