Upon contemplating my last post I realize that my conflicted emotions about the #exvangelical movement stem largely from bitterness. Yep, I try to take ownership of my feelings even if they are considered negative. I’m going to see if I can unpack the bitter feelings as this response was surprising to me.
From the get-go, and woven throughout all my 20-year experience as a believer, I always felt like an outsider and had a sense of resistance to certain cultural aspects of the faith (which I’m sure I will explore at a later time in another post). When I was listening to the Exvangelical Podcast podcast with Jennifer Knapp I heard her describe how the evangelical experience had been new to her in college that she had had difficulty assimilating into that culture. I could certainly relate. She had found a way to express her spiritual experiences using terminology and doctrines she picked up through her evangelical friends in college.
As I listened to the podcast I felt a strong sense of hurt and anger: “As a fellow outsider how could you do that to me??”
Um…Do what? What did she do? Express herself through music? No. How could I fault her for that? It’s the using her talent to influence me to embrace toxic ideas that she, like me, wasn’t raised with and adopted later. Anger. Hurt. But obviously there is free will and I have the responsibility to accept or reject toxic ideas? I can’t say that I had that ability at the time. No, I didn’t. And her music was part of the indoctrination and brainwashing and shame that was part of the Contemporary Christian Music I listened to. But should I fault her for that?
I don’t know, but I do know that I need an apology. One that I’m never going to get. And this was something I accepted until the other day when I started seeing how popular the #exvangelical movement is and I started reading hundreds of stories about it. It provided validation to my anger. I hadn’t been angry about it for a long time.
So it’s not just the Christian artists that have wronged me, of course. Though music has a way of getting through the rational parts of our brain and is effective at making messages “stick.” Another group I am angry at are the pastors. Some of which are caring people who are just trying to stay faithful to what they believe to be right and some who are downright malicious. I will give some examples:
Youth/young adult pastors who chided me and laughed at me for asking too many genuine questions. I was not raised in church, so I didn’t know what the “right” answers were. In retrospect, this looks a lot like parents reacting to uncomfortable questions from a child. I suppose the good that came out of this is that my kids are allowed to ask me whatever questions they want and I try to answer them without chiding or shaming them.
The megachurch pastor who kicked my husband’s family out of church because they started their own youth group not under the “umbrella” of the church and then notified all the parishioners that they were spreading non-biblical ideas. The truth of the matter is that people in my in-law’s group had inside knowledge of the pastor’s rampant infidelities (which came out a decade later, causing him to resign) and he was punishing them for it.
Oh, and that reminds me. Because the above story didn’t affect me personally but this next one did. This next pastor was a true narcissist. His church numbers had been dwindling and his vision of his church involved continuous church-planting so the decline made him upset. So he went around to all the small groups and lectured everyone on not being involved or doing their part to bring people into the church. To which, my husband and I discussed, was ridiculous as all our church friends spent at least 3 days a week doing church related activities that were almost entirely focused on outreach. As new members we kept feeling like they were trying to evangelize to us (born-again Christians of more than 10 years) constantly.
So we spoke with the pastor’s son-in-law, who was very discouraged and ashamed that they weren’t building the church like they were supposed to be doing. Out of concern that the pastor may not have the right perspective of how hard his congregation was working, how much they prayed or read the Bible and how devoted and loving they were we decided to go directly to the pastor. Sometimes you just feel deep inside you have to defend people who can’t seem to defend themselves. In talking to dozens of church members we saw they felt like failures and we were not okay with that because they were good, loyal, hardworking loving Christians.
We were naive. The thing is, neither my husband respect hierarchy. We totally respect people, but we’ve never totally trusted or believed in spiritual hierarchy. We believed God could speak to us directly and He was telling us the pastor just wasn’t aware of the situation. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
We had several email exchanges with the pastor in which he, in thousands upon thousands (yes, literally thousands) of words, asked us who the hell we thought we were for changeling him and his vision from God Himself, swearing at us, insulting us, and going on endlessly long rants. It was…shocking. I’d be lying to say that didn’t sink into my psyche and destroy a part of me for a very long time. Worse than his emails, however was that he convinced his sheep (our friends who we were defending) to stop talking to us. As we were new to the area it’s not like we’d been close with anyone yet but we suddenly had no one.
So yeah, there were a few horrible pastors. Though other pastors were great (I mean other than spreading the toxic “Good News” and other horrible doctrines). And the biggest thing, in which I can’t blame any particular person on, just the bad idea, is the spiritualizing of my depression.
That’s probably the worst bit. Yeah, I’d like apologies about everything else, but that was the biggest mind-fuck ever. I’ll have to unpack that over time (not today).
The weird thing is that none of the above managed to make me lose my faith. It’s very easy to blame all of that on we are fallen humans and everyone sins and not all Christians. As I typed all that up (above) I no longer feel angry. I’ve accepted, once again, that this is a result of toxic beliefs and that that I’ll never get an apology from the people who actually harmed me.
Back to the #exvangelical thing. So, there are now currently massive amounts of validation from others of my experiences. BUT…
I needed it earlier. Way, way earlier. When I brought up, over and over and over and over while still a Christian all these things that people are talking about now in which I was ignored, dismissed, overlooked, shamed, gaslighted, and guilted (there are plenty of other negative adjectives but these are sufficient, I think). I will never forgive that. Never.
One of the “spiritual gifts” I always felt I had as Christian was discernment. One might be able to make an argument that having fell for all those bad ideas that I was instead naive and had no ability to rationally determine anything, however it is with sweet justice, but also sadness and pain, that I can say Na na na na na – I was right! You fuckers should have listed to me. Though, it was not spiritual discernment, I just like to observe and have a very good understanding of social psychology.
However, the reason why no one listened to me was 1. I am a woman 2. I did not care about spiritual hierarchy (I believe I can speak to anyone I want) 3. I care more about individuals than group (or church) cohesion. For shame.
I just re-read this post and realized from a Christian perspective I may sound like a person who chose to stop believing because I was hurt by people who were not acting “Christ”-like to me. Out of pride I turned my back on God. I guess evidence shows that anyone can interpret this how they want in a way that will confirm their own beliefs. That’s what people do.
For all I know, they’ll consider this part of the great apostasy. This provides an interesting discussion on the pre/mid/post trib debate. Cuz there ain’t been no Rapture yet, folks.
As an aside, you know you are a heathen when the word “trib” makes you snicker – naughty woman. Don’t Google it at work or around children.
I wonder who the “man of lawlessness” (the anti-Christ) is going to be? Some people probably think it’s Trump. If it’s not things’ll get even more interesting (as we’d have someone worse in power?) Yay?
That took a weird turn. I’m just trying to get into the collective mind of what the evangelical church might be thinking as of right now. I’m so out of that world.