Recently I was watching Season 2 of Queer Eye on Netflix, and it hit me with all the feels, and made me reflect on my own experiences with the Church. The episode, titled “God Bless Gay” follows the Fab 5 as remake Miss Tammy, a woman who’s given her whole life to her community and her Church. At the end of the episode, Miss Tammy launches into a sermon about love and acceptance and all the guys were sobbing, and I lost it. She is absolutely the best that Christianity has to offer.
Growing up, I was very active in the church. It was my social life, my spiritual life and my sanctuary from what wasn’t always an ideal home life. I reach the Bible cover to cover, went to Youth Group, participated in Bible quiz, sang in choir, was part of the Christian groups at school. I wasn’t drinking the kool-aid, I was guzzling it.
By my freshman year of high school, I had a crisis of faith. I can’t recall now what the exact. I remember that the people in my church were acting in ways that I was having trouble rectifying with the lessons from the Bible. During that crisis of faith, a few friends at school had started exploring Wiccanism. Wicca appealed to me because of the fantasy nerd that I was, and the idea of real magic to my 14 year old self was worth at least a look. We had planned a Halloween party where we were going to conduct a seance. Then, my parents found a note talking about our Halloween party by going through my stuff and pulling it from a hiding place.
My parents cancelled my Halloween party plans. I wasn’t allowed to see any of my friends anymore and lost them as friends. I had to go to weekly counseling sessions with my pastor. He told me two things right off the bat–that I had committed an unforgivable sin and that I was going to hell. He then said that I should stay in the church showing God good I was, even though he said I was beyond redemption.
During these sessions, I asked questions that bothered me. What about the tribes in the Amazon who had never had the opportunity to hear of Christ? Were they going to hell? Yes, because even though they had no way of knowing about Christ, they were sinners for not accepting Jesus as their lord and savior.
He told me the world was a sinful place, that babies came into the world sinners. If they weren’t baptized, they were going to hell because they couldn’t ask for forgiveness for their sins. When I asked why, he said we all held the taint of Eve’s betrayal and our sin was being born tainted. According to him, we were all broken, undeserving of anything but the pits of hell, we were little better than demons, and it was only by the grace of God that we got the things we didn’t deserve.
God had gone to such trouble to create this universe and these people, why was he so eager to cast everyone into a pit of fire? Because we were sinners. How is it free will if God throws a temper tantrum and condemns us to an eternity in hell if we even slightly step out of line? Because we don’t deserve his forgiveness for our sinful nature. It is our freewill to embrace our sinful nature, or turn to go to save us from ourselves. I couldn’t accept what he was saying. I couldn’t accept the hatred threaded into these beliefs under the guise of faith.
Everything changed in me after that. I thought that the Church was perverting the Bible. I saw them making logical leaps to justify their hatred and their own exceptionalism. I watched Christians walk into the church and profess their faith and undying devotion to Jesus, and walk out the door and get on with their lives as if they’d never been there.
As the Christian Rap group, DC Talk says, “that is what an unbelieving world finds, unbelievable.”
Those sessions with my pastor showed me the Church for what it was. The hypocrisy was too much for me. What I had seen as a support community, I now saw as people banding together to justify how much better they were than others. I realized that I had been pretty far down the holier-than-thou path myself. I saw people who wielded their faith like a weapon to wound, instead of bandage to heal.
I made the decision that my path was not with the Church. I felt that I could be more moral and more Christ-like on my own without the church than I ever could be with it. So I left the Church and started on the path to Enlightenment through Buddhism. I’m not atheist, I know there’s something greater than me out there, but I’m not attached to finding the right thing to call it. I do my best to be Christ-like because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s kind of person I want to be.
The years of teachings about how horrible I was for existing had scarred me deep. I spent most of my life convinced that I was broken, that I didn’t deserve anything for myself. I still have trouble feeling like I “deserve” anything, and feel guilty doing even the smallest things for myself.
I still miss it. I miss the community and the fellowship. Sometimes I wish I could go back, but I know I wouldn’t be happy there. There’s too much scar tissue , too many bad memories and feelings of rejection and hopelessness and hypocrisy. I walk a different path.