“I’ve been terrified to post this for a while – but it feels like it’s time for me to be honest,” wrote Steingard in opening the message he’d been afraid to share for years, adding, “I hope this is not the end of the conversation, but the beginning.”
“This is not a post I ever thought that I would write, but now I feel like I really need to,” he wrote. “After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life — I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.”
In the months that have followed Steingard’s controversial announcement, he has received severe backlash from critics on each end of the religious to non-religious spectrum—from Christians telling him he’s going to hell, to atheists criticizing him for staying “open-minded” to Christians values.
While being slain on the Internet for his stance, Steingard says he refuses to see religion as a “black and white issue,” but rather one that has gray areas to be explored.
“Where I’m at is trying to go like, ‘Hey, I want to sift through these ideas,’” Steingard recently told TODAY. “I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I want to hold on to the things that are maybe worth holding on to.”
Prior to May, the Christian rock band frontman seemed to be grounded on a Gospel-centered worldview. But in reality, his beliefs about Christianity had been unraveling for a while.
In his May Instagram post, the guitarist explained the process of his faith withering away was like “pulling on the threads of a sweater, and one day discovering that there was no more sweater left.”
From issues like evolution to same-sex marriage, Steingard also found himself standing on the opposite side of the Christian perspective that advocates for the creation theory and the marriage of only man and woman.
In spite of the former Hawk Nelson member’s falling away from the church and Christianity, he shared that both his parents and members of his band have been “very kind and loving and understanding.”
“Our mission as Hawk Nelson has always been to inspire and encourage all people with the truth that God is FOR them and not against them. In that message’s most simple and purest form, that THEY matter,” the group wrote. “So now we turn that truth towards one of our own. That God is still FOR Jon & he still matters. Why? Because that truth doesn’t change just because we question it.”
Interestingly, Steingard has found that since his May announcement, some of his most poignant conversations have been with those who shared, rather than opposed, his opinions on faith and God.
In fact, a “surprising number” of Christians reached out to him privately to say, “Yeah, I actually hold some beliefs that I don’t feel like I can say publicly because I would lose my job, or I would lose my position in this community.”
Steingard admits that he’s still in the process of figuring out precisely what his perspective or worldview is. Quarantine life has forced him to press into the Bible as well as the studies of philosophy, theology, and psychology more than ever before.
Amidst his skepticism, the former Christian artist explains that there are certain fundamental messages of the gospel that he would “rather not outgrow,” like God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Even as he works to untangle his uncertainty and get to the core of what he believes, Steingard remains confident that letting go of his faith has made a positive impact on his life. He says he’s become more involved in charity work since he doesn’t have the “excuse” that God will “make the world better on his behalf.” He also savors time with his kids more as he no longer believes eternal life is guaranteed.
“I’m noticing that I’m a part of this human story, and wanting to participate in deeper and deeper ways,” said Steingard. “I actually feel like to some degree, letting go of the image of God that I had held is a really healthy part of that.”