|Photo credit: Clarence Ji / Foter CC BY|
Let me clarify a bit before I confuse the reader. See, on my end I hold open the possibility that some form of Christianity may indeed one day somehow seduce me to return. I admit that it seems highly unlikely, but I'm not ready to say "never." The brain is a very curious and often fickle organ, susceptible to all kinds of things. Injury, delusion, hallucination, chemical imbalance, narcotics, or any number of things can completely alter cognitive processes. Not to mention the growing list of cognitive errors everyone remains susceptible to. And who knows? Maybe some form of Christianity has it right and I will discover this and become convinced of its truth. Maybe I'll reach a point where it just doesn't matter to me whether or not it's true and I embrace some iteration of it. I consider all of those things possible. I'm talking about what the Bible says, and the Bible agrees with the sentiment expressed by Miss Swift.
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. - Hebrews 6:4-8 (ESV)
Seems pretty clear, right? It is impossible for apostates like me to ever be restored again to repentance. That's what it says, right? Plain as day. Here's the problem: many Christians don't seem to believe this. Well, they believe it, they're just able to find ways to work around it so that it doesn't always apply to certain people they favor. Somehow my fellow apostates and I often find ourselves among those exceptions. This can be a real drag. Why? Well, it really complicates things.
If all Christians would just accept that apostates are eternally damned and beyond redemption, they might have some closure that would make things easier. Let me explain. When people announce their apostasy they often face repeated attempts by believers to get them back into the fold through various means. On one side of the spectrum this can be overt tactics like shunning and completely cutting off support and contact so you will, “feel, in whatever way, the consequences of your actions in hope that your pride will break and you will come back,” as one of my Christian friends so lovingly put it. It can also be subtle things like inviting us to the Christmas musical or asking us to pray over a Thanksgiving meal...again. *sigh*
From a practical standpoint I tend to appreciate the "love 'em back to Jesus" approach over shunning, especially among family members, but this still really complicates the relationship. See, the apostate will always remain suspicious of the true motives of the believer. On the other side, the believer is likely to become resentful or despondent when these attempts repeatedly fail. The believer will feel guilty for this, of course, but I suspect it's an unavoidable aspect. I've seen this in my own experience with people who took the "love 'em back to Jesus" approach. After a certain period of time, when it became apparent that this thing was for real, they started to get all weird and either distance themselves or become increasingly belligerent and pushy. This is not a good foundation for a relationship, nor is it sustainable.
What's needed here is closure so we can move past this and relate to each other as human beings and not as projects for your redemptive efforts. Christians need to re-categorize apostates in their mental social circles and I think the Bible already offers them that in passages like Hebrews 6. Look, we're damned. We're done. Stick a fork in us. It's over. There's no going back. Accept it. If it's too painful for you to be around us knowing that we will most certainly be tortured by your god for all eternity, so be it. Tell us so. We'll understand. I wouldn't want to be around some hopeless case either, especially if they ever did try to repent and ended up being rejected like Esau with no chance to repent, even though they seek it with tears. That's fine. At least we'll have some closure.
If you can accept our fates and handle being around us, great! Let's enjoy the time we have together on this earth and try to accentuate the commonalities that we share as human beings. Do you trust that your god is doing what is right and just in torturing us forever? Do you believe his word that there is no hope for us? If so, you really need to just accept this. Or maybe...I don't know...ask yourself why it's so hard to accept our fates in the first place and why you have to work so hard to try to make us into exceptions to this rule and then try to win us back.
Otherwise, it would probably be best if you would just give up on all this "Will they or won't they?" crap. The breakup is final. Our ex even said so and his word is supposedly authoritative to you. We'd like to remain friends with our ex's friends. We'd like to have normal family relationships with our relatives who still remain enamored with our ex. We don't even mind if you talk about how great he is around us, provided it's sincere and not because you're trying to persuade us to get back together with him. If you can't be friends with us because of your allegiance to him, or you can't treat us like real family because you can't bear the thought of us being without him, so be it. Take it up with him. But you need to understand, the healthy and helpful thing for all of us is most likely for you to accept that, when it comes to our spirtual ex-boyfriend, we are never, ever, ever getting back together. OK? Now let's move on.