I have been on the fence for a very long time about whether or not I should share publicly where I stand on things because the strong opinions of others are deeply ingrained in my mind and heart. And I tend to be a person that doesn’t like to “rock the boat” in addition to wanting everyone to like me.
I have been on a journey of deconstructing my faith for years and it’s a continual process, but I’m starting to find a place to land.
I grew up in a very Southern Baptist church. To be a Christian you couldn’t drink, smoke, cuss, dance, work on Sundays, have sex outside of marriage, be gay, go to any denomination other than Baptist, be baptized any way but submersion, you had to tithe 10%, no music except for Christian music, no movies or tv that were “inappropriate,” and more. If these things happened, then you probably aren’t a Christian or if you are, you are backsliding. I also must tell others when they are doing these things that they need to repent. There were no black people at our church and maybe one Hispanic family (that I can remember… I could be wrong). I remember the first time I saw someone raising their hands while we sang hymns. I can see it vividly. Because I thought something was wrong with that man (and he was the Hispanic man). He was also new so I thought maybe he was in the wrong place. I remember telling some people that my mom watches rated R movies and she was real mad at me because she knew she would be looked down on. She tried to hide her smoking from the church. My pastor’s son was caught kissing another boy, and it was a huge scandal that rocked the church (he now goes to an amazing affirming church in Dallas). Later I learned about some molestation that took place with a church member and boys, and it was just swept under the rug. My brother was in and out of mental hospitals because of his severe depressive episodes, and the pastor and staff failed to support our family. No one came to the hospital to visit or even call to check on us. We never had a meal or any sort of support. In fact, there were people in the youth group that were telling Joey that he just didn’t have enough faith. He didn’t pray hard enough and go to Jesus with his depression. My parents stopped going to church around this time (despite having been incredibly involved in church my whole life). If you don’t know this story, Joey ended up taking his own life in 2009. I don’t necessarily think it’s the church’s fault that he died by suicide, but gosh, can you imagine how much better things would have been if he had a solid support system through our church? It could have been life-changing. He felt like he had no purpose. He went from loving and serving Jesus to not being sure if God even existed.
I’m so so glad to be out of the Baptist world. I didn’t realize how oppressive it was till we weren’t in that world anymore. Our Methodist church is the best church we have ever been part of. And our camp is amazing because everyone has a different belief system and we feel that the most important thing is a love for Jesus. I’m sure there will be people reading this who will completely disagree with me, but I don’t have control over that. All I can do is live out my story.
I wanted to give a brief history of my relationship with the church because it matters. It has shaped the deconstruction that I have been going through greatly. So many beliefs have been so deeply ingrained that it has caused so much anxiety over the years. So much.
I’m at the point where I’m constantly asking myself “is this TRUTH?” or “is it just something that I was taught to be truth and it’s not?” This is what I mean when I say deconstructing my faith.
It has been a major process, and it’s definitely not linear. I’m up and down, side to side, and upside down. It’s hard work. Really hard.
Robert hasn’t had to go through this process because he grew up in a VERY different church than mine. A lot of the beliefs that I now have are things that he already believed and it was just second nature. He doesn’t quite understand, though he tries.
I feel the need to mention some other things that have shaped who I am. My mental illnesses have been the hardest thing that I will ever deal with. Joey’s gruesome, traumatic death changed my brain. My alcoholism. Abuse that I endured as a kid. Until the past year, I wasn’t stable enough to have a job. It has taken a LOT of hard work to get where I am. Yes, Jesus has been a huge part of that. But y’all, I have had to work my ass off to be who I am today. And I like her. There is a lot of darkness in all of this also. Some days I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to follow Jesus if I’m being honest. And I’m still daily walking with Him asking for his wisdom and mercy because I don’t have it together. I’m having to learn to just be okay with where my relationship with Him is knowing He loves me so much. For who I am, right where I am. Some seasons I am super close with Him, and some seasons I don’t talk to Him much at all. I used to put on a show of the “super Christian” vibe, and I’m honestly just not that person. I love Jesus. I look to His words for answers. My pastor speaks truth and I appreciate it so much. He says what needs to be said. And I love worshipping corporately. But if we don’t make it to church, that’s okay too. I remember a time when I had daily “quiet times” because it was expected of me. Now, I love spending time with Him, but it’s not a box to check off on a list.
Allll of this to say…
It’s super hard to have grown up the way I have and to be in a Christian/conservative bubble and dealing with all that I’m trying to understand and figure out. I have thought that maybe Jesus thought I was a bad person because of what I’ve been working through. I thought maybe He wouldn’t want to be close to me if I came to a conclusion that is different than those around me. And you know what? Jesus WANTS me to come to Him. He wants to be close to me. Right where I am. In the midst of the deconstruction. Because of the deconstruction.
Through all of this, my beliefs about some things have changed. I won’t talk about all of it, but I’ll mention some things.
First of all, I do listen to some Christian music, but the type has changed quite a bit. I also love a lot of secular music. There’s some really good stuff out there, and Christian music isn’t that great! There are a lot of shows and movies that are SO GOOD that I wouldn’t have dared watch in the past. I appreciate them as art and entertainment.
I love and support LGBTQ people. They have been discriminated against in the church always. I love to see the deconstruction that is going on in others when it pertains to this because it matters. They are loved by Jesus just like you and me. They don’t choose to be LGBTQ. They were created that way! And before you say “it’s a sin,” let me tell you… I have been doing so much research on the very few verses about it (I think there are 6 in the whole Bible), and it’s mostly talking about molestation and prostitution! Let me know if you want to know more, I am reading a good book. I love a lot of LGBTQ people. Lots. They are more important than any opinion on the matter.
I’m currently learning a lot about black history, and it is more terrible than I ever knew. And it’s everywhere, still. There are so many racist people that swear they aren’t racist, but it’s obvious in their actions and words against black people (or Hispanic, or Asian, etc). I started listening to Black History for White People podcast and it has opened my eyes. I love also really getting a good perspective from a black woman on all the issues and history. She is incredibly intelligent and provides so much richness to the conversation. I just finished two about the Southern Baptist Convention. And let me just tell you. It’s not surprising, but it is incredibly heart-breaking. It’s dark.
I believe in self love and self care. Often I hear from people that these things are selfish. I disagree. If I can’t love myself, then I can’t “love others as I love myself.” I can also live fully in the person that God has created me to be if I embrace that person. And self care is what keeps me going on the days when I feel like I can’t keep going. It protects my mental health.
I won’t drink because I’m an alcoholic, but you can drink whatever you’d like. It’s your business. Also, my alcoholism is a disease. I don’t choose it. I’m so grateful to be 4 1/2 years sober, but it’s always a part of me.
Most of all, the actual words and actions of Jesus are what motivate me to love others and be a light in a dark world.
I fully anticipate that things will evolve because that’s life. I’m in the midst of it right now, and this is how I believe. I hope that even if you disagree with any or all of this, you will love me for who I am and respect that I have been on my own journey just like you are on yours. We have all been created differently and have had different life experiences. I’m glad. That’s the way it should be. I just hope that you’ll choose love.