Here is where I discuss the most difficult part of losing my faith: Dad. No, not Heavenly-Dad. I mean my actual, biological father. I wrote a few times on my old blog, the deconversion blog that got hacked and destroyed, about what an impact my dad had on my life as a Christian. It would be downright insulting for me to ever let my deconversion imply that he no longer has a strong impact on my life. He does, and he always will. I want to attest to that now as I did before.
My dad, having received his PhD in Theology and spending years preaching in the ministry, probably took my deconversion harder than anyone else. Rightfully so. I don’t take offense and I don’t place blame on his reaction. He asked me once if I understand how much anguish he and my mother have experienced over this, and I said that I do. However, I don’t know if I truly can. I don’t know what it’s like to raise a kid under the righteous care of my Lord and Savior and watch her walk away. I imagine it’s something akin to being stabbed in the back, straight through the physical and emotional heart. It cannot possibly be any less painful than that.
Of what little I know about my dad’s own salvation experience, I understand that his experience was essentially mine in reverse. He had a very difficult childhood in a non-Christian home, and he got saved in his late teens. I had a wonderful, secure childhood in a Christian home, and I lost my faith at the age of 23. Here lies the most difficult part of losing my faith. It feels like my experience invalidates everything that has become true to my dad. How degrading it must be for him to see a little twenty-something turn her nose up to Love, Truth, and Everlasting Salvation. It’s a major and ultimately damning life choice from his perspective, and I doubt this makes any sense at all to him. What I continue to admire about him is how he gives me space to experience life myself and seek what is true to me. He does not disown me nor does he belittle me. He seeks to understand me, which is a gift I think few of us PK former Christians receive. I am so grateful to him for this.
What I have difficulty telling him is how little my deconversion has to do with my experience growing up. I loved my childhood, and I don’t think it influenced my decision to leave Christianity. I just didn’t know how to make that relationship with Jesus thing real. It didn’t work, and I couldn’t see how it ever would. It’s all psychology to me, and I don’t know how to see it as anything transcendentally more. But I hate implying that it’s all psychology to my parents and my sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and best friends. I hate how arrogant that sounds, and I desperately want to remove that divide. I don’t want to see them as people relying on a crutch, and I don’t want them to see me as a rebel to my True Calling. Perhaps these things can’t be reconciled. My only hope may be that we avoid these conversations at future family holiday events, online exchanges, and phone calls. Perhaps “I love you” will always be marked by “in spite of.” This may not have to be as dismal as it sounds. I’m willing to work to make it work.
Relatedly, here’s one of my crutch songs from this past summer! Ah, deconversion. Good times.