How I Became a Heretic (or How the Evangelical, Conservative Church Lost Me)

I wasn’t always a heretic. I used to be as Religious Right as they come, raised as I was in the 70’s and 80’s in a conservative, evangelical, James-Dobson-loving, Christian home.

I went to Awana and learned Bible verses for candy and badges when I was little.

I know the Four Spiritual Laws by heart, and I attended Evangelism Explosion training so I could lead people away from the Fiery Pits of Hell where their souls were bound if I failed to witness, and I learned to shove them into the arms of JesusChristTheirPersonalLordAndSavior (one word).

My parents became missionaries, so I lived with pagan tribespeople in the jungle, sacrificing for Jesus, and I went to missionary boarding schools where I took Old and New Testament classes and memorized Scripture because it was a shield against the Devil.

I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992, my first American presidential election as an eligible voter, because he was the Only Godly Choice. I was appropriately, emotionally destroyed when Bill Clinton, that Lackey of Satan Who Proved He Was Evil Incarnate When He Squidged on Monica Lewinsky’s Dress, was elected in his stead.

I went to conservative Christian colleges — two of them — and I majored in Church History. I know the nuanced differences between the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, and I’m geeky enough to have an animated conversation about them.

I bought books at the Christian bookstore about the dangers of Drug Culture, Hedonism, and Sex, and I hid those books deep in the couches of my nonChristian friends so they’d find them eventually, read them, and be saved. Coercive Couch Conversion, YEEHAW!

I was sure to tell my friends to Never Have Premarital Sex with their boyfriends (I didn’t even consider they might have girlfriends) and to remain pure so they didn’t transform into Chewed-Up Gum; used and wrecked and never able to pristinely fit back in their box. I knew, after all, that being Outside the Box was the Most Dangerous Thing that could happen to us. I didn’t mention to my friends, of course, that I was having premarital sex, because saying so would’ve meant I was deliberately doing it, which I was definitely not doing, since what I was doing was falling on my boyfriend’s penis — accidentally — over and over again.

All of which is an extremely long way to say I have street cred, man. I was a good Christian once. I meant well. I was very sincere. I have all the training. I prayed all the prayers. I asked Jesus into my heart at least 46 times, and I meant it every one of them. I was baptized twice, once as an infant and once as a teenager, so I have all the baptismal bases covered. I’ve studied Scripture, and I’ve committed it to memory so it is writ upon my heart, and I love Scripture still. I believed All the Things about Hell and how to scare people away from it, even though very few of those beliefs were based on the Bible. And I was extremely scared to hit the “like” button on questionable Facebook posts, sure I’d be found out for giggling at swearing, or loving the gays, or Being Political, or Thinking My Own Thoughts, which is, of course, the Worst.

I am, in short, not the person you would’ve picked to become a heretic. Not the person you would’ve picked to abandon Republicanism and the theological giants of the 1980’s. Not the person you would’ve picked to believe marriage ought not be confined to one man and one woman. Not the person you would’ve picked to deeply doubt a Literal Hell. Not the person you’d think would come to believe others’ salvation doesn’t depend on me at all.

But I did become that person. I became that person in spades, and I’ve given a lot of thought to where conservative Christianity fell apart for me. To where I became a heretic, off grid from the theology I was taught was Higher Ground. Away from the theology that was supposed to keep me Safe and Protected, as though those are the goals, and, instead, found me walking a ragged path through the wilderness rather than the well-trod highway I was told was the Narrow Way.

Here’s where it came apart for me:

When I was 7, you told me in no uncertain terms that the Smurfs were Satanic — something about arch demons and Papa Smurf as Karl Marx in disguise. I mean, I could buy the bit about He-Man luring me to Hades — after all, he called upon the Power of Grayskull and was practically, deliciously naked — but the Smurfs were a little harder to believe. You didn’t know it yet, and neither did I, but you started to lose me there. Even my 7 year old self knew the most evil thing about the Smurfs was that wretched theme song.

When I was 14, you told me to trust you, and you were my youth pastor, so I did. You said weird things about sexuality and girls’ bodies which led men to sin, and I felt uncomfortable around you always, but I was taught to trust you more than myself, so I shoved down my own discomfort, and I didn’t question you. Nothing awful happened. Not to me, anyway. But I learned what men said to me was more important than the Holy Spirit or my gut or my conscience. And you lost me.

