I can split into three phases, my gradual transition into agnosticism/atheism. For this post, I will be focusing on the first phase, which was liberal Christianity. In Liberal Christianity, I had decided that the angry Christians (those that focused more on sin, judging others, and seemed to have a fetish for the Old Testament) were going about it wrong, but that the message Jesus brought to the world was beautiful and real. In this phase, I sought connections with loving Christians; those whose personalities mirrored my idea of who Jesus was.
One Christian in particular was there for me when the angry Christians really had me down (I'll get to her in a moment). With them, emphasis was always on my sin. I was a terrible witness for living with my boyfriend, as new believers could become confused by this, thinking premarital sex was okay. Next thing I know, it is thoroughly assumed that I am indeed having sex (which I eventually chose to do, but was not in the midst of all the assumptions) According to my highly respected uncle, a 70-something "graduate of Bible college who had been preaching for 40 years, many more years of experience than I had", God was probably going to give me cervical cancer for my sexual immorality. I might also die young for having dishonored my parents (it's all in the book).
Did anyone care that I was in a beautiful relationship with a man that I loved with all of my heart? Did anyone care that in spite of his depressing childhood, he came out strong, sane, and caring? Did anyone even care to get to know him? No - apparently, his background was more important than all of that. He was 'unchurched' (I don't even know if that's a word) and his family didn't have a lot of money. Even when he showed interest in being born again, he still was not accepted by these types. My mother had her eyes set on pastor's sons and missionaries. This guy was scum, and he had no business being associated with me, let alone my boyfriend. Well, that's how the angry Christians viewed it.
I didn't blame Jesus or Christianity for the actions of these angry Christians. I knew that God was perfect even though man, having a sinful nature, managed to screw up what God meant for good. At some point, I got in contact with a former youth minister's wife. I never knew her well, but her husband was the kind of Christian that I looked up to. Even though they no longer served in my church (although, it wasn't my church anymore - my membership was suspended and eventually terminated due to my sinful lifestyle), I knew they were in ministry together at another church in South Carolina. Being his wife, she probably held similar views.
This wishful thinking gave me the courage to open up to her about my life; I needed a mature, loving Christian to talk to and she was the only one within my reach, at the time. As expected, she was very understanding - she even said that she thought D (my boyfriend of the time) and I were 'the real deal'! It meant so much to have another Christian say that. She did not judge and in fact, was kind enough to share her own experiences in the early stages of dating her husband. From these conversations, I learned that she engaged in premarital sex, had mommy issues, and shared a similar frustration with those angry Christians. Not only could I relate in general, but these characteristics also set her apart from the unthinking 'bubble' Christians I was used to in my peer group - she had a 'dark past'.
Now, she was technically against premarital sex; in fact, she and her husband became 'born again virgins' at some point before they married. Of course, she gave reasons as to why it would be a good idea for my boyfriend and I to do the same. She also encouraged me to try and find a church that was 'alive' - she did not necessarily agree with my disinterest in organized religion and believed that a church alive with the true spirit of Christ was worth the search and a wonderful (and important) thing to be a part of.
Even though there were many things we didn't agree on, I enjoyed our conversations because they inspired me to look a layer deeper within myself. She didn't push anything on me and never treated me as though I were foolish or evil for questioning her words. She made points that were interesting on the surface, but it always came down to interpretation of scripture and, more importantly, whether or not the Bible was even true. Conversations involving this theme were what eventually led me into phase two: spiritual explorations.