Hey Ho, Hey Ho, the Pagan’s Life for Me

A couple of months ago, I was having lunch with a friend of mine and I was sharing with her how some of my other friends and acquaintances had been responding to the fact that I was no longer attending church.  Now, she’s a believer and knows I’m not attending church and she completely understands why, but she isn’t aware that I’m no longer a Christian.   She said it was hard for her to believe that people would be so intrusive and that maybe I was just a tad paranoid.  I laughed and said, “Maybe I am.”  It bothered me a little that she thought that, but it did sound a little unbelievable and I appreciated her honesty.  Just about that time, a familiar face walked up to our table.  “Oh god,” I thought. The uninvited visitor was a guy who attends the church I had attended before I gave up the faith. He is involved in the leadership there.  We knew each other fairly well, but we weren’t buddies or anything.

“Hey how have you been?  Are you still attending unnamed church?”  Let me just mention here that he was fully aware that I was no longer going to there.

I looked up at him and smiled.  “I’m great John, and no, I’m not.”  I wanted to say, and you know it, but I refrained.

He went on to inquire about how long it had been and I told him a few months (he knew that too).

When he had walked up, it had to have been obvious that my friend and I were having a private conversation, but that didn’t seem to matter to him.  I turned back to my friend to continue talking.

“So where are you attending now?” (Sheesh, are you still here?)

I stopped, and turned to look at him.  I tried to appear surprised that he was still standing there.  “Actually nowhere at the moment,” I answered and then I just stared at him-waiting for what I knew would be the next question. 

“Do you mind if I ask you if you are looking for a church?”

I was feeling a bit braver now and responded with,  “Actually, I do mind.”

He must have assumed what my answer would have been because, he didn’t even miss a beat.  It was almost as if he hadn’t heard what I said, and smiling, he responded with, “Oh, living the life of a pagan, eh?”   

It was all too easy, “living it and loving it,” I answered. 

He seemed a bit taken aback at first, but knowing my dry sense of humor and thinking I was kidding I guess, his smile returned and he said, “Well, thankfully under grace, we can all do that for a time.

I was done.  I told him to say hi to his wife for me and I turned again to my friend, whose mouth was agape by this time.  I smirked at her and he tottered off. 

I let a sigh of relief escape my lips and I just looked at her.  She apologized for doubting me earlier and could not believe that he had been so rude to interrupt us and grill me like that.  Especially sense it was obvious I was not interested in having a discussion with him.  I felt exonerated.  She was pissed.  His living under grace “for a time,” comment had not escaped her and she did not like it at all.  I was encouraged by that.

Even though my friend is unaware at this point of my de-conversion, the way she has seen Christians treat me these days, has had a big impact on her.  From my sister to other friends, she has seen the toll their treatment it has taken on me.  She made the comment the other day, “Boy Christians sure do shoot their wounded, don’t they?” I remember thinking, yes, yes they do.  I think when I tell her about my unbelief, the last thing she will be is shocked.

Next up:  emails full of love                

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. samanthamj
    Jan 04, 2008 @ 11:37:41

    Hey there… been a while since I’ve been here… and enjoyed reading how you are doing. I’m glad you have at least this one friend that seems to see what is happening here. I think you handled the situation well.. and yes, it sounds like that guy had his “plan of attack” all set in his mind and was probably all proud of himself to putting you on the spot. He probably figures he will get another jewel in his crown in heaven someday now for doing that.

    I was much younger, only 17, when I stood up to my mother and stopped going to church. I never did officially claim I didn’t believe or anything – but, that didn’t matter to her or any of the church folks who were shocked when I stopped going.

    Of course, I was only 17… and I had plenty of “heathen” friends as well as my church friends. Still… it really bothered me for a while – and I knew they were all imagining the worst. I figured my mother had painted a sad picture to them, making it sound like my atheist father had managed to get some kind of demonic grip on me… and that I had taken a plunge into the world of satan, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

    I remember jokingly telling my friends then that I should put on a black leather studded outfit… 6 inch heels… satanic star on my shirt… tons of makeup… frizz my hair out and go slouching into church with a joint in one hand, and a bottle of tequilla in the other – swearing and sputtering demonic phrases. Maybe with a KISS song blaring from a boom-box. LOL I figured that was how they probably all envisioned me… and thought I should freak them out. LOL

    I was joking… and of course, I didn’t do it. In reality, it really hurt my feelings that these people who once thought I was SO great, (including my own mother), suddenly could turn on me and think so horrible things about me. When really, I hadn’t changed much from the weeks before when I was at church 3 times a week… it was just that I was now being honest about my doubts and lack of faith, which I had been hiding for years BEACAUSE of fear of my mothers (and others) reaction. Pretty sad.

