Singer and performer Jon Steingard made a dramatic revelation, announcing via Instagram last Wednesday that he "no longer believe(s) in God."
Steingard is the frontman for Hawk Nelson, a Christian rock and pop-punk music group. In his post, he shared nine screenshots in which he explains why he has changed his beliefs.
"I’ve been terrified to post this for a while - but it feels like it’s time for me to be honest," he wrote in the post's caption. "I hope this is not the end of the conversation, but the beginning. I hope this is encouraging to people who might feel the same but are as afraid to speak as I am. I want to be open. I want to be transparent with you all - and also open to having my heart changed in the future."
The vocalist mentioned that he was "not looking for a debate at all" but just wanted to "share (his) story in the hopes some good can come from it."
In the lengthy post, Steingard said that much of his life had been defined by religion, starting when he was "growing up in a Christian home" as a "pastor's kid," but during the past few years, he had begun to question the teachings he'd been surrounded by.
"When you grow up in a community that holds a shared belief, and that shared belief is so incredibly central to everything, you simply adopt it," he wrote. "Everyone I was close to believed in God, accepted Jesus into their hearts ... so I did too. I became interested in music, began playing and singing on worship teams, and started leading worship at church and youth events. Even then I remember being uncomfortable with certain things."
Steingard explained that even at that time, he felt uncomfortable with the performative aspects of his religion, adding that praying in public "felt like some kind of weird performance art" and that "emotional cries such as 'Holy Spirit, come fill this place' always felt clunky and awkward."
"I figured I was overthinking all these things," he wrote. "This was the beginning of my doubt, and I began to develop the reflex to simply push it down, and soldier on."
Even after Steingard joined Hawk Nelson and saw the band become "more outspoken about our faith in our music," he said that he continued to have doubts.
"There were things that just didn't make sense to me," he wrote. "If God is all loving, and all powerful, why is there evil in the world? Can he not do anything about it? Does he choose not to? Is the evil in the world a result of his desire to give us free will? OK then, what about famine and disease and floods and all the suffering that isn't caused by humans and our free will?"
Steingard said that when he voiced these doubts, people would direct him to read the Bible; however, after consulting and discussing those questions within the context of the Bible, he found that his doubts were "only amplified."
"It seemed like there were a lot of contradictions in the Bible that didn't make sense," he wrote, adding that he didn't want to get "too deep in the weeds" in his note. "Suffice it to say that when I began to believe that the Bible was simply a book written by people as flawed and imperfect as I am - that was when my belief in God truly began to unravel."
Steingard did not provide any context as to when that decision was made, but said that this internal debate had caused him to experience "struggles with depression" that he spoke about candidly during the past year.
"This is what really kicked that off," he wrote. "I feel like I've mostly emerged from that dark place now - because I've discovered that life really does go on. I have trusted friends that know this about me, and love me anyways. My family is showing me incredible love and support, even though I know this grieves them ... I'm ready to be transparent and open."
Steingard said that while he sees this decision as meaning he can no longer be involved with Hawk Nelson, he is "open to the idea that God is there" despite his doubts.
"I'd prefer it if he was (there)," Steingard wrote. "I suspect if he is there, he is very different than what I was taught. I know my parents pray that God reveals himself to me. If he's there, I hope he does."
Steingard finished his post by adding that he knew his announcement would upset people. Indeed, many commentators on Instagram criticized his post, and a contributor for The Christian Post wrote that he was "not asking the right questions" while considering his faith.
He said he hoped that his message could be a source of "encouragement" for others who feel the same way as he does. "I am not sure how much this will rock the boat," he wrote. "I don't know if this will surprise anyone. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that I've finally worked up the courage to tell my story. To share my deepest truth. And that feels like freedom too."