Breaking the Rules

I’m sitting halfway out of an open window, bare feet double-dipped in sunlight, espresso and milk on the rocks in my favorite mug. It’s just what I needed after a week of sulking weather and self-doubt. It’s also the first time in awhile I’ve been able to sit and corral all the little thought-bytes sifting around my soul, and seeing the bigger picture of what I’ve been processing piecemeal lately is its own kind of sunlight therapy.

Here’s the thing—

If traditional, commonly-accepted Christian interpretations of the Bible are true, then I am a better parent than God is (even when I’m grumpy).
The “good news” is just one facet of the worst news imaginable.
Free will is a test designed to fail.
There is no such thing as unconditional love.
The end justifies pretty much any means.
Jesus was a terrible evangelist.
It really is all up to me.

I have done enough mucking around in my soul over the last decade to say this with absolute certainty: If traditional, commonly-accepted Christian interpretations of the Bible are true, then I want nothing to do with God.


My philosophy professor in college taught that we are only motivated by a desire for truth, and I want to argue with him as strongly now as I did at my desk nine years ago. The idea that a God whose master plan involves eternal torture for most of humankind might really be truth is the thought that sends my spirituality into hiding the most quickly. If it’s true, then I’m damned anyway because I cannot—and would not, even if I could—love the orchestrator of infinite cruelty.

The spin on all of this is that I have felt God. I’ve looked miracles full in the face. I know the thrill of a nudged heart, the mystery of peace replacing panic, and the deep-rooted sparkle of love breaking rules, and the rule it’s breaking down right now is that I have to choose between my own conscience and truth… or at least other people’s version of truth.

Here in the sunlight, this statement doesn’t seem to carry the weight of all its sleepless nights and shadowed days, but I’ll say it anyway: I believe in God. This belief isn’t a thing I can dismiss any more than I can will away cloudy Julys or untannable skin or a questioning mind, but I’ve come to recognize it requires sacrifice on my part. I have to give up the notion that any of the seven translations of Bibles on our bookshelf is a perfect, untouched directive straight from divine lips. I have to let go of the mental hierarchy we make of religious leaders/teachers/authors with us laypersons on the rung marked “Irrelevant.” I have to say goodbye to my reputation as a good Christian and welcome labels like “heretic,” “apostate,” and “disturber of the peace.”

In essence, I have to give up the three things much of Christianity is built on—Bible worship, traditional teachings, and the appearance of holiness. I would never have imagined sacrifice for the sake of my beliefs looking like this. (Avoiding miniskirts and cigarettes? Well duh. Martyrdom? Sure. But voluntarily free-falling off the edge of orthodoxy? Uh… no.) However, if my path lies somewhere outside of traditional, commonly-accepted Christian interpretations of the Bible,
and if Jesus was a glimpse of the true God,
and if the heart-nudges I’ve felt are merely previews,
and if unconditional love matters, wins, is
then I’m willing to give up everything I’ve ever stood for—and then some—to find out where this belief will take me.

If I’m not mistaken, this is what they call faith.


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  1. Amen. Excellent, excellent, Bethany. xoxo

  2. Love this more than I can say. 🙂 Thank you.

  3. I look forward to seeing where your path takes you, too. I bet it’s somewhere GOOD.

  4. You need to read this, it is interesting that you guys posted at the same time. http://erdman31.com/, read the Saved From Being Saved post.

  5. i wish everyone in the world could read your writing. i’ll do my darnedest to make sure everyone in MY world does.

    i must admit, i felt a little thrill that you linked to me. *and now commence the deep-rooted love sparkles*

  6. “deep-rooted sparkel of love breaking rules” -i love that.
    and the nudged heart? i’m with you there.
    the mystery of peace replacing panic is wonder-filled.

    that last paragraph/line: <3

  7. I commented yesterday, but it must have gotten eaten up…
    I don’t have anything to add except a hearty “AMEN!” This was EXCELLENT, Bethany. Simply excellent. xoxo

  8. A commenter over at my blog directed me here today. I love this. I’ve been coming to this place myself recently. Not really the idea, but instead the idea that it’s okay to have this idea and still call myself a Christian. A commenter at Rachel Held Evans’s blog said that she hoped that God wasn’t as big an a-hole as many Christians make him out to be, and I heavily agree with this sentiment. I think we want love to be way more complicated that it is.

  9. Free-fall – it feels that way, doesn’t it? Even now, when we’re still church-less (though not Church-less) and God feels very far away and it all feels like my own fault – there are things I believe and things I absolutely can not believe. Sometimes I think what we’ve got here on Earth is just a shabby imitation of what Can Be – that’s why Jesus was always going on about the Kingdom, the shining perfect castle on the mountain, if you will, that we try so hard to fix, here. But He said it was already here. It is “at Hand” – so we must excavate and believe and trust and know that a divine love is at work. I love you and know that love comes from God – and just know that you’re not alone, my sweet apostate!

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