"Looking for his coming"

By Phynnodderee

One of the hard things about losing my Christadelphian faith was realising that I had no good reason any more to think that Jesus was coming back. It was a hope that left a painful gap when it was gone. Coming to terms with this meant learning to see the world in a different light.


I had always been taught to believe the return of Christ would be the climax of human history, a sure hope we could look forward to no matter what uncertainties life might bring. I had always lived with the reassuring picture of a good and kind Judge who would put an end to evil and make every wrong right. The sum total of my religion was that everything would be all right in the end.

I was never very interested in prophecy, and I didn’t see the point of trying to prove the imminence of the event, but I believed in its truth and I believed it was the only real hope we had of true peace and justice. I was genuinely moved by the words of the hymn:


When every conflict ended,
And every sorrow past,
A cry goes up triumphant,
The Lord has come at last.

It was irresistible to believe that one day every tyrant and oppressor, every torturer and slave trader, every abuser and exploiter, would have to give account of themselves before a Judge who would dispense perfect justice and that their victims would be vindicated and recompensed. After I quit the meeting I used to visit this website occasionally, looking for reassurance that I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t alone, and the thing that bothered me most was an article title that used to feature in the left side bar: “Jesus is not coming back”. Even after I had more or less lost my religious beliefs, for a while I still clung on to the idea of Jesus returning to set all to rights. After all, I had always been told there was no other hope for humanity.

I now see this as one of the big problems with Christadelphianism. It teaches people to despair of humanity, it discourages efforts to improve the world, and it encourages people to invest all their hopes in a future event that may never happen. The community may have learned to be wary of making specific predictions, but there is still a general feeling that Christ is ‘at the door’.

For Christadelphians who become nonbelievers, do you ever find a replacement for the comforting belief in Christ’s return? Not exactly – not in the sense of a promised future event that will sort everything out. But you do find that people generally are a lot kinder than you thought, that there is more reason for optimism than you thought, that we have really made extraordinary progress in reducing suffering and improving quality of life. Maybe this is even better than placing all your hopes in a future event, because it reflects something we all have within us – human potential, which Christadelphians are guilty of downplaying. Even if you do think Jesus is going to return to be our final salvation, there are still countless good reasons to try and make the world a better place now. Some Christadelphians recognise this, but far too many have seen themselves as absolved of responsibility, placing that burden on Christ’s shoulders instead.

So although I don’t “look for his coming” any more, I do look around me and see hope. Not a hope that is vulnerable to being weakened as each year fails to bring an anticipated event, but a hope born of the realisation that humans can achieve tremendous and worthwhile things when they put their minds to it, especially when they work together. We’re not a lost cause – not yet. Maybe if Jesus does come back, he’ll be able to look around at our achievements and say approvingly: “Nice work, guys.”

9 comments:

  1. If he doesnt come back...they have got away with it.. the people as you describe..thats something humans wont fix... or put right.. time to except that also.

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    1. Paul, you're right, it's pretty intolerable to think that people like Hitler evaded justice after causing misery to millions. That's partly why it was so hard for me to give up this comforting idea.

      But it's also encouraging to think that we've made a lot of progress on ethics and human rights over the centuries, especially in the last few decades, and it's harder to get away with these things than it once was. There was a time when people couldn't even be prosecuted for genocide or war crimes. Hitler may have got away with it, but a lot of his fellow Nazis didn't.

      If you conclude (as I did) that we're probably on our own and human justice is probably the only kind of justice there is, there's a greater imperative to make that justice even more effective and consistent.

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  2. Time will be the ultimate referee...

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    1. Paul,
      Are you aware that your comment is one of the most common ways in which a party losing an argument, attempts to make that argument unfalsifiable, by moving it further into the future?
      As is partly discussed in the article, the author was not as a Christadelphian, interested in the imminence of Christ's return, whereas many (a majority?) are. Christadelphians, or at least those who make the "we stand at the very cusp of the Kingdom age" statements will never sya what they actually mean in terms of timescale, as thus make their case unfalsifiable, as you have. It's nothing new for Christians and has been going on for the best part of two thousand years.

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  3. Yeah.. i think in any prediction on any event , time is always the referee is it not??? Governments promises etc a good example..

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  4. Christadelphians have been pushing the return of Jesus further into the future for decades. Again and again, world events have been interpreted as an imminent sign, nothing has come of it, it's quietly brushed under the carpet and the next event is focussed on instead.
    The only predictable thing is that the CDs will continue this farce, until they eventually come to their senses and accept the Bible for what it is, an interesting collection of ancient myths and legends.

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  5. I joined the CDs because I was dysfunctional, codependent (and yes conditioned by my upbringing) enough to want, to join them. Like is attracted is attracted to like and for a while I fitted in quite well.

    So while I do think that the CD culture is controlling, abusive and much of what has been said on this website, I am no longer in victim mode. I acknowledge that I was (and am) controlling, abusive etc and I can't recover from this abuse by having a go at the CDs all day long while not looking at my part in all this. I am taking responsibility and recovering through a wonderful counsellor and lots of other help.

    I have no contact with two family members - one of which is a CD and this feels very empowering. I do not need, to believe in the return of Christ anymore because I am mentally more together and no longer need to believe in nonsense.

    It would be helpful to swap notes of how others are recovering from this terrible CD culture.

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    1. Well done on taking responsibility for your future and walking the road to better health and a new you. That's fantastic stuff.

      I think recovery tends to progress in stages. At first I needed to unpack everything and sort out all the pieces. That process took years and it's why I started my ecvor blog, which has been very helpful. But more recently I've increasingly felt that it's time to start exploring what's next. New projects, new adventures, that kind of thing.

      I remember at first I struggled a lot with identity. All my life I had been a Christadelphian, different, separate from the world, a member of an ecclesia, etc. But who was I now? What would I do? What do I enjoy? What will the rest of my life consist of?

      If I could offer one piece of advice to my former self (and those who find themselves in that space) it would be to relax and stop worrying about that, because it was too early for me to decide all of that back then. Those things will sort themselves out in time, and they mostly have done, as I have slowly reconnected with hobbies and interests from my past, and a few new interests as well. The most important message is almost the opposite of what the Christadelphians teach: relax and take your time to enjoy the moment, because time is something you now have a lot of. There's no urgency to get your life in order before some cosmic hero returns to judge you. You can take as long as you want to enjoy where you are in life. And as you go about your life, take notice of how you feel at each point, what you enjoy, what you don't enjoy. This is how you learn who you are. Then embrace it, as best you can.

      I also created The Christian Dolphin blog. Although it seems like I just wanted to laugh at Christadelphians, that is not really the point of the blog. I was a Christadelphian for 30 years of my life - and some of that has traumatised me, not to mention the process of leaving. Finding ways to laugh about my past is exactly what it was and is about. Looking at my religious upbringing and seeing the funny side has been extremely therapeutic. It's harder to do when it's still fresh, but after a while I highly recommend it. Make peace with your past - it shaped who you are today. You're not a reject with a messed-up history, you're a survivor who took control and demanded a better life and a better connection with reality. But try not to take it too seriously. Sometimes it's good to look back and have a laugh (or cry) and then get back to focusing on what's next for your unique story.

      At this point I'm starting to think more positively about the future, and thinking about what holidays I'd like to go on, that kind of thing. I'm learning new stuff, and that's pretty cool too. Life isn't all roses, but it's mine. I'm still a bit scared of dying, but what has changed is that I'm becoming less scared of living. :)

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  6. This group only sound a few notches more extreme than the CDs when you look at them:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-45492913

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