Christmas when you’ve lost faith
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Christmas when you’ve lost faith

I grew up in a Christian family.  I was born to a traditional Southern Baptist family, and attended church, Sunday school, and Vacation Bible school until I was 8 when my mother converted us to Catholicism.  At 9 I began attending Catholic school, going to Catechism classes and Vacation Bible school.  Steeped in the Catholic church and all of its traditions I was by all accounts and measures a complete Christian.

I have spent the last 22 years carrying on that tradition.  I have taught my children to know God and Jesus.  They have all been christened and the oldest two have gone through their first Penance and first Communion.  I have read the Bible to them.  I have taught them to pray.  I have taken them to church and signed them up for vacation Bible school.  My oldest daughter attended Catholic school for the first 6 years of her education and before I even considered homeschooling, I toured the local Catholic school for the Princess.

Christianity is what I have always known.

But about 3 years ago things changed.  Not in what I did with the kids, but inside of me.  I started to question my faith.  I think it started when the Husband went through a phase of telling me about all of these news stories about children being heinously abused, neglected, and killed.  I couldn’t reconcile these stories with the loving God I had grown to know.  “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them!  For theirs is the Kingdom of the Lord.”  Matthew 19:14.  How can God let such horrific things happen to small children?  This question haunted me, it still haunts me.

At this same time, I started seeing a lot of Christian friends and family using Facebook to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions.  Thoughts, feelings and opinions that were seemingly filled with hate- hate of people different from them- different color, religion, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation.  They were being very uncharitable, unforgiving, unkind, unloving… Un-Christian.  During this time of inner turmoil and struggle, this display of anti-Christian (or the ‘Christian’ as I had come to know it) weighed even heavier on me.  How can people claiming to represent Christianity have such utterly anti-Christian thoughts, feelings, and opinions?

I started reading a book, The Year of Living Biblically:  One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs.  This is a really great book about A. J. Jacobs’ journey to follow the Bible quite literally.  It is humorous and profound, spiritual and interesting.  I highly recommend the book.  What I took from the book, was how obvious it is that the Bible was written, translated, and interpreted by man, not through divine intervention.  And I think with this in mind, it becomes so clear how Christians, in particular, have really chosen to pick the part of the Bible that they want to follow and ignored the parts they didn’t.  Some of those choices have been more obscure parts like rules regarding hair style and dress; while other choices have been more dramatic.

What struck me with this was the fallibility in nearly every aspect.  All of the things that we believe about God and Jesus could be so very, very wrong because it was written wrong, translated wrong, interpreted wrong, or just not what we choose to read.

How can I continue to believe in a God that allows innocent creatures to suffer so horrifically, or follow a religion so filled with hypocrites spreading hate in the name of their God, or continue to put faith in a book and all that book means to faith when it is so clearly fallible?

And thus, here I am today…. a few days before a holiday meant to celebrate the birth of a Savior that I’m not sure I even believe in.  A holiday that at one time in my life was one of my absolute favorite holidays because of its religious component.  I guess it’s the mother in me, but my feelings are much like Ricky Bobby in the ridiculous prayer scene in Talladega Nights- my favorite Jesus is the tiny little baby Jesus.  The miracle of God becoming a tiny human.

But now I am where I am.  I still set out my nativity scenes.  I still remind the kiddos that Christmas is not about Santa or the presents or the candy canes or the cookies, it’s about the birth of our Savior.  I hope that they don’t see through me and know that these words I speak are just words, and not a deeper level of faith.  For them, I want to give the gift of faith until they are old enough to choose for themselves.

We will continue our faith-based traditions:  reading the Christmas story from the Bible in Luke 2: 1-20 on Christmas Eve and attending late night mass Christmas Eve.  I will continue to passionately sing Christmas songs like What Child is This? and Silent Night and Away in a Manger with all of the passion I have ever had.  I will cry every time I hear Pentatonix version of Mary Did You Know like every mother should, moved by the idea that a young girl named Mary became the mother of God, a future so unfathomable.

I don’t want to lose myself to the commercialism that has become modern Christmas.  I don’t want to forget the beauty and magic and peacefulness that is a true Christmas.  Even with a severely waning faith, Christmas will still hold the resplendency of religion.

  • Steven December 23, 2016 Reply

    You are not alone, the only exception has been that I went through this back in the late 80’s. Christmas to me has always been a tradition for and about children, friends, and family. Nothing more. I put out Christmas decorations every year, not for me, but for everyone else. I enjoy it even if it is freezing when I have to take them all down. I enjoy it the same way I enjoy decorating for Halloween.

