On February 1, 2018, I woke up realizing that I need to renounce my affiliation with the Christian church and restructure my relationship with Jesus. Jesus is now my friend and guide, rather than Lord and Savior.
I don’t think he is the only way–but I believe that Jesus has been helping me find my way and has been protecting me my entire life–so I’m sticking with him!
Are you shocked? Well, I was! I have had a handful of revelations in my life where my whole life turned upside down. They include:
- Leaving the Methodist church at age 16
- Becoming a vegetarian at age 17
- Deciding to drop out of college and travel at age 19
- Knowing that the only way I would be happy was to serve in ways that brought me joy.
- Realizing that I wanted to live in intentional community at age 21
- Feeling guided to develop my singing voice and a create a career in singing at age 28
- Becoming vegan at age 59
- Becoming an animal rights activist at age 61
As I write these revelations, I notice that one is noticeably missing. My decision to commit my life to Jesus at age 47. I’m not sure that was a revelation. I think it was a desperate need to belong to a group where I thought I could finally find the loving community I had been seeking my entire adult life.
So giving my life to Jesus was not so much a revelation as it was something that I researched thoroughly and thought there was enough proof that this path of Christianity made sense.
I am glad I have been on this path. I found more peace than I ever found before in my life. I found structure and fellowship that I never had before. I have made friends.
My kids had an awesome time growing up with wholesome kids who were homeschooled, creative, and fun-loving. My two former husbands and I found a neighborhood where we l could set down roots. We were able to buy land together, and that land is now the site of the future Jesus Vegans Ecovillage.
I love my Christian friends and family. I hope that they can accept me for who I am, and not try to change me to be who they want me to be. So far, my family has accepted me. I haven’t gone public with my Christian friends so I actually look forward to learning to listen and share with them in a loving way.
Learning to let go of needing to please people has been an ongoing process for me for my entire life. The need to belong is one of our greatest survival needs, so that is one of the reasons I think it has been a constant battle for me to stay true to my values and dreams.
I also have a huge need for authenticity and integrity, thus this tension between me wanting to belong and me wanting to be in integrity has brought me so much pain.
So why am I making this decision 17 years after becoming a Christian?
- Even after extensively studying Christian apologetics so I could have a logical explanation for my faith, I realize that these teachers do have a bias in favor translating the Bible to mean that Jesus is God and that he is the only way. I thought I was reading facts, but really it was interpretation.
- I realized that no matter what I do, some Christians are not going to agree with my beliefs, and I am so tired of being judged, criticized and excluded from especially the more fundamentalist, evangelical Christians.
- Although I have experienced Christians as being very poor at resolving conflicts, in the past 5 months I have seen the worst examples of avoiding and dealing with conflict. And I have felt deeply angry, disappointed, shocked and confused because of Christians’ actions.
- I realized that I don’t feel at home in the Christian world, and as long as I am a Christian, I won’t feel at home in the non-Christian world. Just identifying as being a Christian means that I will give most people the impression that I think I am better than they are. There is no way around that.
- My Christian path created a wall between my vegan brothers and sisters with whom I share the core value of compassion for all of life. I hate walls!
- I’m tired of Christians being so slow in getting on the vegan movement. I don’t want to be associated with a group that has so many people wither against, or apathetic about veganism.
- We Christians who are waking up and becoming vegan are being persecuted by other Christians.
- More and more Christians are “deconstructing” their faith and finding a way to save the best and leave the rest. Some choose to try to help Christianity to be all the Jesus wanted his teachings to be lived out. I thought I could belong to that group. But I think the word “Christian” has really no meaning anymore. Who is going to define what it means? It would be like saying, “I am a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but don’t worry, I am a part of a growing movement that is not quite so prejudiced against blacks.”
- I found that honoring Jesus as my friend and guide has given me all that I need for the peace I was looking for in the Christian group.
The group I most want to be supportive of and belong to is the vegan movement.
The spiritual group I am drawn to supporting is the interspiritual movement. Here is one definition:
“Interspirituality: A term coined by Wayne Teasdale to express the assimilation of insights, values, and spiritual practices from the various religions and their application to one’s own inner life and development. Further, the prefix inter in “interspirituality” expresses the ontological roots that tie the various traditions together and the essential interdependence of the religions.”
You can learn more about interspirituality here.
I still love my Christian friends. I hope they will continue being my friends. I know we will treat each other civilly at least. I live in a neighborhood where people help each other in very beautiful ways. Jesus Vegans Ecovillage will be supportive in helping our neighborhood be more cooperative and sustainable.
I am actually grateful for the past 17 years where I did my best to be “good” Christian and fit in, as hard as it was. But I was never good enough. My two former husbands, Cliff and Robert, and our children have benefited from the structure and stability that this faith community has offered.
Cliff actually never did give up his commitment to Paramahansa Yogananda in being Yogananda’s disciple. I appreciate this community that they have accepted Cliff and don’t try to change him. Cliff also loves Jesus greatly and doesn’t think Jesus should be contained in the box of any one religion.
During the past 17 years, I had to learn to rely on Jesus rather than other Christians and the Bible in order to maintain my sanity. This close relationship with Jesus has yielded much fruit, and I am committed to continuing our relationship in a new way.
I sense that Jesus is saying to me, “Go for it. I approve of what you are doing.”
In fact, I find many scriptures supporting my stance. Of course, I am cherry-picking the Bible, as one ex-evangelical Christian vegan told me when I was trying to persuade him a few months ago that Christianity is not so bad. But I decided that cherries are good, tasty, and healthy. So cherry picking is really good!
Most people, when they “deconstruct” their faith, go through a torturous time. I did go through a lot of suffering in the past month because of yet again another really hurtful experience with the pastors and members of a church I was affiliating with.
The ingredients of the situation were so similar to many others I had experienced–a pastor that gets away with what I consider to be emotional abuse. People covering up for the emotional abuse. Me being the scapegoat.
But this time, things were different. I no longer blamed myself. I saw this situation as one more repeated pattern that many, if not most, Christians perpetuate–the abuse of power.
I am happier than I have ever been in my life. Cliff, my former husband, and neighbor to the future ecovillage, who never chose to surrender his life to Jesus and become an orthodox Christian, is really happy to have one friend in the community that shares his beliefs.
Now that we can welcome people of all faiths, he doesn’t have to think he is a second-class citizen in the community. Before, I was convinced that full members had to confess that Jesus was Lord and Savior of their lives. Now, I have let that go.
Being able to open our ecovillage to more people, we can reach out to many different groups instead of the very narrow group of Christian Universalists who are vegan, free-thinking and open to sexual minorities and ready to live in a community.
The main thing we will want is for people who share our values and who want to live out the teachings of Jesus and all truth-teaching souls in the context of a community where we can help contribute to co-creating with God a beautiful and restored earth where all of creation can thrive. I want to continue to hone my skills in being a vegan warrior* and find other vegan warriors to join Cliff Mikkelson (my former husband and present community partner) and I at Jesus Vegans Ecovillage.
Here is an open letter I wrote to my Christian friends.
*Definition of Vegan Warrior: “one who nurtures the interconnectedness of all life and routinely trains in the mastery of both the inner and outer dimensions of the self with the goal of operating from a state of clarity, harmony, and balance, so he or she can lead a heart-centered life while in pursuit of creating a more compassionate world.’ defined by Christopher August and Sarah Oakley on their website
You can find our values here at http://www.jesusvegans.com/values
We are still in the process of refining our beliefs here at http://www.jesusvegans.com/beliefs