When I was 15, we were out to save the world. You said we were doing God’s own work, though my soul squirmed at handing out trite tracts on the city streets and saying as many sinners’ prayers as possible instead of feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and finding medical care for the mentally fraught. And so you lost me.

When I was 29, and my gentle, compassionate, kind friend from our missionary high school wrote our entire class to tell us why he couldn’t come to our reunion and why he’d never see us again — because he was gay, so he’d had to choose between God and not killing himself — and, well, in the nicest possible way, said that we could go fuck ourselves because he wasn’t dying for any of this crazy, conservative Christian bullshit, you lost me. You lost me like my friend never did.

When Christianity became an In-Club with its own subculture and language rooted in white, middle class America — when Christianity was bought and sold to the Republican Party through the efforts of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and fears about the Supreme Court — you lost me. When James Dobson and Franklin Graham took up their hypocritical banner, you lost me again.

When you taught me that blasphemy and taking God’s name in vain meant uttering the phrase “oh my God” — as though avoiding those three words completely fulfills one of only ten commandments — as though “oh my God” said in horror isn’t the deepest prayer for help — you lost me. When you buried the idea that blasphemy is spreading lies in the name of God, in favor of a simplistic phrase — when you didn’t look deeper — your vapid explanation lost me.

When you told me drinking wine was different in Jesus’ time — that the alcohol wasn’t as potent so it was OK that Jesus drank but it’s not OK to do it today — that Jesus didn’t really mean “do this in rememberance of me,” like his goal wasn’t communal worship over wheat and wine — like his first miracle wasn’t turning water to wine for a party that had already drunk its fill — you lost me.

When you told me God created the world 6,000 years ago — when you said, specifically, during college chapel that believing in evolution was the same as disbelieving in God — when you denied science the way the Church in Galileo’s time denied the earth revolved around the sun — you lost me. As though God is too small to set evolution in motion. As though evolution isn’t a miracle all on its own.

When you told me you’re certain your interpretation of the Bible is the only interpretation — when you said the meaning of the Bible in whatever English translation you prefer is clear — when you said homosexuality was a “lifestyle choice” and an “abomination” and changed your mind to “orientation” when the science became clear — when you still insisted that our homosexual and transsexual and bisexual and pansexual and polysexual and queer and questioning and human neighbors may exist but may not practice their sexuality within the parameters of Godliness — when you said the theology on sexuality is different than our former, historical theological justifications for slavery or women remaining silent in church or the sun revolving around the earth — you lost me. When you said you believe in a static understanding of the Bible outside of context and history and oral recitation and science and poetry and translation — when you ditched the beautifully mysterious and mystical meanings of God’s Word who was made flesh in Jesus Christ — when you denied the Holy Spirit has come with fire to be an ongoing revelation to God’s people — you lost me completely.

When I watched people suffer and become more disenfranchised than ever because of your interpretation of Scripture and your imposition of that on their lives, so very unlike Jesus’ response to the marginalized, you lost me.

When you became more concerned about protecting our borders in the isolationism sweeping the globe than protecting the most vulnerable who are trying to flee to us, crying out for help — when you didn’t say like Jesus, “let the little children come to me” — you lost me.

When you told people to come as they are, and I knew it really, secretly meant “come as you are so we can change you, and if you fail to conform in time, you’ll have to leave” — when I berated myself for thinking that was uncharitable, and it ended up being true — you lost me.

When you told me after my miscarriage to examine my life for sin, and you wished I’d bothered to listen to the tapes on how to have a Christian pregnancy, and if only I’d tithed more to the Church so I didn’t lose my first born like the cattle of the Israelites, you lost me.

When you told me my genitalia affects who I’m allowed to teach and which platforms I’m allowed to take — whether I can preach, which men can do, versus “bring a message,” which women are allotted — whether I can be in leadership or must submit to those with different genitalia — you lost me.

When I brought home my precious baby girl from Vietnam and you said, “At least she’s not black,” you lost me.

When I spoke what I believed in earnest — out loud and in public — and you punished and shunned me and told me you’d probably forgive me eventually but you couldn’t say when, you lost me.

When Jesus’ example was to make wine for drunk people at a wedding, to break the Sabbath to pull an ox and its farmer’s livelihood from a ditch, to bodily block the stone throwers, to furiously upend the tables of people cheating the poor from inside the Temple, to eat with hookers, to abandon the rules in favor of loving his neighbor — and you wanted to monitor the length of my skirt, and which words I could utter, you lost me.

