In the wilderness: but it’s not so bad part 1.

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My good friend Ian has two podcasts out on how he moved from Christianity to atheism. It is powerful and honest stuff (find it here http://voicesofdeconversion.com/home/  . His name is Ian Redfearn and the podcasts are 34 and 35- I get a lovely tribute at around 31:30 on number 35).

My friendship with him has often caused me to question things that I believe. I can often hear his voice in my head if I preach or prepare to preach. I can hear him if I slip into ‘Christianese’ or get too far into the Christian ghetto.

I was listening to his story and reflected that although lots of his friends sent him books when he ‘deconverted’ or tried to argue him out of it, I don’t think I ever did. I’m not always good at this, but I try to keep at the forefront of my mind something that a minister once wrote (I’ve slightly adapted this) ‘You tell me your beautiful names for God/Life and I’ll tell you mine’. It removes the alpha male aggression from apologetics and it is really lovely to experience. Also influential to me is the idea that you listen to someone so closely that you run the risk of being won over by them.

It has got me thinking, because there are parallels between his story and mine of leaving and loss; what still sustains me and how could I talk about it in a way that anyone could read (I’ve read enough angry Christian blogs or ones that just preach to the crowd)?

One thing in particular struck me when I heard him talk (and these are my words, not his); he referred to that sense of panic when he had left organised religion: how do I live and what do I do as I can’t see any models for where I am. I experienced something of the same sense myself: how do I live- what do I do?

What I’m hoping to do for a while is talk about some of the stuff that keeps me going in this new place that I find myself.

To be continued…

 

Last night

Okay we *may* have had more than our fair share of dry sherries.

There *may* have been some loudness.

One or two intemperate remarks #may* have been made.

But this was our official Christmas do: a raggle taggle group of blokes that have existed together since 2008. Drawn together by our shared geographical location and the ethos that no one (if they are male that is) is ‘in’ or ‘out’.

These people have kept me grounded for years, taken the piss out of me, been there for me and occupied more Fridays than I care to count.

A good night….

‘A drunken weekend’

I only put that title as I thought it would make you read it, but a friend said to me a week ago ‘O your drunken weekend’

Well, it’s not entirely true…

A couple of years back, a group of friends who gather at the pub every Friday thought it would be a good idea to go away for a weekend together. They have done so for the last 2 years, chartering a boat in the Lakes. This kind of weekend is way above my income level, so one of them suggested a more accessible weekend this year and booked a camping barn.

A strong hint was made that it was done for me, so thanks to my forbearing family and me  managing  to cobble together two days off and set off at 9ish yesterday, planning to come back, bright eyed and bushy tailed to preach at 10.30 tomorrow…

I have never been on a weekend like this before. Most of the (rare) weekends since I have been on apart from family have been spent at Christian stuff/ with friends who were Christian. That is really sad: never thought that God called us to be separate but maybe we have managed that.

Two stories:-

I remember as an adolescent being in Boys’ Brigade and a minister coming to talk to us about someone who befriended a group of people who lived on the streets/squats and he lived with them and shared their lives. As a child I wondered how someone who was ‘holy’ could do that- wouldn’t they be better being apart? I came to realise that I was wrong, so wrong; at the moment I have more friends who have no faith than do. I am immensely grateful for that.

Ok- a group of street thieves is subtly different to a group of middle aged, middle class British blokes but you get the picture.

Years ago I was part of a church where we used to get occasional visits from a Baptist Minister. I think he had had some kind of breakdown but now he was the licensee of a pub. He told of conversations that he had had with people in his former church:-

‘So you run a pub?’

‘Yes’

‘Does it sell alcohol?’

‘Yes: it’s a pub’

‘Do people drink in it?’

‘Yes, it’s a pub’

‘Do people sometimes get drunk?’

‘Yes, it’s a pub’

I think I am going to have a good time of getting to know people, eating together, walking, laughing and maybe the occasional small sherry, as befits a conscientious clergyman…