Archive for the ‘my personal journey’ Category

A few readers asked me to repost this one.

stuff that matters

Find part 1 HERE;  Find prequel HERE (in which I come clean about my faith)

Church1Part 2 of 3

I just finished reading UnChristian, by David Kinnaman, president of the Barna group, a Christian research organization that set out to explore Christianity’s reputation today, especially among people between the ages of 16 and 29.   Every conservative Christian should be required by law to read this book. 

What would you guess are the first things that pop into people’s heads when asked their perception of present-day Christianity?  Think about that for a moment, then let me ask you this as well:  What are the first words that occur to you when you think of Jesus? Don’t read on until you’ve answered that question!

For me, I think “love,” “radical,” “grace,” “counter-culture,” “compassion,” “truth.”  Wouldn’t it be cool if those were the first thoughts people had when they thought about…

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NOTE:  This is a re-write…an update…to an article I wrote a year and a half ago.   – Mike Nash

leapoffaith-2I’m not sure what to do about God.

It was really hard to write about this when I first put it out there.  At the time I felt that it would be easier to admit that I’m an alcoholic, or that I like to wear women’s shoes. (I’m not and I don’t.) I live in a small town full of Christians, and I was part of the broader Christian world for 30 years. I spent a total of 20 years as a leader in Christian ministries. I was involved in worship and preaching at every church I’ve gone to. I taught a weekly Bible study in my home. And now I find myself not sure what I believe anymore.

Why is this hard for me to be honest about?  Why did it scare the hell out of me to admit this?  I’ll admit that I have a fear of rejection. Religious people tend to have a hard time with people who no longer believe they same way they do.  And since I first wrote about this, I’ve experienced some rejection.  It’s been difficult.  But, surprisingly, it’s also helped me to really figure out who I am and what I do and don’t believe anymore.

I met with a friend for coffee last year. I’d known her for over 25 years. I was looking forward to catching up, talking about our lives, our families, our worlds. Instead she shared with me how much I’d hurt her, how betrayed she felt, because of something I’d written questioning the Bible’s take on human origins. At one point I said something like, “can’t we disagree on some of our beliefs, and still be friends?” Sadly, her answer wasn’t yes. This stings, every time I remember it.

Another old friend recently told me through email that I’ve changed “and not in a good way.” When I asked her what she meant by that, she said that I don’t believe the same things I did when she first met me, and that she can’t accept that.

In contrast, however – just tonight I had a couple beers with another old friend – I guy I’ve known since we were both 19 years old and with whom I did ministry for a decade.  I told him my “story,” where I am spiritually, where my journey has taken me, and he was full of understanding and empathy – and he shared some of his own very real struggles and questions.  It was a healing time, and it’s what has prompted me to revisit this article.

I live in a small town. I’ve got some really good friends here, including people who are still involved in the town church, where I no longer show up on Sunday mornings. Most of them have been full of grace and understanding – I don’t feel like a bad guy when I’m around them. There are others, however, who don’t know what to say to me, now that I’m no longer part of the club. At one point an out-of-State friend warned me that I might be going to hell. (I think it was these recent conversations that have prompted this semi-public confession.)

I didn’t do this on purpose. At least for me, belief is something you have or you don’t. I can’t just believe because I want to. I’ve experienced that kind of intellectual dishonesty. I can’t do it anymore.

Brief history: I was not raised in a religious home. Between the drinking and the fighting and the divorcing, my parents never seemed to have the time to develop that part of their lives. When I was 14 I decided to “ask Jesus into my heart,” due to the loving influence of a group of new friends at school. It probably saved my life.  From there I got involved in Christian camps, briefly attended a Christian college, led Christians programs, married a wonderful Christian woman, became a leader in the Christian church. But 17 years or so ago things started falling apart in little ways…just minor fissures at first. Just a few small chunks would fall from the wall every so often, then a little more and a little more. Then finally, a few years ago, big sections of the wall crashed down.


The science problem
The first small crack for me was a little thing called “science.” I’m not a scientist, and I’m not a genius, but I do believe in science, and reading about science has sort of become a hobby of mine. And you know what? Evolution really is a thing. The evidence for it is overwhelming. It’s “only a theory” in the way that Einstein’s theory of relativity is “only a theory.” And frankly I’m embarrassed by the conservative church’s war on science, whether it be climate change, psychology, biology or whatever. I was at the Smithsonian last year, blown away by the history of life on display in the fossil cases, and I overheard a home school dad explain to his two little boys, “Now remember, you guys. Satan buried all these fossils in order to convince people that there is no God, right?”