When I finally realized you taught me to be polite and quiet because it upheld the power structure and made those oppressing others more comfortable, rather than upheld Jesus’ radical example and God’s great love of every person, you lost me.

When you told me my virginity was my most precious gift, you lost me.

When you told me premarital sex would wreck my life and relationships forever, and you were wrong, you lost me.

When you told me with every word and every glance and every action that my micro-behaviors and submission to our Christian patriarchical subculture were more important than my aching, expansive heart and desire to see God’s Love sweep the planet, you lost me.

When my gender and sexual minority friends found no sanctuary or succor with you — when you insisted you loved them while they committed suicide at alarming rates in even larger numbers inside faith communities and you did nothing other than spout Bible verses, nothing to save their lives, nothing to set aside your cold recitation of culturally-proscribed, modern, fundamentalist theology — you lost me. You lost me, you lost me, you lost me, and, more importantly, you lost them.

When I watched you actually believe you’re as hurt, as victimized, as terribly sad, as those who’ve been perpetually and systematically disenfranchised and abandoned by the Church, you lost me.

You lost me.

Jesus won me. Love owns me. And you lost me. Which is fine.

I live now in a place where I’m called a heretic regularly. Where I’m told I’m leading people astray. Where my convictions are not welcome in the church I chose once upon a time. And it’s a strange gift. Because I’m free. Free to love others fully. No longer restrained by false parameters. And I’ve found, as many who’ve wandered in the wilderness, that nothing — no one — no theology — no church — can separate me from the Love of God. Or stop me from spreading that Unlimited Love-of-God heresy to others.

And so I bid you good night. And send love. And Love. And wave in the dark, always and forever.

 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
323 comments
  1. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. This is beautifully perfect.

  2. Welcome to the authentic and genuine community of Jesus followers!

  3. hi Beth, I’ve been thinking about your blog post all day. What you wrote about and experienced makes me sad. Like, my heart is aching as I read what you’ve gone through. Legalistic Christians have done a lot of damage over the years, and I’m sorry you were the victim of that time and again.

    I can’t get a few thoughts out of my head, so here goes. I wouldn’t call you a heretic. I think you are a passionate girl and a very deep thinker. You don’t need me to say any of these things and I’m only saying them in case there might be someone else reading this that doesn’t know that there is HOPE beyond the CHURCH. Churches aren’t perfect, Christians aren’t perfect, I’m certainly far from perfect…but there is hope in Jesus and he is the heart of everything. The ONLY answer to all of this is to call on his name, seek his will, and find our answers in God’s word.

    Beth, thanks for reading this – I’m not all that good at conveying what’s on my heart, but, I wanted to try 😉 {{hugs}}

    1. Love to you, sweet friend. ❤️

  4. This blog post rings true for people who know the truth but want to feel better about themselves for rejecting the truth and making up their own. 1 Corinthians 10:23…. you can do anything but that does not mean you should. Sin is still sin and sin leads to DEATH. This is dangerous. Making your own truth is even more dangerous as scripture says here in Revelation 22:19. You will be taken out of the book of life. Scripture speaks for itself. Your argument is a rebellious one against God… not the Church. God help you.

    1. you lost me

      1. More like you lost the truth. Open your bible and find it again. God help you.

    2. Augustus, you are clearly a follower of Paul (ironically a maker of his own truth), Beth is clearly a follower of Christ. You should go about your way and quit trying to pull her back away from Christ.

      1. It’s called the Bible. The WORD OF GOD. That is what I follow. And you? God help you.

    3. Nurble blog post nurble nurble nurble people nurble nurble nurble truth nurble nurble nurble nurble nurble nurble nurble nurble rejecting the truth nurble nurble nurble nurble own. Nurble Corinthians nurble:nurble …you nurble nurble anything nurble nurble nurble nurble nurble you nurble. Sin nurble sin nurble nurble sin nurble nurble DEATH. This nurble dangerous. Nurble nurble nurble truth nurble nurble nurble dangerous nurble scrupture nurble nurble nurble Revelation nurble:nurble. You nurble nurble nurble nurble nurble nurble book of life. Scripture nurble nurble nurble. Nurble argument nurble nurble rebellious nurble nurble God…nurble nurble Church. God nurble you.

