The biggest change that occurred in my life since the election is I quit going to church. I’ve attended church my whole life, and while overall it has been a positive experience, I’d been struggling to fit in during the past two years due to my changing political and theological views. I stayed because I felt like I could make a difference, but it was exhausting. I loved the church and I wanted it to be better, so I sacrificed my happiness for their sake. I guess that didn’t work out too well.
I was raised in the Assemblies of God, a conservative white evangelical denomination, which also happens to be the main Christian demographic responsible for putting Trump in the White House. Their vote felt like a betrayal. After sharing my feelings on Facebook and having them invalidated by other Christians, I decided that church was no longer a safe place for me to be. There will be a lot of posts from me in the future about the Church’s role in Trump’s presidency, but for now here’s an essay I wrote a few days after Election Day.
So I quit church.
After two years of struggling, bargaining and making excuses, I pulled the plug on what had become a harmful one-sided relationship. I was suffocating; the church’s foot was on my throat and I decided that I’d rather breathe freely.
I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but it’s hard to find the words. Church has been a significant part of my life since birth; my parents had me dedicated a month after I was born. Church is how I discovered I was interested in music and it had a heavy influence over every aspect of my life, including where I went to college and my career choice. My social life almost completely revolved around doing stuff at church and hanging out with people I went to church with. Church was the center. I loved church. But now I’ve come to terms with the fact that the church does not love me back.
Election Day was the death knell. 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, and the betrayal broke my heart. When I shared my concerns and discussed how dangerous Trump is, other Christians threw me under the bus, called me a murderer and a liar because I voted for Hillary. When I talked about how scared I was of the incoming administration, they told me to pray, trust God, and everything would be all right.
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace.” they say when there is no peace. – Jeremiah 6:14
When I was growing up, church was a safe place for me, and the friends I had there shielded me from the various traumas of my childhood and teen years. But growing up changed that. I moved away from the beliefs and conventions of my traditional upbringing, and realized that who I was and who the church wanted me to be were two different things. For the past couple of years, going to church was like trying to fit into a shirt I had long since outgrown and no longer served its purpose of keeping me clothed.
So my center is gone, and I’m trying to find something else. I’m worried about what people will think. What will my parents think? If someone asks me why I left church, am I just supposed to rattle off my list of reasons, pulling them out of my purse like this week’s grocery list?
“Why did you leave church?”
“Well…” I pull a long piece of paper out of my bag.
“I left because 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. I left because the church protects abusers. I left because I no longer wanted to be complicit in the church’s homophobia. I left because the church hates women. I left because I’m pro-choice. I left because of the man in my Sunday School class who made me uncomfortable. I left because of the guy who repeatedly sexually assaulted me while I attended a Christian college. I left because the church made me feel ashamed of my sexuality. I left because of all the shitty things people said about my mental illness. I left because I feel betrayed, I left because…”
Won’t you please excuse my frankness, but it’s not my cup of tea.
The list is long and exhaustive and I doubt the person would care. They’d probably just tell me to get over it.
I’m not surprised I left. I predicted it ages ago. I just didn’t think it would happen so suddenly, like a band-aid being torn off. I planned on it being a gradual process. But on November 9th I realized the boat was sinking and if I didn’t jump I was going to drown. I love the church, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice myself for her.
I’m sad. I’m scared. I just walked away from the last 31 years of my life and I have no idea what my future is going to look like. This is a significant wound and huge loss, and I know it’ll take a while to recover and find a way forward. But right now I’m just going to hold on the the one thing I know is true; that I did the right thing.
I can’t take any more bad water. I’ve been poisoned from my head down to my shoes.