  • Denise Woodham December 23, 2016 Reply

    Honest and real and I love it. Questioning is normal. I do it. We all do it. Keep questioning and searching. Religion will tell you you’re bad for questioning your faith. Jesus will tell you He understands. He never expects perfection or perfect faith. Keep searching and questioning. He will always be faithful and lead you right into Him.

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      Thank you. I had originally added a shout out to the women that have at the very least restored my faith in the true Christian, but it didn’t seem to fit in the piece. You are one of those women that continues to inspire me to continue seeking.

  • Jessica Love Jones December 23, 2016 Reply

    we need to get together!

  • Cindy Pike December 23, 2016 Reply

    I swear sometimes we are soul sisters. I could have written this myself…. except the catholicism stuff…

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      Sisters from another mister. 😂 But seriously, I think the struggle is real and constant and I know that questioning is normal, but sometimes we know it’s more than just questioning.

  • Jenn Van Sickle December 23, 2016 Reply

    I feel like I could have written this same blog. Right there with you boo. ❤

  • Clare Smith Hedemark December 23, 2016 Reply

    Christmas time has long been a celebration of the winter solstice. The church picked Christmas as Jesus’s birthday to help covert pagans. They were already celebrating this time of year so changing their celebration to His birthday was easy. We bring greenery inside and put up lights bc Dec 21 is the shortest, darkest day and the days start getting longer again. Interesting …

  • Clare Smith Hedemark December 23, 2016 Reply

    It is also not a coincidence that Jesus was brought back to life at the spring equinox; a great time of rebirth.

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      In early adulthood I went through a phase of questioning faith because of all of the pagan conversion changes- church on Sunday to convert the sun worshippers who practiced on Sundays, etc. But none of that lead me to lose faith in God and Jesus, just a more expanded understanding of the Church and the way we practice faith. But lately mine is a more of a loss of faith in God as a whole. With no faith in God and Jesus, it makes the holiday somehow less magical, less beautiful, less… Just less.

  • Clare Smith Hedemark December 23, 2016 Reply

    Yeah, you can still believe in God and have faith, while understanding that many of the pagan holidays were stolen by christians. Jesus can be real even if his exact birthday is debatable. It is just a pet peeve of mine when I hear christians preaching about the real meaning of Christmas being Jesus’s birthday bc the real meaning is pagan

  • Gina Lumsden Kropf December 23, 2016 Reply

    I have questions about the Bible , too. I would go talk with someone knowledgeable that you trust. ( your pastor?). It’s completely normal to question your faith. And the evil people are an easy one…. God gave us free will. Evil is alive and well here today. While he gave us feee will, he also commanded those who believe to go out and do his work. He works through us, so it’s our job to go out and do the work to make the world better. I read the book you mentioned a few years back. Pretty insightful! But he New Testament says that Jesus came so that we didn’t have to live by those laws of the Old Testament any longer. We are under the new law, the law of grace. My dad was a college professor and theologian, and always had doubts and questions. He was a liberal Christian, and I guess he raised one. I am constantly searching for answers. The bottom line for me though, is simply Jesus. Love and kindness.

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      I don’t think evil people *is* an easy one. He bids us to do his good works as the faithful, but what about the people who have never been given the opportunity to believe? And how do you look at a young woman that was sold as a sex slave at the age of 2 years by her family? I wouldn’t want to be on the end of the conversation that “God loves you. It was the evil choices of men that caused you years of torture.” How does a loving God create innocent children, and then allow them to be tortured? I get free will to choose to harm others men, but not small children.

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      And I get that Jesus told us that we no longer have to follow the Old Testament, but therein lies the problem because many, many, many Christians refer to the Old Testament laws to support their prejudices, biases, and judgement. So we go back to our “pick and choose” faith.

  • Gina Lumsden Kropf December 23, 2016 Reply

    it depends on what kind of Christian you are. A lot of us chose to “love like Jesus”. And I am a survivor of a pretty horrific past, and I have been able to use all of it to help others.

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      You are right in that. There are many beautiful Christians that have been able to use their pasts to be the best Christian. Not all are evangelical right wing Christian nuts. LOL. <3

  • Gina Lumsden Kropf December 23, 2016 Reply

    yep. And so much I can’t understand and never will on this side of heaven. I have worked with women with horrific stories. I am working with one now who was raped repeatedly throughout her childhood by her step brother. She moved away and hasn’t seen him in years, and her parents had the nerve to invite him to thanksgiving dinner without telling her. And they know the whole story. Families get in webs of denial and it gets really sick. These are the parents, the ones entrusted to care for you. Maybe it’s drugs. And the point you made about people never hearing of Jesus; thats what all of the missionaries are for. To spread the word. But so many reject him, thus the free will. I can’t explain Jesus to anyone, and don’t usually try to, but I have witnessed him first hand when I get quiet and listen, and see very clearly how he has worked in my life. ( when I let him. I have made some pretty stupid mistakes when I try to live in my own will. That’s when my selfishness and greed steps in.). Dang, woman. This is deep!

