You are not alone
by Paul Walker
I thought in this article I�d get more personal than usual.
Recently and wonderfully quite a few readers of this website have begun to
email me. While I try and reply, obviously the more mail I receive the
harder that becomes.
However, I wanted to say to those that visit this website, that you are
All over the world there are many Christians who feel bereft. They seem
to have lost a faith that once sustained them. They feel rejected by a
faith community which once appeared to accept them without question. They
are misunderstood for their integrity. Most of all they don�t know where
they belong and where to turn.
Perhaps those who suffer most once belonged to a particular kind of
traditional Christian community. I�m afraid that although I was brought to
Christianity through just one such group, the flirtation was very brief. I
was never fully immersed in that sort of culture. Therefore I cannot fully
understand what it might mean to feel rejected by it. If what follows is
way short of the mark, please forgive me and let me know.
I suspect those who don�t understand these conservative fellow
Christians do not know just how wonderful they can be. They form
themselves into close-knit, supportive communities which are extremely
accepting. If you turn up at such a congregation, people are genuinely
delighted to see you. You are wanted and you are loved.
Little better can be said about any community.
Furthermore, your past and any sense of guilt you have will be readily
accepted. Everyone will speak of a God who forgives all that is past. All
that is asked in return is for you to give your life to Jesus and live as
he requires. Full, paid-up membership demands (at first) nothing more than
a prayer of repentance and commitment to a new life. In return you receive
the promise of everlasting life and a community of people who will help
you begin your time in eternity.
What then comes as a surprise to many is the inflexibility of the
fellowship which has welcomed you.
The past may be accepted fully, but the present is controlled. For
example, sex is to be strictly between two married people of the opposite
sex. Even masturbation is hinted to be wrong. Find yourself unmarried and
wanting sex and there is no flexibility. Find yourself gay and there will
be a possibility of human love.
While there is an overemphasis on sex, there are also other areas of
control. What begins as an acceptance of basic Christian doctrines is, you
discover, in fact welded into a complete system of theology and permitted
behaviours. The Scriptures are said to be "the supreme authority" in all
matters of faith and conduct.
The "world" outside is a dangerous place where you are likely to be
corrupted. So the congregation has its own sub-culture of literature and
pop music. These Christian groups, in effect, think of themselves as
distinctive, separate islands of love, godliness and moral rectitude
standing in an ocean of sin.
As long as you don�t have any questions, as long as you accept that
many of your sexual thoughts are sinful, and provided you give complete
authority to your leaders, all goes well.
But as soon as you can no longer do this you begin to be excluded.
This sense of exclusion leads many into complete rejection of the
Church as a whole. Some convince themselves that they are still believers
but that they cannot find the "right" local church. Others try to stop
thinking about the problem. Still others reject Christianity completely.
For some, however, none of these options is viable. They have been
smitten by a faith which will not let them go. Many find themselves
attracted to Roman Catholicism in one form or another. Here is a faith
which is also more about accepting than believing, where people seem to
hang loose to extreme moral strictures. Here is a faith which encourages
people to concentrate on mystery while not thinking about intellectual
difficulties and about the frequent corruption of those who wield power.
And then there�s you and me. And we don�t know what the hell to
We are the sort of people who are accused of being negative. We know
what�s wrong with the various parties into which the Church is split. We
are deeply attracted to the message of Jesus. But we do not have a
community to belong to, or a simple faith to own. We wish there could be
churches which give us the same sense of community we once knew but at the
same time allow us to be open in our beliefs and practices.
But such Churches cannot exist.
For if our struggles tell us anything, it is that we need to create
community wherever we are, that it is a false expedient to mark humanity
off into Christians and non-Christians, insiders and outsiders. Most
people "out there" are simply trying to make sense of their lives and to
make the world a better place. We belong in that world.
And, if I may be so bold, it is there that God has called us.