  5. Beth, I hope your words get spread outside of an echo chamber.

    As a transwoman, who spiritualized and demonized my internal chaos for more than 40 years and could never find the correct prayer formulation to make it go away, I finally reconciled my faith to what my doctors offered me. Transition was a transformational experience which resulted in profound peace; the one Paul declared to the Philippians, the peace that passes all understanding. The church you speak of, I lost it along the way. I’ve been told that transitioning is sin and that I must revert back to living as a man. In other words, I’m told I must park my brain and my heart on the shelf so I won’t offend their G-d and risk going to hell. This is the fear-based dogma I embraced for years; but thankfully it has been blown away like chaff. It is most liberating, and I would probably be called a heretic for saying “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” I am free and it’s impossible to return to such a superficial existence once one has experienced the indescribable. You know, the one Paul talked about.

    Coincidentally, I just wrote about this in my blog.

    1. Sending much love to you, Lisa. And apologies for the ways I and others like me upheld the power structure over the years rather than come to your aid. You deserved far better from the people who call ourselves Jesus’ own. I’m glad you found freedom despite us. That’s one of the miracles of God, whose other name is Love.

      ❤️,
      Beth

  6. Just read a hilarious, as in scary, blog titled something to this effect, “Why I Have Become an Arrogant Cynic of the Truth.” No, it isn’t a parody, tongue-in-cheek piece. Rather, the author seriously writes a self-serving, high horse, nonsensical tirade over why she failed at “trying this Christian thing” with the hopes of garnering some recruits.

    I will graciously spare you of her detailed attempt at building a scapegoat for her demise. In short, her blog starts off with a braggadocios list all of the Christian activities she so faithfully participated in throughout her childhood. You name it – she’s done it. You know it – she knows more. All the while, she is casting a snarky aspersion on it all, as if saying, “what a fool you are if you’ve taken part in anything Christian.”

    The piece then moves into her attempts at convincing us, now that she has become superiorly brilliant, why she has thrown her Christianity away. Those TERRIBLE things she learned and experienced in church…like all of those Bible lessons, the witnessing on the streets, the youth group, the Christian college, being taught about Heaven, Hell, sin, salvation, and creation. Ugh!! Sheer abuse to her young, impressionable self. Apparently, this is why she bailed.

    If that isn’t enough RI-DICULOUS for you, there’s more. She humors us further with the subtle inference that all male youth leaders are creepy lusters of young girls, parents are deceiving, robbing their children from the joys of Smurf, all Evangelicals, in their shallow ignorance, believe in and propagate a false interpretation of Scripture, Franklin Graham and the likes are frauds, and that the Bible having standards is bad. And she goes on and on and on.

    Her read feels no different than the typical calloused narrative from one hostile to Jesus. It reeks of the age-old excuse “I’m not a Christian because there must be deception, impropriety, and hypocrisy in there somewhere.” Nice try, but poor excuse!!

    Most insightful was her political and social propaganda on behalf of those who embrace what the Bible defines as sin. Yep! She pretty much slams the Bible for having a standard and every Christian who upholds such standard. And lower still… she then takes the liberty to redefine God in her likeness and drafts her own code of ethics on His behalf. Her newfound dogma in my own words is, “Everything is permissible, and God embraces it all…La-la land.” Oh but wait, what’s not permissible is the Church, because she has standards.” Hmmmmm.

    She plays on the phrase “you lost me” directed at the Evangelical church. Really? Who lost whom? Is a pervy youth leader an excuse to turn from God? Is having a few interpretations on Scripture an excuse to turn from God? Is having hypocrites in the church an excuse to turn from God?

    Clearly, I am not one of her recruits. I am humbly grateful for this gift of salvation through Christ Jesus and fully accept the Bible as the infallible, authoritative word of God. This salvation is available for all who would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Come to Him and He will clean you up. That’s how it works. There is NO blame to be cast upon the Lord or His Church universal. There is no scapegoat for falling away from the faith. People may turn their back on Him, but He doesn’t “lose” anyone. Just be honest… you turned your back because you think you know better.

    I challenge you, little “missy,” to reconsider whether your arrogance is worth separating yourself from your Maker. With your vast amount of intellect, I think you know better. Time will tell. Praying for you!!

    1. “I challenge you, little “missy,””? Yikes, you really know how close a sale effectively. “Praying for you!!” rings hollow.

