Christian Perceptions of “the Backslidden”

Having been a person who was, for all intents and purposes, a “True Believer,” I think it’s important that I expound a bit on the stereotypes built up by believers about those who “fall away” from the Church.

I’d often hear growing up about people who stopped going to church and “fell back into sin.” The horrible catalyst would be something like a couple getting divorced and not coming to church anymore or a person leaving and getting involved with a non-church crowd, which undoubtedly meant that person was up to every form of debauchery. We’d assume this without evidence.

Now that I’ve become one of those people I would hear about and blindly judge in my youth, I’ve experienced that a lot of the struggle with no longer believing in what the Church believes is knowing that they think these terrible things about me that aren’t true. Sure, I could choose to keep a lot of those people in my life as friends, but it’s hard to be friends with people who think you are “choosing death” just because you can’t believe in something supernatural. It’s not that I dislike them or want them out of my life, but their beliefs are really just toxic to me now and don’t help me toward bettering myself and learning to love myself in the ways that the inherently self-loathing model of sin wouldn’t let me before. It’s hard for me to shut them out of my life because I know exactly how that looks to them. They see that I’m shutting them out because I hate God. I’m shutting them out because I’m ashamed of my sin and don’t need them to help me fix it.

Where is the balance? Do I keep them as friends and hold onto the guilt of letting them down? Will they ever see that “loving” a person doesn’t involve letting them know that they’re a piece of shit without “God”? What can I do to help the image of those who lose their faith?

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2 Comments on “Christian Perceptions of “the Backslidden””

  1. mrsmetaphor says:

    Well, there are two distinct things here…the first I hear you asking is 1)how do I behave in the healthiest way? and 2)what do I do if they don’t respond well to that?

    Maybe I have that wrong…but remember that you only have control over how you behave. You have no say in how they respond. If you are being treated badly you only have a couple of choices, Kate…tell them how you want to be treated and then if they don’t do that, then you take yourself out of the way of the mistreatment.

    Be the very best version of yourself, don’t make yourself vulnerable to people who have historically mistreated you and tell everyone how you want to be treated. It sounds to me, through the internets at least, as though you already do all of those things :)

    The guilt you might feel is what you will work out over time in safe places with people who love you well, no matter what your perspective on matters of faith.

  2. Nelson says:

    It’s the same conundrum that people face when they “get saved”. The first giddy months when you’re convinced the second coming is right around the corner. Your old friends can no longer really be your friends. They’re not part of the shared experience. They don’t understand. Maybe it would be easier if religion occupied a less pervasive dimension of our lives and we don’t choose our friends based on religion; it’s there in the background but it’s not important enough to be used as a yardstick for assessing others. I am free to go out with a friend or two and do something without having to wheel out the koolaid and do an impromptu loyalty test. None of this applies to you; I’m just thinking out loud here.


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