[exvangelical] now that I'm found, I miss being lost
Today’s writing is courtesy of two songs; one is Jews for Jesus Blues1 performed by Clem Snide. The snippets in this first part are from that song.
I was searching for something I could not describe
So I stared at the sun till the tears filled my eyes
Well, I thought I was empty so I paid the cost
But now that I’m found, I miss being lost
This song describes a feeling that is the same as the feeling of my experience of deconstructing and leaving evangelicalism, even though it seems to be talking about something a little different.
Well, I opened my heart and I let Jesus in
With the promise that I would be free of my sins
But I only felt guilty that He died on the cross
Now that I’m found I miss being lost
Now that I’m saved, I wish I was damned
I think this song is saying, I wish I could go back to a place where I hadn’t been told there was something wrong with me, so that I could avoid trying a cure that isn’t a cure after all. I think it’s mourning the loss of a state of being before poison sets in. I think it accurately depicts the feeling of confusion that comes from trying to understand praxis when the underpinning belief system is teaching hate and calling it love.
For me, this song’s lyrics bring on a painful nostalgia, a remembering of the days when I was trying to move through the world as an evangelical fundamentalist Christian without bumping into anything that could stain my soul. It reminds me that there was never a time in my younger life when I was given a chance to be ‘lost’ so that I could have the choice whether or not to be ‘found.’
I have a lot more to say here but I don’t think I’m ready to do that just yet.
Well, I don’t wanna suffer and I don’t wanna die
I want the clouds parted in endless, blue sky
But someone up there has a different plan
Now that I’m saved, I wish I was damned
I still mourn the years it took me to find my own agency, my wholeness, my identity. Being born into my family of origin meant that I was taught that prescriptive boundaries on my behavior were framed as choices I had made. I can’t get that time back or make my own choices now for my younger self, but I can do things differently now. I swing between anger and acceptance, grieving with my hackles up and knives out.
The church I used to attend while I was growing up doesn’t overtly identify as being Plymouth Brethren now, but it did while I attended. And even if they’ve dropped the denomination affiliation, their beliefs still stack up pretty evenly with Plymouth Brethren doctrine.
An amusingly weird fact: Aleister Crowley (yes, that one) was brought up in the same church denomination that I was, which is entirely hilarious to me given the tradition I’ve taken oaths to and how I got there.
My ex-church’s stated beliefs uphold the kyriarchy. They uphold patriarchal models of performative gender: men are allowed to teach during services, because they are assumed to have done the proper studying and work to be qualified to do so. Women have the ‘choice’ to wear a head covering (yes, I wore a lace doily on my head during church services starting from around when I was thirteen). Non-conforming genders are not even mentioned.
The biggest reason I have for calling bullshit on their stated belief that men are allowed to teach is that my dad was one of those people who would often, with some properly attached emotion in the form of a quaver in the voice or a few carefully placed tears, stand up and ‘share’ something from the Bible. My dad is an abusive, narcissistic asshole who destroyed us when we were too young to know we were being destroyed. He should never have been allowed to speak in church, but he was. Who is going to question the person that performs their church’s beliefs in a way that appears correct?
Love us as we are, see us and we’re holy
And yet. Discovering my identity as a queer person, with a meaningful spiritual life, operating with a praxis that centers those who have been harmed and actively looks for ways to address harm and bring people back into harmony with their true selves — this is what saves me.
When I was still in the church, I was lost. Now I have found myself.
One of the most beautiful songs I have come across is The Queer Gospel2, performed by Erin McKeown.
Love us as we are
See us and we’re holy
In this shall we shall ever be
Your love will take us far
Praise us and we’ll show you
From heaven to the glory holes
Glorious and free
I think that queer thought, queer liberation, and queer religious belief will continue to be very contrary to mainstream, and even non-mainstream, Christian beliefs. I think that we have to be loud and sometimes abrasive to even be heard.
I think it’s cruel that this is the place where we are right now. Even though we can find our beauty and our place, it is cruel that we’ve had to fight for it and have to continue to fight just to be seen without also being hated.
One last thing —
Every time I write something about my exvangelical experience, someone comes into my comment section and warbles on about reasons I shouldn’t feel like this, and other irrelevant things. I know there are people reading things like this for entirely the wrong reasons. It doesn’t bother me personally to deal with commenters like that, but I will not tolerate it, if for no other reason than my queer family, those I live with and those that are scattered across the world, should not have to see that kind of bullshit.
So for those who want to contribute to the conversation with any kind of evangelical apologetics, keep it to yourself or I’ll uninvite you from my space.
We are already holy. We are already enough. But if you dared to love us — think what we could build together. If you believe in a kingdom of God, think how beautiful it could be.
I’ve been waiting a while to write this, partly because I’m not particularly looking forward to the work I may need to do in keeping this space a safe one.
I’ve also been waiting a while to write this because it still hurts. Yes, I am still angry. I am still uncovering wounds I didn’t know were there. I was born into a system that had already put me on a lower level of importance simply because I was born with a body they identified as female. I was born into a country that upholds values that actively harm all of us, both those who are being othered, and those who are doing the othering.
We are all poisoned and the antidote is hard to get; harder still when you can’t understand that you’ve been poisoned. I guess what I want to say most of all is that I hope more of us can let go of the lies we were taught. Because it’s beautiful to be wholly yourself. And if there is a kingdom of heaven, it’s made of people who love one another.