Breaking Faith with Scholarship — Sofia Lissuzzo

My journey with faith started in middle school when all my friends went to play games on Friday nights at the church just down the block from our school. I started attending these Friday game nights with dozens of kids and eventually transitioned to the smaller youth group meetings on Tuesdays and then to a small group comprised of a few girls in my grade. Each step in this process brought me closer to the understanding that being a Christian (in this church) is not about knowing the bible but understanding and having a relationship with God.

Flash forward to the summer before my junior year of high school. I had stuck with this youth group while many friends and peers dropped out, and I found myself on a mission trip in Jamaica. Towards the end of our trip, after a day of pouring concrete we all were gathered playing games and chatting when somehow the conversation drifted to discussing homosexuality in the church and in the bible. All my peers and I came from wholly liberal families, so it took us by surprise when our youth pastor revealed that his interpretation of the bible differed significantly from where we all stood politically. This moment was a breaking point for a lot of us.

From here my faith wavered: this man was the end-all-be-all of Christian teaching for me and everything came crashing down. There was no other person in the church I looked up to as greatly or learned from as much as him. I was so caught off guard by the conversation and was so disappointed that I did not have the biblical knowledge to argue my point of view. I knew my God is a God of love and that condemnation of love in any form would be against him and his word, so I turned to the bible. I started rereading the bible, especially the passages that were often used to condemn homosexuality, forming my own opinions and referring to queer theologians for guidance on the stories I could not easily integrate with my beliefs.

Unknowingly, my relationship with God and Christianity became more scholarly and less personal. I was preparing for a debate on the off chance that I would be put in a similar situation, and I was not going to lose again. But through this process I lost sight of the core of Christianity that always felt so comforting to me, that God cared and was always there for guidance if you listened hard enough. Despite all my personal seeking, I never thought to look for guidance through prayer and direct conversation with God, I was not praying at all anymore.

Looking back on this transition, I know that the reason I refrained from prayer was because of my fear that my former youth pastor was right. Text, the bible especially, can be interpreted in various ways and I was able to read the bible in whatever way I so desired. Even if I struggled to rationalize my stance biblically, the bible is God speaking through human beings and I grew up knowing that humans are flawed and thus the bible cannot be infallible. Speaking to God through prayer, however, could have confirmed my fears, and so I avoided praying.

This doubt I experienced, although subconscious at the time, was a lack of faith. If my faith had held strong during this time, I would not worry that the God of love as I knew him would hold a bigoted ideology.

This was almost five years ago, and since then my theological knowledge has soared while my faith is still struggling to recover. There are ups and downs of course, but my theological deep dive forced me to be more critical of the information I had been fed, so I am still working to reestablish my faith on my own terms. I have not quite figured out what this means yet, but I do have faith that I will find my way.

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