Talking snakes, the sun standing still for a day, a 6,000 year old earth, dinosaurs on the ark – I couldn’t keep it up any longer. I had to finally be honest with myself. Either evolution is true, or Genesis is true. Not both. And I had to consider the fact that one of those two theories has an avalanche of evidence going for it, while the other is based on a book and a strong desire to believe.

The Bible problem
A few years ago I was studying apologetics and Biblical criticism, and I discovered that the word that Matthew translates as “virgin” in the birth story actually means “young woman.” It’s the same word that’s used for the women in Solomon’s harem (and I think we can safely assume they weren’t virgins). Turns out there were about two dozen “virgin births” and savior myths during the time period in which Jesus appears on the scene. It’s widely believed that Matthew added the virgin birth miracle (along with several others details of Jesus’s life) to make the whole narrative more closely match up with Old Testament prophecy. Which finally explains why the apostle Paul, the primary writer of the New Testament, never got the virgin birth memo. Not once does he refer to it in his letters. In fact, in one letter (Galatians) he traces Jesus’s lineage through Joseph, apparently assuming that Joseph was Jesus’s actual father. Two of the four gospel writers don’t seem to know about this part of the story, either.

true-ish-logoWhy am I writing about the Bible? Because this was one of the bigger cracks in my strong wall of faith. I kept discovering that I couldn’t trust it. But I have to admit – I was terrified. What if these truths I’ve based my entire adult life on turn out to be only true-ish? What would happen to my faith? Would I have to start over? What would my friends say? What would my wife say? Would I end up alone, sent to live “outside the city walls” where the Old Testament heretics were sent?

And, speaking of the Bible, I soon ran into my next stumbling block – I started questioning whether or not the Bible’s morality was better than modern morality. Is it safe to set my compass on a bronze-age morality in which God required his followers to smash the heads of babies, “godly” men served up their daughters to be raped by lustful hordes, and homosexuals and people accused of witchcraft were executed? It’s in the modern era – not the ancient eras – in which we begin to deal with issues of genocide, equality and human rights, human trafficking, racism, slavery and child abuse, to name just a few. These aren’t issues that the God of the Old Testament seemed to be concerned about. The human race has developed and improved through “ages of enlightenment.”

Jesus rocks

An important note here. I really like Jesus. I mean, really. I’m not thrilled with the ways he’s often portrayed by conservative Christians. But him, he’s way cool. And he actually did speak to a morality that’s universal, radical, and more morale than any societal moral code. blog-jesus-rocks-vanLove everyone, even the people you don’t like. Do good to those who do you wrong. Take care of the poor. Don’t be an asshole. Be gentle and humble and kind. Don’t be judgmental or hypocritical. Be suspicious of people who love money – and don’t love it yourself. This is great stuff. I’ve often wished that being a Christian was less about having the correct theology and more about emulating Jesus.


I’m not an atheist…
Many years ago I took on the task of cleaning up our “office,” which was a room in our home that had for eight years been the dump, the storage, the “I’ll sort through this later” room. It looked like an episode of Hoarders. I spent the first hour or so trying to rearrange things in there, but I got frustrated and overwhelmed and made no progress whatsoever. Finally I decided that the only thing that was going to work was for me to take every single thing out of that room, and then decide, one at a time, which things were going to go back. That’s a little bit like what’s happened to my faith. I just can’t sort things out within the jumble of my own theology, experiences, traditions, expectations and beliefs. I’m definitely open to where this all ends up…but I have to start over.


R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”

I’m hoping that the people who have known me for a while will remember a few things about me. One – that I’ve always been passionate about what I believe. I don’t take matters of faith lightly. Two – that I didn’t do this on purpose. I think that faith holds us at least as much as we hold faith. And three – that this isn’t about you. I’m not rejecting you, I’m not insulting you, I’m not angry at you. I care about you.Here are a few things I’m pretty sure about.

no-8-jesushate-2-2I’m pretty sure that when I “land” on a belief system, the god I hold close to my heart won’t be the exact same god that you hold close to yours. And that it won’t hate gay people – or any people, for that matter. And that she won’t create hurricanes and earthquakes as punishments for “Godless America.” And that it won’t be a magic genie or a controlling puppeteer. And he probably won’t be Republican. What I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with, actually, is a God who is in large part mystery. In fact, it’s the people who claim to have god all figured out who most worry me.

So…where do I stand today? Let me say it right here – clearly and succinctly. I’m not an atheist. That would take a lot of faith and certainty, and certainty seems to be the thing I just can’t hold to any more. Do I think it’s plausible that a higher power isn’t somehow involved in all of the amazingness around us? No, I don’t. But who, how, and in what way? I just don’t know what the hell is true. But I know that I’m open. If science has taught me anything, it’s that there is much, much more to this world than what we can see and understand.

