“Wait, you were a Christian?”
Short answer? Yes, for a while.
I started going to church a few years ago. I was in a particularly bad place at the time and felt like I should explore it. The first time I explored it, it lasted a couple of months and then I stopped going. I just wasn’t feeling it.
However, about a year later I started attending a different church. This church was different. It was a charismatic evangelical Christian church. It had a very American feel. The band that played each Sunday was like a rock band. The speakers were cool, confident, and lively. At first, I loved it.
When I first arrived, I was greeted at the door and introduced to one of the pastors as a newbie. He was so welcoming and asked where I lived. I told him, and he immediately took me over to a family who came from the same area as me. That family warmly greeted me and asked me to sit with them. They were so friendly and helped me navigate the first service. They became my friends. I also joined the church’s support group, to look at dealing with my issues. The group quickly became like family. We exchanged phone numbers and texted during the week. When they asked how I was, it felt like they genuinely wanted to know the answer. They were always pleased to see me. I loved the feeling of community and the sense of belonging. I felt like I’d finally found my place. I attended church twice a week, spent my spare time studying the Bible, and started making preparations to be baptised.
But there was a problem.
I didn’t believe.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force my brain to believe in the God of the Bible, and I couldn’t reconcile my core values with the values of Christianity. I was a queer feminist who believed in access to safe abortion and equal rights. I didn’t believe I was powerless to control my life and that the only way things could change was if I accepted that and just prayed that God would fix me. I felt constant guilt and tried desperately to suppress those thoughts.
But gradually, the pit in my stomach grew so large I could no longer deny it.
I didn’t fit in. And I didn’t want to.
So I left. It wasn’t easy. For the first time in my life, I’d felt like part of a loving community, and suddenly it was gone. As soon as I stopped attending church, those “friends” disappeared. My support network dissolved. It was a low point and my mental health continued to deteriorate.
However, since leaving I gained access to professional mental health treatment. I came to accept myself. I am a queer feminist who believes in access to safe abortion and equal rights. And that’s okay.
Now, I look back and I realise that what I was looking for was acceptance. Acceptance that I was never going to find in Christianity. Sure, there were more liberal Christians, but the doctrine remained. The Bible is a circular hole and I’m a square peg.
I don’t know if I’ve found my matching peg hole yet, but I’m not willing to force myself to conform just so I fit in. If people can’t accept me for who I really am, then I don’t want to be accepted by them.
I accept myself.
Do you have any experience with organised religion? What do you like/dislike about it? Let me know in the comments!