The Witness

By in large, I don’t miss being religious. I don’t miss the stress, the guilt, the constant reminder that I am broken and less than. For so many years, it was a constant weight – one I didn’t realize I was carrying until I set it down. Letting that go was one of the healthiest choices I’ve ever made.

But I did spend a long time missing the community.  I missed the ready-made friendship. When you see a group of people twice a week or more, basic friendship isn’t too difficult. Even if I didn’t have many close friends, just being a part of something bigger than myself was comforting. It was a connection.

(As an aside, finding d&d and the group I play with satisfies this need; indeed, the connections there are stronger and more satisfying on many levels. The irony that we play on Sundays is not lost on me.)

Because once you’re outside, you are outside and on your own. And I missed that connection – not to God, but to people. I wanted to be part of the community, even though I couldn’t force myself to believe any more.

And then this election cycle began. And I have never been more relieved and thankful that I got out and away when I did.

I’m watching the community I used to belong to embrace and defend a vile man. I am watching them excuse and legitimize misogyny, racism, and the grossest form of self-serving pride. And I am watching them rationalize the language of sexual assault.

They are trying to convince themselves that both sides are just as bad and that kind of willful ignorance is staggering.

And that’s made me realize that I don’t miss them any more. I don’t miss a community that can do those things. It has solidified my decision that walking away was the right thing to do. If I ever considered giving religion “another shot,” I certainly wouldn’t now.

Why would I want to spend my time there?

Yes, I know, “not all Christians.” But even in the smaller communities where it isn’t automatically true, it’s still a debate. Every time I’ve seen someone stand up and say “this isn’t right,” I’ve seen the people who come back and argue that this man is worthy of supporting.

There is a concept in Christianity of being a Witness For Christ. It’s the idea that Christians live their daily lives in such a way that Christ can been seen in them. Someone should be able to watch and know who is a Christian without asking because they are kind, gentle, faithful, etc. All the fruits. It’s an admirable ideal to try and live up to.

The damage that is now being done to that witness is astounding. It’s going to echo for years to come. In their broad support of Trump, the church has declared where its values lie and that cannot be easily undone or unseen. Do they realize how much harm they’ve done? It will not go away just because he does.

I wonder how many will be pushed away as a result of this. People who are on the edge like I was, people who are questioning where they belong. From the outside, that appears to be a cost the church either  isn’t considering or doesn’t mind paying.

It is, for me at least, another nail in an already closed and sealed coffin. I didn’t realize that I still had room to move away from who and where I was, but I did. And in looking back, I don’t feel longing for what was – I just feel peace with where I am.

The Witness

Sam’s Song

In western lands beneath the Sun

the flowers may rise in Spring,

the trees may bud, the waters run,

the merry finches sing.

Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night

and swaying beeches bear

the Elven-stars as jewels white

amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey’s end I lie

in darkness buried deep,

beyond all towers strong and high,

beyond all mountains steep,

above all shadows rides the Sun

and Stars forever dwell:

I will not say the Day is done,

nor bid the Stars farewell.

– From “The Return of the King” by JRR Tolkien

Sam’s Song