Our Father Who Art Not in Heaven

I always had difficulty with the traditional “God the Father” aspect of Protestant Christianity. When I was in university, I was a part of a street evangelism group that did a sort of choreography to music as a way to engage people in conversations (read: trick them into stopping long enough to harass them). I always had A LOT of trouble with the actual evangelism part – as in I never actually did it, I just loved the performances. But more on that in a later post. One aspect of the group was that it was made up primarily of very outgoing, very charismatic christians. Think speaking in tongues, demolishing demonic strongholds, all sorts of crazy shit done “in the spirit.” It is incredibly popular among this type of christian to view god as “Daddy.” Yes, many of them actually use this terminology and it just didn’t click with me.

You see, my parents got divorced when I was in the 9th grade. My dad moved out and I lived with my mom. Interestingly enough, it was only after this that I began to form a meaningful relationship with my dad. However, at this point, it was more a friendship and less father-son. I’ll back up to give some context. I am the middle son of 5 boys. As a young child, my oldest brother was “perfect” and my other brother was “trouble.” Between those two extremes left me ignored. That came naturally because I am and always have been pretty introverted and independent. By the time things seemed to mellow with my older brothers, we adopted my younger two brothers, a few years apart, who both turned out to have autism. Because of their special needs, I was yet again left on my own, as all the attention had to go to them – rightfully so.

I do want to stress one point: this never really bothered me. As I said, I was pretty independent already. I never felt slighted or neglected, just forgotten, left to my own devices. By the time that my dad and I had formed a relationship, the opportunity for typical father-son bonding had long past. He never really “fathered” me in the traditional sense. Thus, when I was pushed by my christian friends to identify with god as “my heavenly father” I drew a blank. I just didn’t understand how to do that, as I never really had that experience.

I think the danger here, as it pertains to my christian life and my eventual deconversion, is that I was used to being forgotten by a father. When it was all too obvious that god wasn’t answering me, it easy to just shrug it off. After all, that was typical of fathers, right? A situation, which to most christians would be a matter of much agonizing, just felt normal to me. Not feeling god, not having a relationship with him, didn’t raise any concerns.

When I finally deconverted, I began to see god more like a father than I ever had before. Not a loving father or even a father who couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to me, but rather an absentee father. One who wasn’t ever there, whether I needed him or not. While I am quite content in my knowledge that he doesn’t exist, my relationship with “god” still feels like that. It reminds me of watching the show Modern Family. Manny, a young Colombian boy, is constantly promised all of these amazing things from his dead-beat dad. Trips to Disneyland, extravagant gifts, visits, etc. Inevitably, Manny is let down, but never loses faith in his father or stops seeing him as super human. Others must then pick up the slack.

That is exactly how I feel. I lived my whole life believing all of these promises from god. All of these amazing things would happen if I just had faith. If I just prayed and read the Bible and sought god, he would show up and it would be amazing. Like Manny, I was constantly let down, but always made excuses for god. Eventually, when I needed him most, at my darkest and most vulnerable – and sincere – point, he failed to show. It was that experience that allowed me to simply throw it all away. There were no more excuses I could make for him. There was nothing I could do to explain why he just kept refusing to show up. No more could I keep attributing things to him that had absolutely nothing to do with him at all!

The only thing that was left for me to do was forget him completely. Like an absentee father, I needed to stop obsessing about him and just go on living my life. I just needed to pretend he didn’t exist. Either way, it wasn’t doing me any good. If he existed and simply didn’t care enough to come around or answer my calls, he didn’t deserve a place in my life. If he didn’t exist, I could save myself all of the trouble and just drop the whole charade. Sure enough, as soon as I did, it became glaringly evident that he really didn’t.

It saddens me to know that so many christians buy into this lie that god is their perfect father. It cheapens the relationship that individual has with their actual father. Likewise, people whose fathers were absent, or worse yet, mean or abusive, are lured in by a promise of a surrogate. Sadly, they don’t realize god is no more useful to them than their own father.

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