    2. I think you literally just proved her point. God didn’t lose her. People like you did. You lost me too.

      1. This blog post rings true for people who know the truth but want to feel better about themselves for rejecting the truth and making up their own. 1 Corinthians 10:23…. you can do anything but that does not mean you should. Sin is still sin and sin leads to DEATH. This is dangerous. Making your own truth is even more dangerous as scripture says here in Revelation 22:19. You will be taken out of the book of life. Scripture speaks for itself. Your argument is a rebellious one against God… not the Church. God help you.

        1. “Jesus won me, love owns me and you lost me.”

          “nothing — no one — no theology — no church — can separate me from the Love of God.”

          God help her? God help you…learn reading comprehension. And maybe some compassion for people who have been deeply wounded by the church. Work on the plank in your own eye before you go for the speck in hers, friend.

          1. Open your bible. Read it in its context. And then you will know the truth. AND THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.

        2. Another argument against heathens won with the power of copy-paste!

    3. If you re-read this post free of your fear, you will see that far from “falling away from the faith” or “turning away from God” the author articulates how the church universal tried its best to drive her away, inserting rules and support of a human power structure in place of the God of the Bible, yet she was able to find her faith anyway, because God’s love is bigger than the failings of the people who make up the church. She never blames God, only the failings of the humans who put themselves in charge of the spirituality of others.

      1. Acts 2 the birth of the new testiment Church. Acts 14:23 the Church structure and its leadership. 1 Timothy 3:1-12 the church structure in more depth. Romans 13:1 all those in a governing and leadership position are put there because of God. Proverbs 19:21 man’s plans do not matter for God dictates EVERYTGING. The structure is given by God, those in authority are placed there by God, all things are as they are because God has purpose for them. Say what you will about Gods Church…. but the argument is still a rebellious one against God. God help you.

        1. Being against a misguided and/or power hungry religious leadership is not against God. Jesus himself strongly, loudly, angrily opposed the corruption of true worship he saw in the religious leaders of his day. That’s what this post is doing, returning to the Spirit that guided Jesus.

          1. Does that mean we turn away from church and forsake the gathering even though we are told not to forsake the gathering? Does this mean we tell people it’s ok to sin, it’s ok to be homosexual or to have sex outside of marriage? No. We as Christians follow what THE WORD OF GOD says. We don’t make our own truth. Because one person in Church abuses power does not mean we turn our back on church all together. God help you.

        2. God already has helped her.

          1. Read the WORD OF GOD my friend. Don’t let satans lies away you from truth.

    4. do you not see the problems addressed in the original post? Can you comprehend? She Loves Jesus but its his followers she had issue with.

      1. 1 John 4:20 ” If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen”

        Please read the word. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.

        God help you.

        1. 1 John 4:20 is the shortest possible summary of Beth’s post you could write.

          The church lost her when it said “I love God,” and yet hated their brothers and sisters.

          And you use it, instead, to reject the post.

          I believe it is you who needs to “read the word”–with the hope of comprehension.

          1. Because we run into people who sin as christians does not mean we abandon church friend. This post makes up its own truth instead of using the truth given us through the WORD OF GOD. God help you.

    5. Oh, bless.

      I think you have “turned away from the conservative, evangelical church” confused with “turned away from God,” but since I don’t have any better words to explain than I already used in the original post, I’ll leave that be. And I find it fascinating that you managed to turn “Jesus won me” into the belief that I said Jesus lost me. I just… IDK, here…

      I also think I’m supposed to feel somehow outraged or offended or defensive at your message — or convicted by all the name-calling? — but I just feel… resigned at this type of response these days. Ambivalent. Responses like this are inevitable, I guess, and your response highlights every reason I’ve rejected the fundamentalist sect and run into the arms of Jesus, a rebellious, table-tossing, hooker-loving, Sabbath-breaking, protector and healer and friend of the marginalized and disenfranchised. Because I was so very weary of having motives assigned to me that aren’t mine — so very weary of being called “self-serving,” “nonsensical,” “scapegoating,” “braggadocious,” “snarky,” “superior,” “ridiculous,” “callous,” “hostile to Jesus,” “Bible slammer,” “low standard bearer,” “arrogant,” and more — and so very weary of people who attest to love their neighbors as themselves trying to shame me into conforming, not to the Jesus of Scripture, but to the Jesus of white, patriarchical 1950’s and 1980’s theology.

