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Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Christian Ghosting: The Destructive Christian Practice We Don’t Talk About

 

I don’t think I believe in ghosts– I suppose I’m open to the possibility, but never in my life have I seen an apparition of anything ghost-like.

But while I don’t believe in ghosts, I have been “ghosted” and it remains one of the more painful and destructive experiences in my whole life.

Ghosting is something that can happen to anyone, in any social circle, or from any particular social group. However, we American Christians seem to have perfected this to a finally crafted art.ghosting

What is ghosting? You might not know the term, but you probably know the action: ghosting is when someone abruptly ends a friendship with limited or no explanation, and when they proceed to quickly disappear from your life.

For me, I was ghosted by my best friend– and my entire social circle quickly followed without saying a word.

My family and I went from having what felt like a strongly bonded group of people to do life with, to waking up one morning and discovering we were now alone, and had no friends or natural support system. Before we were ghosted, we’d meet on a weekly scheduled evening for “small group” where we’d share meals together, talk about life together, pray for one another, and where we did life together.

On Sundays we worshipped together. Between those scheduled times we’d all hang out, help one another with projects or needs, our kids would play with one another… we’d celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together. Life was good.

And then one day, the world stopped.

I was a teaching elder at our church, and made the critical error of pushing back on folks when they challenged my fitness for serving as an elder when it was said in a meeting, “We have a deep concern that you’re not truly the head over your wife.”

I made the error of saying we shouldn’t force two of our most committed, reliable, and spiritually mature community members to be re-baptized as a condition of being a full voting member of our church.

I made the error of advocating for a higher minimum wage in a television interview (which led to someone literally yelling and walking out of church).

I made the error of preaching a sermon on Matthew 5 and what it means to love our enemies– which got me cornered and rebuked by the other elders because the sermon was, ironically, “unloving” to preach to a bunch of gun owners, apparently.

I made the error of suggesting we should have a policy against people bringing weapons into our place of worship, prompting some folks to threaten leaving the church.

I made many “errors,” and the net result was the tension in our little group continued to increase until my best friend bailed instead of navigating conflict– taking the rest of our social circle with him. We went from texting countless times a day and spending individual, and family time together, to…. nothing.

Quiet. Silence. Distance. Nonexistence.

It was like a magician showed up in my life, covered everything with a blanket, and then with a whisk of the wand it all disappeared– leaving me just holding a blanket.

The damage wasn’t just something I suffered– I also had to navigate hard discussions with my then 12 year old daughter as to why she lost all her friends as well. I still wake up every morning and try to extend grace for the sin of ghosting, but the fact my daughter had her closest friends ghosted from her as well, is something I still struggle to forgive.

Ghosting can happen to anyone, but we Christians sure know how to do it well.

It’s as if for us, loving people simply because they are people made in the image of God is not enough. Instead, we become only willing to love people who we are in harmonious agreement with. As long as we are in agreement, the relationship is solid– but the minute one person begins to grow and shift on this belief or that one, we bail.

We ghost people. We disappear from their lives. We abandon them. We sever ties.

And we do it in the cruelest way possible: with silence.

Sometimes I have to pray like Jesus did and say, “Father, forgive them– because they don’t know what they do.” Because honestly, I don’t think they understand the damage they’ve done.

I don’t think they realize that on the day they ghosted my family, my daughter lost the only close friendships she had.

I don’t think they realize that on the day they ghosted me, it was the day that my marriage started to seriously unravel.

I don’t think they realize how painful it was to experience three failed adoptions in the months after their disappearance– driving home the reality that we had no one to grieve with us, no one to check in on us, and no one who cared if we survived as a family, or not. Every waking morning was a reminder that none of them actually gave a shit about us.

I don’t think they realize that years later, the idea of going to church again or having Christian friends I can trust, is outside of what would be healthy or plausible for me.

I don’t think they realize that when they see us at the department store and turn to walk away before we see them, they’re not quick enough.

I don’t think they realize that I never fully recovered from that life event, and that it still impacts me on a daily basis. I felt it yesterday, I feel it today, and I fear I’ll feel it tomorrow, too.

I don’t think they realize any of those things. Sadly I don’t think they care, either– because if they did, they would have attempted to bind up the wounds they inflicted without letting years go by and life fall apart.

And now, it’s too late– there can be forgiveness, but there will never, ever, be reconciliation. It’s done. It’s finished. There is no reversing the damage, and no returning to what once was.

The destruction from the practice of Christian Ghosting, quite honestly, is often irreparable.

For those of us who have tried to live out the Christian life while being open to allowing new information to shape and stretch what we believe, the reality is that at one time or another, we have friends who will ghost us.

Somehow, someway, too many Christian circles have failed to realize that we don’t have to be in complete agreement to be in a complete relationship.