    Anyway – I lost touch with any extreme “Christian friends” I had back then. However, years later, most of my friends are at least a little religous, and a few have become VERY religious recently. The ones that are suddenly very born-again, are finding themselves torn between their new beliefs, and wanting me to “believe” like them, and knowing that I don’t, and won’t (because they DO know my history). I don’t think they know quite what to do with me.. they can’t hate me… don’t want to lose me as a friend.. but, are being taught I’m going to hell and am all wrong. *sigh* At least they haven’t completely abandoned our friendships.

    True friends don’t judge you on what church you do, or do not, go to.

    Take care =)
    ~smj

    Reply

  2. OneSmallStep
    Jan 04, 2008 @ 14:38:26

    Hmm. Would it be appropriate if I said that the timing of his approach seemed like it had a Divine Hand involved? 😉

    If anyone were ever attracted to this type of Christianity, I think this behaviour would send them in the other direction. Given where you are now, I don’t see you ever behaving in this fashion. You have more respect than that. And yet you are the “lost” here, and he is “obviously saved.”

    But your behavior is much more Christian-like than his. It kind of goes against the belief that everyone “needs” God to behave in a good fashion.

    Reply

  3. notabarbie
    Jan 04, 2008 @ 23:13:23

    Samanthamj-Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You really had me laughing at your idea of showing up to church in your sinner garb…could you imagine the looks on their faces? One thing you said that resonated with me was your comment about how you used to be considered so great, but now horrible things were said about you, when in actuality you were still the same person. I used to be the kind of person that people, especially women would come to for advice and when I gave it, they would take it. A friend once said that if I didn’t show up to a social event it was like going to a Rolling Stones concert without Mick Jagger being there…now, I’m avoided, considered in sin and pitied. All that because I don’t go to church anymore…it’s sad. We are the same people, just without the dogma. It’s too bad believers can’t see past that. Have a great day!

    Reply

  4. notabarbie
    Jan 04, 2008 @ 23:23:20

    One Small Step-
    Yes, a Divine Hand…that’s what he probably would say and be all proud and what-not. It’s a God thing don’t ya’ know? At least he didn’t quote scripture to me as others have. Sheesh! Thankfully they came in the form of emails so I could take several deep breaths to prevent popping a vein.:-) Thanks for your comments and encouragement. I love your blog by the way.

    Reply

  5. jim
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 02:47:43

    My wife works at a bank and a woman from the church we used to be very involved in (back when we went to church) confronted her in a similar kind of way right there at her work station… yeeech! Obviously, it is a very public place, not to mention her place of work, and it was extremely awkward for her, frankly making her very made. My wife is the type to smile through it and tactfully defer. Afterward, she looked at her co-worker in the next wicket (male non-christian) who had heard everything of course and said something like “how do you tell someone like that you don’t go to church anymore?” He said something like, “you tell her its none of her business.”

    These kinds of things have been happening to us from time to time and I’ve realized something. Even though I would not and did not behave that way (at least to that extreme) as a former evangelical christian, to most people outside the church I was guilty of that behavior by association. And because I had such a high profile christian leadership role in the community it is sicking to me and it will take some time for it to wear off. That bothers me a lot. I do not want that label anymore but because of the incredible web of relationships we have it is hard to negotiate the change gracefully and lovingly.

    Relating!
    Jim

    Reply

  6. notabarbie
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 04:01:55

    Hey Jim,
    Only those of us who have been there can truly relate. It does seem to be more difficult for those of us who have been involved in leadership for obvious reasons. I have friends who walked away and it isn’t such a bit deal. When I was an evangelical I was a pretty hard core fundamentalist so I have many regrets, but I just try do the best I can to act differently now. That’s all one can do right? Thanks for reading and your comment.
    Barb

    Reply

  7. Marge
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 01:01:57

    Under grace we can do that for a time….?! How come no one ever told me that? Ok, pretty sure there is no scriptural basis for that one – not that it would matter if there was.

    I read your experiences and it takes me back to the years that I felt betrayed and then angry. Church members were like family and supposed to care about me but then, nearly overnight I was an outcast and my parents were shamed. WTF?

    After a while I reached a new stage emotionally. I began to understand that I get to choose my relationships in life. I still love my family and my love is unconditional but I have my limits. My parents know we don’t agree but chose not to ask for the finer details, my brother totally gets it and we agree to disagree, my sister? she’s in total denial and probably always will be. sigh.

    Very quickly I began to see my deconversion as a test of every friendship I had. Some turned away immediately, others tried first to reason with me then fled, the ones who stayed and said “I accept you whether we agree or not” – those were my real friends and are to this day.

    Reply

  8. notabarbie
    Feb 18, 2008 @ 00:43:30

    “Very quickly I began to see my deconversion as a test of every friendship I had. Some turned away immediately, others tried first to reason with me then fled, the ones who stayed and said “I accept you whether we agree or not” – those were my real friends and are to this day.”

    Marge, I’ll tell you what, if anything, this journey has revealed who my true friends are and actually who my true family is. It has been excruciating and wonderful all at the same time. From reading your stuff, I know you completely understand this.

    Thanks for reading and for your great comment.

    Reply

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