Here’s where I guess I’m at, at least for now. I’ve been seeking God for over 30 years. I need God to seek me now.

Check out the follow up articles:
Part 1 (true? Truth? not true? just true-ish?) CLICK HERE

be better than good

Posted: September 20, 2013 in my personal journey, other stuff



Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.


images-183I think I might have lost an old friend this week. We’ve known each other for 25 years. This sucks. And it isn’t the first time this has happened to me in the past couple years.

My buddy’s main complaint, boiled down…I’ve changed.

And I have. He’s correct. The biggest change, of course, and the one that is the most troubling for him, is that I no longer identify myself as a Christian. He, on the other hand, proudly states that he believes the same things today that he believed when he was 21.

Yes, I have changed. A lot, in fact. Including my religious beliefs. And I can understand why this is difficult for many of my old friends. I wasn’t just a back-pew-at-church once-a-week-on-Sunday Christian. I directed Christian ministries, which is where I originally met many, if not most, of my old friends. I led worship. I was an interim pastor at my local church. I taught a thriving Bible study in my home for four years. I counseled people from a Biblical perspective. I prayed with people. God/Jesus was the center of my life, which is still true for these old friends. So I get it. I know how exclusive and all-encompassing the Christian faith is, at least for evangelicals. It’s the defining factor in their lives, like it was for me, and because of this you are either in their club or you’re not. And although these folks have no problem reaching out to non-believers (this is not a group of people who behave like judgmental assholes toward non-Christians), they do find it difficult to be close to people – even long-term good friends – who no longer share these same core beliefs and motivations.

And I have to be honest about this. I’m finding it harder to be their friend, too, but for a very different reason. This buddy of Broken_church_in_the_jungle_by_Linolafettmine mentioned to me this past week that “Satan is deceiving me.” He also made a comment about my “shaky morals,” which I truly don’t get. (I consider myself more morale now than I ever have before.) It’s hard to feel close to people who think these things about me. Does that make sense? I accept this guy…I love him as a brother. We’ve walked with one another through difficult life events and have shared honestly and openly about our deepest struggles and greatest victories. Because of this long-term commitment to one another and the respect and love I have for him, I can handle the fact that we think about things differently. In fact, differences don’t scare me anymore. I celebrate them. I can disagree with someone about things – even important things – and remain committed as a friend. But I have to admit: it’s truly hard to be close to someone who thinks you’re going to hell and who considers you immoral.

Yes, I have changed. This is true. I’m on a great adventure of change, in fact. I have walked away from a faith that was really good for me for many years but that I probably should have walked away from ten years before I finally got up the nerve to do so. And there have been other changes, as well. I like myself better. I’m both more confident as a person AND more gentle with, tolerant of and understanding toward others. I listen better. I’ve become quite a bit more liberal and even progressive in my politics and beliefs. I like rap.

Where I haven’t changed: I’m still committed to social justice and doing whatever I can to help unfuck up the world. In fact, I’m probably more committed to that than I was before. I still love my wife, am faithful to her and plan on being with her for at least another 26 years. I love my four kids and would do anything for them. I consider myself a faithful friend, although not a perfect friend. I still make people laugh. I talk too much. I take risks. I’m not afraid to “come out” about who I am and what I think, and I know I can offend others, which is something I’m still trying to self-monitor. And I still get hurt and feel lonely when people who have been important to me find themselves unable to remain close, and I still feel badly when I’m judgmental and intolerant toward them.

images-184Where I might still change: Who knows? Faith may grow or shrink, ideas may change, opinions may modify. It’s an adventure.

One last thought: I have some really great friends. I am accepted and loved for exactly who I am by some old friends who are still “in” the evangelical world and by old friends who are no longer or never were in that world. I also have some awesome new friends. I am a lucky man.


PS. Click HERE for my “In which I come clean about my faith” story from last year.

UPDATE: The awesome Facebook page and blog “Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented” reposted this story this afternoon, and I received many touching comments. One of them, by Emmett, was a great reminder for me. He said:

I wouldn’t fall too harshly on the Christian friend mentioned in this story. I mean, friendships can fade; people who became very close over something that was the most important thing in the world to both of them can find it difficult to reconcile the loss of that thing. Speaking as someone who is non-religious, it’s easy to say, “(The friend) is not a Christian, then.” But I imagine it must be difficult for him as well. He likely feels like he’s losing a friend as well.

What a great comment. Thanks, Emmett. It renewed my empathy and understanding for this old friend. I will continue to reach out, yet will learn to be satisfied with whatever depth of friendship we end up with.