As an active Christian, especially one who has been born and raised in the faith they still hold, it may be easy to condemn her as selfish (which she states herself as reason #10); however if you replace “the church” with “my church”–as in a particular place and community–I think many of the points she makes are relevant to today’s church communities; especially within the age group that she has targeted here. Here’s her list, with my response to each:
(1) I left the church because I’m better at planning Bible studies than baby showers…but they only wanted me to plan baby showers.
Perhaps the deeper issue here is proper engagement. Somebody needed ‘baby showers’ and Rachel may be a good organizer or planner, maybe she’s just plain good at getting people to show up and making sure there’s a great environment for the occasion. But what she really wants to do is Bible studies. I imagine she approached several people on this, but for whatever reason, she didn’t receive a response, nobody took her seriously, or she was plain turned down. Obviously, her alternative would be to just do it, but this leads to its own problems.
(2) I left the church because when we talked about sin, we mostly talked about sex.
It certainly feels that way. It seems that (within Catholic circles), the natural progression of the discussion around sin goes like this: mortal, venial, indulgences, abortion, contraception, divorce & homosexuality. I’m not saying that’s a fact, but it’s certainly a perception, and I think it’s a valid issue.
(3) I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities.
I wish there was a little more explanation about what she means here. But I understand my point of view on this issue; that is if you question a decision (or decisions) of an authority figure, then your intention must be a negative one and if you question a topic that’s not easily explained or could be somehow taken the wrong way, then it is better to ignore it than open a “can of worms”.
(4) I left the church because sometimes it felt like a cult, or a country club, and I wasn’t sure which was worse.
Well, it’s a community of individuals, so this is natural. But I think the fact that this intensifies the further you go up the command chain is a concern.
(5) I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith.
I don’t have a dog in this fight, so it’s hard for me to comment. The way I understand it (as a Catholic), is if you are trying to come up with an alternative to God’s initial creation of the universe, then you have an incompatibility issue.
(6) I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and church can be the worst place to doubt.
I disagree with this on a macro level. I think doubt is well documented Biblically and throughout Church history. How doubt is dealt with by individuals at a micro level is another issue though. This may be linked with issue #3, doubt can be easily linked to the action of asking questions. If your questions are seen as a liability, then it’s natural to assume that it’s unacceptable to doubt.
(7) I left the church because I didn’t want to be anyone’s “project.”
I’d love to hear more about this, but by projecting my own experiences onto this statement, I have to agree about not wanting to be anyone’s project.
(8) I left the church because it was often assumed that everyone in the congregation voted for Republicans.
Not sure about leaving a church over it, but I understand the frustration.
(9) I left the church because I felt like I was the only one troubled by stories of violence and misogyny and genocide found in the Bible, and I was tired of people telling me not to worry about it because “God’s ways are higher than our ways.”
I don’t have a dog in this fight either, no comment.
(10) I left the church because of my own selfishness and pride.
Yes, and I think this is at the heart of everything. On the flip side is humility, and a large part of humility is facing reality. The reality of the situation (or situations) must be evaluated and look at your decision making process between stimulus and response. All of these reasons for leaving are uncontrollable stimuli. The response in Rachel’s case was leaving the church. Her decision making in the middle of that is not presented in detail on this blogpost, and I think that is what needs to be evaluated further by church leadership to understand better why this age group leaves their church. Everything Rachel says here is true for her and I’d say there’s a large number of other individuals who feel the same things and have disengaged from their church community, even if they have not left it.
(11) I left the church because I knew I would never see a woman behind the pulpit, at least not in the congregation in which I grew up.
I don’t have a dog in this fight either, no comment.
(12) I left the church because I wanted to help people in my community without feeling pressure to convert them to Christianity.
I understand that feeling, though in my case, I think it is largely self-imposed.
(13) I left the church because I had learned more from Oprah about addressing poverty and injustice than I had learned from 25 years of Sunday school.
This isn’t my experience, and I don’t know anything about how Oprah addresses poverty and injustice, so I cannot address this.
(14) I left the church because there are days when I’m not sure I believe in God, and no one told me that “dark nights of the soul” can be part of the faith experience.
Well, they certainly are. Though I’m sorry that nobody told Rachel this.
(15) I left the church because one day, they put signs out in the church lawn that said “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman: Vote Yes on Prop 1,” and I knew the moment I saw them that I never wanted to come back.
If it were me, and none of these issues were immovable, I’d have a hard time with any Christian belief system or community. Throughout my life from the age of 10–20, there was a lot of “church hopping” and never were issues such as these “fixed”, they were just displaced. At the age of 27 I converted from a protestant faith to Catholicism. From my perspective, if I developed serious issues with the fundamental tenets of Catholicism, whether those issues were due to individuals within the community or with the Church as a whole, my inclination would not be to convert (yet again) to another Christian religion–or to change communities–rather I would probably leave Christianity all together.
I think a lot of the problems here are rooted in the fact that many of these fundamental issues are not universally framed in a way that is readily understandable (by broadcasters in church communities), and in a way that builds an environment in which free will is given; and, as I have said before, to place where in time the decision making process happens.
Another resolvable issue here is for the church leadership to understand that these are valid, real issues that people are dealing with. Just because they don’t understand why it’s an issue, doesn’t mean we don’t know it to be an issue. It’s the responsibility of church leadership to validate, discuss and address their flock. A primary goal for any church should be full engagement from its members, and this may be time consuming and painful at times for both the church’s leadership and its members; but the benefits (I think) far outweigh the cost.