An Open Letter To My Christian Loved Ones As I Leave the Church

My departure from Christianity as an organized religion is starting to come out in trickles, so it feels like time for a broad “coming out,” as it were.

This is, at its core, a love letter. A letter full of love, written with loving intentions, and addressed to those I love and who love me. Here are a few things I wish for you all to know as I leave the church, and the answers to a few of the more common questions I have been asked.

I know you won’t fully understand why I’m leaving.

This is a hard one for me as well as for you. You may want a clear and complete list of reasons why I have chosen to depart the Christian church, and unfortunately that list isn’t forthcoming. This isn’t a stance of stubbornness or petty withholding – in a lot of ways, I’m still figuring out how to articulate my reasons. In addition, many of the reasons I do fully understand are deeply personal. So if I am unable or seem unwilling to discuss why I have rejected the church, please know that I recognize how difficult that will be for you.  Particularly because,

I know my decision to reject organized Christianity is frightening to many of you.

Many of my Christian friends find peace in the face of this sort of move, trusting that God will drag me back, or that His grace will cover me even if I never return. But many of you will fear that this choice represents an eventual end in eternal damnation. I know how scary that can be. I remember feeling that fear for other people in my life when I believed the same. I don’t have a good way to comfort you here, other than to say that I truly know how hard it can be to hear these things coming from someone you care about, and I sincerely hope your faith brings you peace.

Please don’t assume anything about my faith.

Just because I’m leaving the church does not automatically mean I have abandoned my faith. Please try to resist the assumption that I no longer have a relationship with God, or have tossed out everything I used to believe. My spiritual life is evolving, and if you have questions, I would so much rather you ask than wonder or assume.

Please know that I will write… a lot.

Like millions of others in the world, I process best by writing. Articulating my story and sharing it from the relative safety of a computer is deeply therapeutic for me, so be prepared to see that happen. I promise there are no hard feelings on my end if you choose to hide me from your Facebook timeline or otherwise unfollow me on social media. I’ll do what is healthy for me, and absolutely respect your right to do the same. That said…

Please do not mistake my posts as invitation to debate.

You have every bit as much right to your thoughts and beliefs as I have, but please don’t be offended if I don’t reply to comments or queries you make on my posts. Being ready to share my heart and being ready to engage in debate are two very different things. If you need to reply to something I post, I understand, but please know I will likely never respond publicly. If you feel like we need to talk, maybe we can set up a coffee date.

And again, if you can’t deal with reading my posts without striking up an argument, I will never be offended by your decision to unfollow me.

Please know this decision is absolutely not personal.

I don’t say “please don’t take this personally” because 1. you are free to interpret my actions how you want and need to, and 2. I know that for some of you, it will definitely feel personal. Faith is a deeply personal thing, and it may be easy to feel like my rejection of the church is a rejection of you. Please, please know that I don’t see it that way at all, and that it’s not my intention to reject any individual in my life by this decision.

Please know that I still desire to be in your life, and to have you in mine.

This one is tough, because already I have encountered people who feel like they cannot make space for me or engage with me because of my decision to leave the church. As you can imagine, this is a heartbreaking thing to face. The decision to leave Christianity was a very difficult and frightening one for me, and seeing people shut me out for doing what I believe is healthiest for me is like salt in a wound.

If we are friends, I care deeply about you, and want to continue a relationship with you. My heart and hope is that we can find a way to be in each others’ lives without venom. That said, however, there is one thing that might cause me to need to take a step back from you:

Please, please, please resist the urge to evangelize me.

Some of my loved ones have already shown me great grace and respect in this area, assuring me that they won’t try to convince me back to church. For this I’m incredibly grateful. Others, sadly, have flat-out dismissed my wishes in this regard, showing blatant disrespect for me as a person. I can’t continue to interact with people who hear me when I say “please stop trying to convert me” and refuse to stop.

Again, I acknowledge how painfully difficult this one may be, particularly for those of you who are fearful for my eternal soul. I’m so sorry. I have to maintain this strict boundary for my emotional and relational safety.

Please know, above all, that I love you.

I’m still me. My evolving faith has, with it, changed my politics, my philosophy of life, and my worldview, but I’m still Mandy. I’m still addicted to coffee, in helpless love with my baby girl, obsessed with yoga, and secretly want to be the Tinkerbell face character at Disney World. I’m still unrealistically patient, overly hardworking, and fiercely loyal. I still procrastinate tiny tasks for no reason, forget to return my library books on time, and lose track of the point when I get too deep into an argument. I still correct other peoples’ grammar, laugh too hard at terrible puns, and bite my nails.

And I still love you. If you’re in my life, you’re here for a reason. I hope I’m in yours for a reason. And I hope that this change doesn’t ever make me feel distant or unreachable.

Thanks for reading.

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