And so, when theological agreement is not in harmony, there’s always at least one family who feels like some evil magician made their life disappear without notice or even a preemptive “abracadabra” to give us a bit of warning that life is about to change.

While we can’t control the actions of others, I do think we can do two things:

We can refuse to be the ones who do the ghosting.

And when it happens, we can practice praying, “Forgive them Father, for they don’t have the slightest effing’ clue as to the damage they’ve done.”

 

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Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

BLC

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

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What you think

Post Comments:

  • Craig Dougan says:

    I like Jesus.
    It’s the christians I can’t stand

  • HMH says:

    In my experience, people who identify themselves as Christians are evil, judgmental, malicious personalities that represent nothing even remotely similar to the teachings of Christ.

    You’re better off without them.

  • MrNight says:

    Meh sounds like you just drifted apart if you prefer to call it ghosting so you can assign blame perhaps you should look at your own actions. Did you make yourself socially available to your friends? Did you miss engagements with them? Did you not invite them over for a couple of weeks? Did you call them? In the course of our now busy lives it is easy to lose connections with our friends and yes family too. That does not mean they did this intentionally it is just life. You sound like you’re looking to be a victim….stop that. If you want them in your life make yourself available. Call them weekly. Go see them again weekly. Invite them out as many times as it takes to get a yes. It’s called being a friend.

  • Steve Clearwater says:

    Through this difficult process you find out who your friends are. Many Christians are way too exacting about “my way or the highway,” and many are hurt. The most heartbreaking is our kids losing their friends over some obscure fine point of doctrine! I do wonder how the author of this article found himself in a group with views so radically different from his own. Part of protecting yourself from being “ghosted” is to get with people on your same page. “How can two walk together unless they are in agreement?”

  • SuperTroll says:

    That’s one risk of basing your worldview on a lie, and all religion is based on a lie. Lies never produce good.

  • Little David says:

    Some religions are worse than others.

    ‘I Am Now a Ghost’: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Shunning | HuffPost
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rodney…/i-am-now-a-ghost-jehovahs_b_9764478.html
    May 3, 2016 – Both are former Jehovah’s Witnesses who were disfellowshipped years ago, exiled from family members who remain loyal to the Watchtower …

  • pope whatshisname says:

    Well written. Well stated. Thanks for reminding us that as much as we would like to think it, we are not the center of things, and not as perfect as it seems.

  • kidd754 says:

    Really, isn’t this the result of a religion-centered life? There are other people out there who may stretch your boundaries and be perfectly fine friends. You obviously already think out of the box. Now you need to live out of the box. In my experience, the most intolerant people are the most “Christian”, which I’m pretty sure Jesus would debate the reality of their christianity.

  • mf2112 says:

    This is a tough one. I admit I did this to someone I was close for a long time, but at that time I guess I felt that it was better to avoid the fight. Then time passed, and more time. Then it felt like it really was too late.

  • stan0301 says:

    Fundamentalist Christians are not that far removed from fundamentalist Muslims–they would love to burn a witch

  • Nitrobuz Ae says:

    You’re better off. Christians are a wack cult. Try a nice Buddhism/Christ-based blend.

  • MadasAHatterson says:

    That isn’t a Christian practice.

  • cathy says:

    good grief. good reason to stay away from all churches, and any discussions with anyone whose viewpoints you aren’t already semi familiar with. good reason to stay home, get in the recliner and watch netflix.

  • jgreencyclist says:

    Reminds me of the old saying, the reason the arguments are so bitter is because the stakes are do small. This article validates my choice to be a non-believer.

  • Transward says:

    Funny. Listening to those who most loudly proclaim themselves Christian, (see many of the comments here) one would think Christianity is all about hating gays and trans folk and Muslims and liberals. They must worship some other Jesus. The one I worship told me to love my neighbor, do good to those who hate, and specifically not to judge or risk damning my immortal soul.

  • morganne says:

    Thank you for this informative article. Before I was a Christian, I “ghosted” (I had no idea this was a thing until just now) a lot of people… At first it was because I was raised that way.. always moving in a flash about once a year or in a matter of months but then as I got older I realized I didn’t know how to say goodbye and it just seemed better and easier to disappear. It was all I really knew when it came to goodbyes. I even got to the point later on where I warned people that I tend to disappear. I always had my reasons and I never thought that anyone cared enough about me to be hurt by me disappearing anyway. Since becoming a Christian, I have slowly been learning that I am not as worthless or unlovable as I believed myself to be and now reading this has put my heart in my stomach for I fear that I have hurt a good many people by ghosting. As a new Christian I will not make this mistake again and hurt more good people. I hope those I hurt can forgive me. I am deeply sorry. I never meant to hurt anybody.

  • Tim Roark says:

    I wouldn’t sweat it, never heard of it, but people come and go, some return and some you wish didnt, don’t be a whiny crybaby, if what you believe is true. The truth is the way.

