Sunday, May 14, 2017

sunday grace: the grace of losing my religion (part one)

spanish head composition by george condo, 1988.  
(captured by me at moma, 2013)

it is not easy when i call out, talk about, and resist the epidemic of toxic christianity.  i was raised a christian in a small baptist church in a conservative town in california.  i have felt the deep love of jesus, the sense of belonging that comes with being one of a 'flock', the accomplishment of learning and knowing the bible (ahem, junior bible verse champion over here!), the joy of singing peace like a river with twenty friends around a campfire at hume lake.

so many people i know and love are true christians. christianity is part of who i am, even if i no longer identify with the religion.

the thing that pushed me away from christianty was not the thing we were all warned about by our christian parents. it was christians who pushed me away.

it was the christians who told me to stop thinking.  to stop dancing.  to stop asking.  to stop being angry (or insert any other human feeling).  to stop loving people (especially those who were different).

it was the christians who chose to pretend the child sexual abuser in our midst could not possibly have done what the children said, because he was such a good christian.

it was the christians who preached kindness, but were the cruelest people i've ever met.

who preached forgiveness, but held massive grudges.

who preached mercy, but were steadfastly merciless.

who preached courage, but were astonishingly afraid of life.

who preached grace, but were devoid of it.

it was those who silenced me when i tried to talk about how being christian meant living the values of jesus.  as humans. on this planet. with others who may be living a different set of values.

it was those who implicitly and explicitly ordered a girl who was organically interested in those who were different, to stop doing that.

but more than all that, it was the christians who saw all of this, who may not have done these things themselves, but chose to ignore it, who pushed me away.  it was those who, for whatever reasons (fear, denial, etc.), were silently complicit in the oppression that scared me the most.

as a girl growing up in the baptist church, my sense of self was dismissed, my empathy mocked, my intuition called 'dangerous'.  very early on, i associated my very strong empathy and intuition to the voice of the holy spirit herself; to be told that was wrong was crushing and confusing and rendered me lost.

i was told that safety is achieved through restriction and control, rather than thinking, exploring, reflecting, regrouping, practicing, learning to set healthy boundaries.  the message was loud and clear:  you need not develop personal power and agency, safety is your reward for adhering to these rules.

later in life, as a social worker (and a woman who continued to think and explore despite the embedded fear of hellfire), i learned that these are the characteristics that describe toxic people.  these are the people we should be avoiding in life in order to be safe humans.  these are the people who hurt others, who seek control through manipulation, who wield fear and power and duplicity with a smile.

all of this is to establish the foundation for my deep concern about direction of the evangelical movement in the christian church. i want you to know that my protest of toxic christianity comes from a place of knowing and experiencing, not just reacting.  i want you to know that they are dangerous, on an individual level and now, to the freedom and peace of our nation.

i believe that the most powerful way to stop them is for true christians to speak up.  to stop ignoring. to stop silencing.  to stop accepting the hatred and control as an extreme interpretation of the bible.

seriously, what would jesus do?  let's do that.


in part two, i write about what it's like for me to live in lynchburg, virginia, home to jerry falwell's liberty university and its associated mega-church (so, say you were a toxic christian...this would be your mecca).