I’m putting myself in recovery position. Recovery from a past faith that magnified my flaws, negated my gifts and abilities and put my self-esteem and self-belief at rock-bottom. Recovery from shouldering the constant guilt of not being, not doing, not sacrificing enough … psychologically, it’s not healthy. No more.
That’s why I am an exvangelical.
I grew up in a ‘bible-believing’ church that had me literally terrified of the ‘Rapture’ (I could talk about the psychological abusiveness of that right there), terrified of not being one of those chosen to go to Heaven. Even though the elders officially stressed faith over works, life still felt like a constant tightrope walk where any second, I could put one foot wrong and plunge into the abyss ….
As a young, intelligent girl, I was being told, in actions if not words (although sometimes words too) that I was subordinate. As a woman, I was always going to be less than a man (on biblical authority: the elders were of course all men.) My intelligence was something I should distrust (they particularly liked 1 Corinthians 3, verse 19: ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.’)
It didn’t make sense to me; God made me a woman and She/He/It (post-applied – I always used male pronouns at the time!) gave me brains. What for – if not to use them? What use was a faith that could not be questioned but fell at the first sign of scrutiny?
I left that church at the age of 17 – the first stage of my deconstruction as an evangelical.
Since then, there has been more questioning – and much of my original faith held true, some was re-evaluated or re-framed (my conception of God, for instance – no longer the punitive man with a big stick! No longer male – or female – but vastly broader than either / both.)
Since then, there has been a lot of life experience. Learning to accept myself in all my messy fallibility. Lockdown has been hard but I have much to be grateful for: a mad, gorgeous, infuriating but lovely husband (I think he would say much the same about me, or I hope so); two brave and beautiful children who are so much themselves and who I am so proud of (ditto the writerly husband … get it OUT there!) and a whole host of fabulous and supportive colleagues (you know who you are!)
So what remains of faith? Good question.
I don’t want to judge all Christians by the narrowness and hypocrisy (the ‘do what I say, not what I do’ attitude) of the church I grew up in. Just because singing a lot of modern ‘worship’ songs in my most recent church started to feel like so much fake platitude to me doesn’t mean that faith is not being sincerely held by others present. Even though I’ve seen the harm that a number of different religions can do (currently exemplified by too many instances in the world to mention), there are those (of all religious beliefs as well as of none) who do incredible good. Am currently exploring progressive Christianity as something potentially broader, Celtic Christianity to try to rediscover a sense of mystery / the sacred, and Liberation theology as a marriage of faith and politics – something else that I am increasingly passionate about and which often seems of more ‘earthly use.’
I still believe in God. I still believe in Jesus’ teachings and compassion for the marginalised in society. I still believe in the good that people can be in the world.
Beyond that? I’ll get back to you ….