  • ShamrockGecko says:

    Geeze. That’s just terrible. I don’t know what else to say. I’d talk about being part of a faith community that’s broader in beliefs and more welcoming to people where they are. But it sounds like you’ve been hurt to the quick and it’s going to be a while.

    A better suggestion might be to join a volunteer group. Something low key and outward oriented doing good work. It’s not the same. But then, that might be a plus.

  • True American Patriot says:

    Another useful term for this is being “blackballed.” This is a great and important article for the church.

    Extremely important point:

    “Somehow, someway, too many Christian circles have failed to realize that we don’t have to be in complete agreement to be in a complete relationship.”

  • David Duchene says:

    It is Biblical to not even eat with one who claims to be a Christian but behaves in a perverse sinful way(Corinthians) ..the article doesn’t describe any behavior on the part of the author as such. From being a member of various Churches and an intended target of destruction by Church members because of slander (“pastor” Barry Duguid of Toronto,ont. got it in his head that I was a false David, therefore the”antichrist” and a “sexual pervert” ..no, I’m not making this up – tell the whole Church) .. I mean,it gets very satanic very quickly when a “pastor” decides to spread a lie and manipulates the congregation into backing him ( not her)in the iniquity. It’s about as far from the apostolic origins of Jesus Christ’s Church as you can get.

  • John Richardson says:

    The term is neither ghosting, nor blackballing. It is shunning. It is a long and proud Christian tradition reserved for those who masquerade as Christian while working to corrupt the Church and subvert the Gospel.Which in spite of your white-washed and self-serving spin on these events, sounds like exactly your modus operandi. These folks may not be as educated or as articulate as you, but they recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing when they see one. I am proud of them for having the courage to shun you, but I am sure that you will not learn a lesson and repent, but will instead exaggerate your suffering and leverage it to continue your overall purpose of attacking and destroying the Church. Save your lying rationalizations for your true master, who is, after all, the father of lies.

    • christina l says:

      You are the exact fake Christians she’s speaking about. You judge and only God can do that. The blind hate that fills your heart is the opposite of Jesus’s teachings. Love and compassion should be the foundation of a person’s faith. You need to actually find out why Jesus wept and maybe you would understand true love of God.

    • Transward says:

      Christ said the fruits of the spirit are love, and a tree can be told by the fruits it bears. Your post shows no love. A little more attention to the log in your own eye and less on the splinter in other’s might be good for your soul.

    • HighestHotLiver says:

      What an ugly little person you are

  • Al says:

    Why would you even care to lose such people from your life? Rejoice that they have revealed their true selves and move on. You are better off.

  • Cynthia Schletzbaum Gee says:

    Sounds to me like you were true to Christ and people got offended by that. It’s a funny (albeit painful) fact that most of the time, Christians needen’t separate themselves from unbelievers, especially unbelievers in the church – just keep on following Christ and THEY will separate from YOU.

  • Jim Terr says:

    I’d say good riddance to those “friends” – period.

  • ChristopherATL says:

    I feel “ghosting” is one of many realities of Christianity that expose what’s wrong with those who say they follow it.

  • queenofromania says:

    Would this mean that you were visited by Casper, the ‘un’friendly ghost?

  • pud says:

    You are all lunatics

  • pud says:

    Your made up non existent “christ” was quoted by no name delusional religious apocalyptic lunatics who weren’t even in the same time period as endorsing slavery…but you don’t like the icky parts do you? Just the happy feel good parts.

    You are all delusional lunatics…every last one of you

  • Zach says:

    Most of the evangelicals who have “ghosted” me were generally terrible people. Our alleged friendship was entirely contingent upon me agreeing with them. Can’t say I miss them.

  • Emily Elizabeth Windsor-Cragg says:

    I have been ghosted by my Church’s leadership, from the Archbishop of Canterbury down to local parish priests, for calling into question the politically-correct contemporary doctrines of same-sex matrimony and teaching-by-harmony-not-by-principle. This is the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, and they DO NOT REPLY NOR RESPOND TO QUESTIONS ON MATTERS OF POLICY.

  • Joanna McCardel Keay says:

    Hi Benjamin. I am truly sorry that you and your family have gone through such a painful experience. No one wants themselves nor their ideas rejected by any individual friend, let alone a whole community. But I am a little confused. You stated that the process of “ghosting” is carried out with “limited or no explanation,” and then you went on to enumerate the many times you were “rebuked” or confronted for various issues. It sounds to me as though you had MANY differences – not just of opinions – but of core beliefs with your former community. Perhaps it would have been best to realize that as such was the case it was time to move on and find a more like-minded group of believers. Perhaps God was proding you in that direction.
    I am not saying that those former friends were correct in their treatment of you. Nor that they were loving. But it would be sad if you were to continue blaming most of your problems on this episode. And if you were to remain in that state of bitterness which now haunts you. That would be a “ghosting” of a far more tragic variety.

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