You’re either misunderstanding or misrepresenting what I said. I agree wholeheartedly that a faith experience should be a transformative experience. Seeking to understand and engage with something monumentally greater than yourself should make you a better person. A good tree bears good fruit. I don’t mean something superficial like smiling at people in an elevator. I mean a greater appreciation for your very limited place in the world, the incredible impact you can have on others by sharing love and how wasteful it is to invest even a moment of your life in negativity. You don’t have to be a hermit or guru to appreciate those things.
I didn’t leave the church because people weren’t nice. I left because most people in the church weren’t interested in learning those things about themselves. They weren’t trying to grow closer to anything greater, and most importantly, the majority of Christian churches I was a part of weren’t pushing them to try.
While faith is an incredibly personal experience, the measure of a faith community must be how well it’s helping its congregants grow in their faith and take that journey. If the greater Christian church is more concerned with being a social club or promoting a prosperity gospel, it is what it is.
But don’t make excuses for it. Hearing supposed people of faith making excuses for other supposed people of faith turns me off the whole thing. Be honest about the limits of human communities. Promote a version of the gospel that encourages people to do that hard work of growing. But if Christianity itself is “a relationship with God”, you’ve got to admit that most people aren’t getting past the first date.
Christ told us what it meant to be Christ-like. He told us that what we do for the least of these, we do for him. He blessed the meek, the peace makers and merciful.
If the measure of a person’s faith is their relationship with something greater and the measure of that relationship is how they’ve been transformed, I saw greater evidence of faith and greater transformation outside the church. Being a Christian gave people permission not to try. They could attend services, give a few bucks on Sunday and call it done. Meanwhile, I met people of other faiths or no faith at all who invested themselves in others. They brought joy to those around them and honestly tried to ease the suffering in the world. Morality was something they worked on every day, not just on weekends.
When I left the church, I left Jesus behind. I no longer believe in the infallibility of the Bible or a Christian monopoly on morality. But I’m more honest than I’ve ever been about my own limitations. I have a deeper faith and greater appreciation for the good I can do by loving others. It’s a personal choice that we each have to make, and my choice was that Christianity as it’s practiced by most people in most places today did more to hold me back than to help me grow closer to God.