      Thank God Jesus helped me ditch the abject fear I felt for years at being branded these things. Thank God that God is the one who will judge me and not you. Thank God you don’t have a corner on determining who’s following Christ. Thank God you’re not the gate-keeper to Love, which is God’s other name. And thank God I’ve learned it’s not only possible to survive being shunned and shamed, but it’s possible to thrive with the outcasts and those who wander the wilderness, which is where Jesus is, always.

      In closing, while I don’t ever understand how messages like yours are supposed to represent Jesus or drive people back under the umbrella of church as you understand it, I will say I’m impressed at the sheer number of adjectives you used to describe what you believe are my motives and secret efforts to “garner recruits.” (Which begs the question… garner recruits for what, exactly? I mean, I’m the person who wrote about pooping my closet. I feel fairly secure in my conviction no one is eager to follow me. 😀 )

      Nevertheless, here’s wishing you all the best, friend. Truly.

      1. You are set in the belief of the lies Satan has spun for you. There is nothing more to tell you other than I pray God reveals himself to you through His WORD. Open your bible and I pray the truth sets you free from satans hold on you. God help you dear.

    6. “I challenge you, little “missy, to reconsider whether your arrogance is worth separating yourself from your Maker.”” I don’t think Beth is really the one battling arrogance, here. Grace can be repulsive to many; I think Jesus was referring to this when He talked about the narrow path, and your comment reflects that sad truth pretty effectively.

  7. Beth, thank you for sharing your experience. Your words break my heart and give me hope, all at once. As a United Methodist pastor, it breaks my heart that this was your experience of the community of faith. However – it also gives me hope that folks can leave unhealthy (and unfaithful, IMO) iterations of faith and not be lost from God. God is Love, through and through – and if our practices and beliefs aren’t helping us love God, love ourselves, and love others more fully, then they are not from God. If following Jesus in the way of LOVE is the definition of being a heretic, then I’m all in.

  8. Not sure if I’ve said this recently or not, but you’re my favorite.

  9. Amazing and you articulated my own experience as if we lived the same life. ❤ thank you

  10. Enjoyed your post. It’s very insightful. I believe a growing number of people with similar backgrounds share your sentiments about organized religion and the religious right. Keep the faith!

  11. You and me both. I was never as fully in the evangelical world as you, but close enough to realize I can’t be that kind of Christian. And thanks to Jesus and His love, I don’t have to be.

  12. THIS IS TERRIFIC THANK YOU SO MUCH HOORAY

  13. I love this.

  14. I could have written this.
    I should have written this.
    I’m not that brave yet, but I want to be. My teens are turning from God and the church because the message of Jesus doesn’t match the behavior of the people who claim to follow him. I want my children to know that the Jesus they loved when they were little is the real deal.

  15. I don’t think I’ve ever loved reading something as much as I loved this. I laughed at falling on the penis over and over again, and cried at “Jesus won me, love owns me and you lost me.” Good. So good…so true. I’m glad you are you.

  16. Obviously, you have been able to think for yourself from a very young age. My question is “why don’t more people?” I am staggered by the hold fundamentalism has on people. It destroys lives. Why don’t more people think for themselves?

    1. I would say that the years I spent in the fundamentalist evangelical world were some of the best in my life and the life of my kids. That’s the hook. People who are looking for community – they really have that down. So in order to be accepted and in the midst of this amazing family type community, we are willing to forsake any doubts we might have. And in studying scripture, I did have countless Holy Spirit moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am now a minister in a progressive denomination and the intellectualism there has drowned out the joy of the Spirit and personal experiences with it. So, there you have it. We are all craving God and we are all craving community. Some of us are able to begin to see the inconsistencies and sacrifice the community – very painful by the way. But the call from the One who was and is and is to come is powerful and I don’t regret walking away at all. The friends that were like family will talk to me but no longer include me in their “community.”

  17. So sad. Sounds as though you are reacting more to fundamentalist parents than Christianity.

    1. My parents weren’t all that fundamentalist. They, like most parents who dearly love their children, were doing they best they could to raise us to be Godly and good, contributing members of society. They loved James Dobson, especially “The Strong Willed Child,” bless their hearts. I think they had at least 3 copies of that book hidden around our house for easy reference. As is always the temptation in parenting, they relied on it as a one-size-fits all manual for child-rearing. Now that I’ve been a parent for 19 years myself, I get how much we desperately want an expert to tell us how to do this job of parenting. It’s even more tempting when that “expert” purports to know the One Godly Parenting Method based on the Bible, as though the Bible is a manual or blue print. But the thing about my parents is they loved us to the moon and they listened to us always. They were strict; they neither spared the rod nor spoinled the child. But they also always allowed us to ask questions and valued both critical thinking and biblical study. They didn’t pretend the Bible was simplistic. While they raised us inside extremely conservative/fundamentalist communities, they were more concerned about following the living Jesus than following the latest interpretation of the “rules” by whatever denomination we were part of at the time.

