Breaking up With God

Posted on October 28, 2011


Sarah Sentilles finally admitted to herself and to the church in which she intended to become an ordained clergy person that it just wasn’t working-out between her and God.  God isn’t what he had seemed.   She didn’t really like most of his friends.   He didn’t return calls.  Sometimes he seemed cruel.  He just wasn’t the lover she’d fallen for in her youth.  So it was over.  No ministry.  No Church.  Oh, she’d still see him around, mostly at holidays, but she wouldn’t acknowledge his presence.

In her 2011 book she is “Breaking Up With God.”

I’m not breaking up with God.  We’re still cool for the most part.  But today my son came home with a fantastic weekend assignment that reminded me of Sentille’s book.  My son’s Language Arts assignment is to write either a eulogy for dead words or a break-up letter for “dumped” words.   The words that are just no longer “working out”?

  • awesome
  • so
  • stuff
  • good
  • cool
  • like

My son writes a letter breaking-up with “awesome”.  He has now taken an interest in “incredible”.  “We’ve shared some important experiences,” he writes, “but I need to grow. ”

Words such as “awesome” and “good” and “like” are overused these days.  They stunt a budding vocabulary.  The same way I believe young language artists benefit by painting less with primary colors and more by exploring the spectrum, so I think we who write and speak of religion could use a similar exercise.  What words might we allow to die?  What might a eulogy for “pray” look like?

When I didn’t have any way of describing my special way of communicating with God, Pray was always there waiting.  When people were gathered together at the supper table but somehow it seemed wrong to just indulge, Pray said “Okay, now let’s eat.”  I’m sad when I think of living without Pray.  How will we tell people in worship or an auditorium to “Be quiet” without saying “Let’s pray”?  What word will we use to describe our special quiet time so people won’t think we are sleeping, or worse, Buddhist?  We’ll feel lost for a while.  But even without naming her, I’ll see Pray everywhere–in the autumn leaves, in a beautiful sunset, in morning dew.  This is not the end, but a new beginning.

My list of overused religious words?

  • Saved
  • Holy
  • Blood of Jesus
  • Thank you, Jesus
  • Jesus Christ
  • Hope
  • Grace
  • Abundance
  • Sin
  • God

So here’s my letter dumping “God”.

Let’s face it, we’ve both changed.  I know you don’t think you have, but let’s be honest.  First it was G-d, remember?  I couldn’t even use your whole name.  Then people were saying “Know the Lord! Know the Lord!” and I couldn’t figure out if they were talking about you or Jesus.  You seemed to be okay with that confusion.  Then Nazi soldiers stamped “Gott mit uns” on the belts they wore while they exterminated the people who called you “YHWH”, a name the Jews thought you appreciated.  Didn’t you like “YHWH”?  Were you really okay with the name “Gott” being used as if you really were with–“mit”–these fascists?  But you didn’t speak up.   Now these guys driving convertible Bentleys living in multi-million dollar homes are preaching about how God blesses Americans with prosperity.  Frankly, I’ve been embarrassed to be seen in public with you, God.  I don’t know who you are anymore.

I have changed too.  I used to happily sing love songs to you.  Now I sing love songs to everything.  In your churches they lead me to believe that I’m being somehow unfaithful when I ask to sing love songs in the sanctuary.  I wanted to sing “Magic Carpet Ride”, but they said “No, that’s disrespectful to God.”  I wanted to sing “Party in the USA” because I liked the idea of feeling at home in a city where I often feel alone.  They all said “God only likes songs by Chris Tomlin and Fanny Crosby”.  I always wanted to think you were bigger than that.  It’s more than my taste in music that has changed.  I want a grown-up relationship, not something that reminds me of Junior High where we had to rely on a dysfunctional triangle to learn who loves whom.  I can do without all that priestly interference but I’m not sure you can too.

So I think we both need to look at other options.  Maybe you can spend some time with people who don’t have all of that baggage about “God,” but they are harder and harder to find, I know.  I don’t need to find someone to replace you, I just need a little distance from all of your baggage.  I want to start fresh.  But you’ll always have a special place in my memory.

If this little exercise didn’t make you too uncomfortable, perhaps you might enjoy songs from a new favorite folk singer Susan Werner.  Songs from her “The Gospel Truth” album offer religion with a “broader footprint”.  Here is a bit of an overview:

Posted in: Changing Church