Reaching Postmodern “Leavers”
By Drew Dyck
My friend Abe was raised as a Christian, but abandoned his faith during college. “I don’t know what happened,” he said with a shrug. “I just left it.”
When I heard about Abe’s “deconversion,” my mind jumped to the last time I’d seen him. It was at a Promise Keepers rally the year after we graduated from high school. I remember being surprised to see him there; neither of us had been strong Christians in school. But watching him standing next to his father in the Coliseum, it was clear something had clicked. As the voices of twenty thousand men lifted in unison, Abe squeezed his eyes shut and extended one slender arm skyward. He seemed solemn yet peaceful, totally absorbed in God’s presence.
I’d considered myself a Christian since childhood. Yet it wasn’t until my late teens, when I carefully read the Gospels, that the faith truly became my own.
When I saw Abe worshipping at the rally, I assumed he had undergone a similar transformation. We were both pastors’ kids. We had both gone through the proverbial rebellious phase, but that didn’t mean we didn’t believe. That’s why I was shocked by his decision to leave the faith. I was a little curious, too. What had prompted Abe, who was my age, and from a remarkably similar background, to defect?
“I Felt Nothing.” Fast forward six years from that Promise Keepers rally and Abe is sitting in my studio apartment, slapping a cigarette from a pack of American Spirits. The intervening years had taken us each down very different paths. I was married. He was single. I was headed to seminary. He was wrapping up law school. I was an active Christian. He’d rejected the faith. At the time of his visit, he was celebrating a last stint of student life freedom by motorbiking across the country. I offered him my futon when he rolled into town. It wasn’t much, but compared to the nights he’d been spending in his pop-up tent, it probably felt like the Marriott.
We talked late into the night. Since high school he’d lived an exciting and eclectic life. I felt a twinge of jealousy as he described experiences that seemed lifted from a Jack Kerouac novel. He’d lived in London, England, and worked as a bartender. He’d backpacked through India. He’d spent summers tree planting in northern Alberta, a lucrative seasonal gig that funded his nomadic existence. Somewhere in Asia he suspended his travels to meditate in a Buddhist monastery. He’d become a vegetarian.
His experiences had changed him—most significantly in his views about God. When I broached the subject, his voice grew quiet…
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