      All that to say I’m not reacting to my fundamentalist parents. I enjoy an extremely close relationship with them, though we by no means agree on every theological issue. Nor am I reacting to Christianity in general. I’m reacting to the specific brand of Christian theology that has been co-opted by conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical, white, nationalistic, middle class Americans.

  18. Spot on! Evangelical leaders have sold Jesus once again for 30 pieces of silver in the name of upholding patriarchy, white supremacy and the Republican Party platform. Thank you for naming every single heresy of this phony Christianist nationalism! For freedom, Christ has set us free and I pray you are able to find a church which is walking the talk of Jesus … and we do exist.

    1. I feel like I could have written this myself. I had to leave the church to find myself. To be the person I am now very proud of. Who is more able to do good in the world than I ever was inside an evangelical church. Thank you for writing this!

  19. Wow, what a powerful message. My wife and I are right there with you. Good article.

  20. Thank you for writing this Beth.

  21. So very relatable. I was a teen in the 80s who loved playing guitar, listening to heavy metal, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and keeping my hair very long. All of that, basically everything that was most important to me – even the way I dressed – was of satan, according to my church. Hello, Jesus is always shown with long hair! My questioning thoughts? Satan making me doubt. Stop questioning. Eventually I left church and became an atheist. I now consider myself Buddhist, because that ideology is fully about love, unlike the right wing version of Christianity. I now try to focus on more liberal Christians to remind myself that they don’t all think so backwards, because I hated Christians for a long time, but not anymore. I realized it’s important to recognize extremists and look at them differently, and realize that I was once a Christian extremist and for an even longer time I was an atheist extremist, who hated religion. No longer.

  22. When I was a teen, and a Sunday school teacher said that we had to believe every word of every story in the Bible, and that if we threw out any part of it, we’d may as well throw out all of it, he had no idea which way that could go.
    He assumed that would be an incentive to believe every word of every story, but it could have the opposite effect as well.
    Do I believe that God feared that men could build a tower high enough to reach heaven? Or that Sampson was favored by God, even though he killed a Philistine to steal his coat? Or that he was so dumb he couldn’t figure out that Delilah kept turning him in? Or that the Philistines were so dumb they couldn’t figure out they could always find him a Delilah’s place? Or that Caine built a city, even though there were only three people in the world? And that all the evidence for evolution is disproved by the Garden of Eden story? Or that a whale swallowed Jonah even though its throat is too small to do that? Or that he did not drown or suffocate when that happened? And on and on.
    If I don’t believe those things, then how much am I to throw out, before there is a portion left that I will believe?

  23. LOVE THIS! I’d quote the passages I particularly agree with but it would end up being a re-posting of the entire blog.
    I am a heretic Christian…heck, a human being.
    It’s good to own that term.
    Well done, you good and faithful servant!

  24. Welcome to the party, pal☺

  25. I am so happy to read this and realize, I’m not alone.

    *The church lost me when they asked me to be a youth leader, and when I stepped up to do the job, they told me I was doing it wrong by challenging kids to BE JESUS instead of talking about him or filling out worksheets about the bible.

    *They lost me when less then 3 weeks before my wedding they informed me that they had been alerted to the fact that I had intended to have dancing at my reception, and they could no longer allow me to have my reception at their church, in their sanctuary, because dancing was forbidden- because it may get too sexual.

    *They lost me when they told me one of the youth I was teaching was nothing more then a liar and a manipulator and I shouldn’t believe what she says.

    *They lost me when the pastors wife had a miscarriage and she wrote a whole sermon about how her miscarriage was God teaching her a lesson.

    *They lost me when they brought in books by someone who claimed he had a “much better way” and that all sickness comes down to sin in ones own life (this includes the idea that a 3 year old with cancer- has cancer due to something like rebellion from his parents)

    *They lost me when in one sermon the pastor claimed We (Christians) were Above the TRASH (non-Christians) of the world.

    *They lost me when a gay friend cried to me that he wished God would either kill him, or make him not gay…..

    The church will place the blame on everyone but themselves…..

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