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      Sometimes we gotta get deep to get real. But we can love each other so much more for the depth. And laugh way harder when we’re not being deep. 😀

  • Amy Fuson Raburn December 23, 2016 Reply

    Great post 🙂 You should come hang out with us some time! Totally there with you. My husband had his PhD in theological ethics so this stuff comes up all the time. We totally know and the kids have certainly heard that Jesus wasn’t born in Dec.
    We like many things about the Catholic Church and may go to mass this weekend.
    We aren’t catholic or evangelical.
    We love our pagan tree 🙂
    We also follow Jesus’s teachings and don’t think the bible is infallible at all.
    The problem of suffering in the world is very real and hasn’t been dealt with well by the church at all.
    And of course we don’t try to convince anyone about anything. Really, if there is a God of the universe don’t you think he can speak for himself? 🙂
    Freedom rocks.
    It’s great to write posts about the reality of questioning. I wish everyone would be and have the space to be heathy enough to talk about this stuff. 👍🏻

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      It’s hard to be open about questioning. Specifically because of evangelical Christians. If you openly question they try to shove their beliefs down your throat to “explain” why you should believe but that never really answers any questions. First World churches are concerned about such petty things rather than focusing on real world suffering. We are trying to preach rather than teach. <3

  • Tammy Van Duyn December 23, 2016 Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. Where I am in my spiritual journey finds me so much drawn to the Jewish faith. It is much more similar to how I was raised.

  • Claire-Juliette Beale December 23, 2016 Reply

    Karmen, I can see a long discussion coming up. 🙂

  • Jessica Tinsley December 23, 2016 Reply

    Karmen, I love you dearly. This post breaks my heart because I see the pain you’re dealing with. I understand your heart and your mind and the struggle they are having. I have tears in my eyes as I type this because I’m putting myself in your place. I identify with your questioning and your compassion for others.

    At this point in my life, Ive been able to settle most of these issues in my heart. (I’ve separated religion from God and know that what people choose to do does not reflect on who God is.) But all of your questions are valid and difficult. I love you and will be praying that you are able to find peace.

  • Jessica Tinsley December 23, 2016 Reply

    Also, I really admire you for being willing to share this. In general, I admire your transparency and honesty and I’m so thankful for you.

    • admin December 23, 2016 Reply

      Awww. Thank you. Separating religion from God was a step I took early on. In particular when the Catholic church was going through some pretty hard core controversy over child molestation and rape charges. I knew then that faith wasn’t about the Church, but about the greater concept behind it. But now… how do you separate what people choose to do from a reflection on who God is? When something good happens we say “God is good!” We give Him credit for the good. But when something bad happens we are not allowed to blame God. No one says “God sucks.” Man is made in His reflection and so in some way we have to say that man’s choices are very much a reflection on God. And just like I said in my response to Gina- how do you look at a young woman sold as a sex slave at the age of 2 by her family, raped repeatedly for 15 years and then misfigured and say, “God loves you. He was there with you while that MAN made those choices.”? No. A loving God, a kind God, a God that loves us would not let that happen.

  • Jessica Tinsley December 23, 2016 Reply

    I have struggled with this too. I don’t have the answer. I just know God is real. And I try to relieve suffering whenever I can however I can.

  • Laura Simmons December 24, 2016 Reply

    I echo Jessica’s thoughts: I ache for you because the loss of faith is painlful and tragic, leaving a void that can’t really be filled with anything else. People often fill try to fill this void with money, alcohol, drugs, activity, etc, to no avail. I have seen that first hand. I agree that questioning and being mad at God as you struggle with your faith is perfectly okay and God/Jesus can handle that. I wish I could ease your pain on this and help you restore your faith, but as you pointed out, there are no easy answers. As Gina said, the new testament pretty much makes the old testament obsolete. And I struggle with the bible too for the reason that it was written, arranged, and edited by men and has gone through many translations. And people “translate” and interpret it still in their mistaken ways. Even in the bible horrible things happen and it’s not completely apparent that God judges those people. This last election cycle scared the heebie jeebies out of me with all the hate flung in the name of religion. I don’t have the answers, but I know that focusing on the positive, and on my blessings and doing my best to love my neighbor (everyone) is all I can do. This is not to ignore the tragedies, because I have a bleeding heart for all of it, but to do what I can and pray for others to do the same. I know that living without God would leave me constantly depressed. I hope that you can find your way back to believing in God, and I will keep you company on your journey (whether or not you reach the same conclusion.) Love you!

  • Dad December 30, 2016 Reply

    Nice, deep, and interesting. Love you admin.

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