My Relationship With Christianity & Why I Quit
The following is an excerpt from the book I'm writing and will publish later this year.
For most of my life, I was raised in a southern baptist church, where my father worked at. Growing up Christian in Texas was a revealing yet painful experience. Even from a young age, I knew I wasn't like the other kids. We never seemed to attend the same school, so I never had much to discuss. The sermons were long and boring, and I usually fell asleep in the pew. The sermons I remember most were "you're going to hell" and "gays are ruining the country, and then also going to hell." Those didn't make me mad, but I did feel very bored. It wasn't all bad though, the church choir would flip their robes over whenever the Dallas Cowboys were in the Super Bowl to show their support, and we were dismissed a little earlier than normal. That way, we could go watch the pregame. My father also worked there until I was 16; everyone thought he was awesome. Surprisingly, the moms thought he was great, but more on my father later.
By the time we reached middle school, my church friends and I would walk door to door and "witness" to neighbors, telling them about our faith and asking them to attend our church. Keep in mind this was the 90s, so most of the neighborhoods were relatively safe back then around my hometown. I was naturally devout, but something kept creeping into the church that I couldn't ignore; arrogance, hate, and bigotry.
First, it was not attending the same school as the other kids, but since we were young, that seemed not to matter as much. We were simply children and would play well enough. By our teen years, however, we attended rival schools. I attended R.L. Turner, and they attended Newman Smith. We only saw each other twice a week, Sundays and Wednesdays, and the more active we became in extracurricular activities, the more different our lives seemed to become. Despite growing up next to the same kids in church, I found it difficult now to hold conversations. At least, I thought, I had the praise band.
I started playing drums when I was 10. By 13, I was good enough to have helped form and joined the youth praise and worship band. For a time, it was good. But one day, our youth pastor left to be a missionary in Mexico, and a new youth pastor came in; unfortunately, he couldn't stop watching porn at work, so he was fired. With an absence of leadership, our natural teenage tendencies took over. They soon removed me from the praise and worship band, which was the one thing left I felt connected to. You see, my replacement was another kid who was allowed to borrow the drumset from my rival high school across the street. Instead of being allowed to stay with the kids I had grown up with and had been in a band with for 2 years, they shuffled me off to the middle schoolers' room to play bongos despite me not being in middle school or knowing any of them. With no communication occurring between the others and me, no praise band, and being left on my own for everything else that was God related, I stopped going. The last time I attended a Wednesday night service, they had moved it to Newman Smith Highschool with lights and a sound system. And wouldn't you know it, I wasn't invited to play because I wasn't in that praise and worship band anymore. Being totally ostracized with no friends and feeling very unwelcome, I gave up on the church I had spent nearly 16 years attending. I was lonely, made to feel like shit, left out of events and meetings, and couldn't take it anymore. And as for my dad's job at the church? Well, that ended around the same time after my mother finally convinced him to stop sleeping with the other women at the church. The pastor had been no help in that matter. This was strike one.
After my mom bounced me around new churches for a year or two, I was off to college, and I started attending another Baptist church in Denton, TX. Only, this time, I had almost immediately begun to be ignored by people I thought were my friends. One girl in particular, Marcy, was a terrible person. I didn't have a car, and she did. So I asked her if I could go with her group. Marcy was one of my first friends in college, and we were in the same friend circle in the dorm. After church service on Sunday nights, not knowing anyone besides the friends I came with, I would sit alone in the pew, watching Marcy stand and chat with other people for 30-45 minutes. When I asked if we could leave, I was brushed aside and told she wanted to hang out. So, I continued to stand there and try to make conversation, only to be treated like an outsider. Finally, when we returned to the dorm, I asked Marcy if she could introduce me so that I could feel more welcome in the conversation. She took offense to this suggestion and told me it was my responsibility to interject myself into the conversations to make my own friends. Not making any headway in the situation, I stopped going as I knew I wasn't welcome in that circle. But that wasn't the last I would hear from Marcy and that church.
A few years later, Marcy, who led her woman's bible study group by this point, which my then girlfriend was part of, publicly confronted my girlfriend during bible study on her sexual behaviors with me. The moment was described to me as being like an intervention. Standing up for herself, my girlfriend was asked not to return until she accepted their "help" at following Christ. After hearing this, and since I knew which dorm room Marcy lived in, I confronted her about it in the hallway. The conversation was heated, loud, and personal. Years of bitterness and frustration blurted out of my mouth, and I ensured everyone in that hall knew exactly what had happened. In no uncertain terms, I also told her never to speak to me or my girlfriend again. I never saw Marcy after that day, and if I did run into her again, I doubt it would go well. That was strike two.
Finally, in my mid-20s, I attended the last Christian church I would ever call home. After attending for three years, I had friends who didn't care about my sexual habits and adult friends who cared about me. In 2007 my new girlfriend, Jessica, became pregnant with our first child. So, having zero experience with babies, I asked to volunteer in the nursery to prepare for having my own child to raise. They said they would like to meet with me and set up a date and time to meet at Starbucks close to the church. However, no one came. I sat in the coffee shop for 45 minutes, waiting for a woman that never came. After being stood up, I received an email from the woman I was to meet. In it, she stated how she was now "unsure and uncomfortable" about me volunteering because I wasn't currently married. I was told that I needed to go through a year-long membership class and that they would have to consider it. I remember the hurt and anger that the one church I had actually liked as an adult, the place I felt was different for three years, decided that I was too much of a sinner to even meet with me in person. After sending in a strongly worded email complaint, I was told it wasn't their fault since that was "church policy" and that I might be able to help in the nursery, eventually. Of course, by the time "eventually" would have arrived, my daughter would be nearly one year old, and I wouldn't need practice. While on a call with my mom telling her why I wouldn't be allowed to help at the church, I was so angry at the whole experience that I threw my chair across the room
At the same time, my girlfriend was dealing with her own church issues. You see, she worked as a toddler teacher at a church-run daycare center. But now they couldn't have her an unwed, pregnant mother teaching toddlers because that would look bad in front of the parents. So they moved her to the front desk, where she couldn't be seen much sitting down. At that point, I was done with Christianity. Strike three. Decades of personal rejection at different churches, with different people, and in different situations led to the same outcome. We don't want you here. You're not good enough. Please change who you are, get out, or be ashamed of yourself.
And while these three stories are the big strikes, there were many little ones too. For example, being bisexual and hearing that my friends, partners, and everyone else in the gay community were going to hell forever, the idiotic baptist boycott of Disney, and the secret my church leadership knew of my father's cheating and did nothing to stop it. The list could go on for an entire book. The bigotry inside the doctrine, the hypocrisy from believers, and the personal pain the Christian faith gave me were enough to make me an atheist for eleven years. During that time, I would have my first child, marry, and then have two additional children.
Typing this story out was difficult as it took two days and brought many negative emotions back. However, as this story was unfolding, another was also in progress; the story of the boy and the yin yang. You see, two journies were occurring simultaneously. One journey led me away from Christianity, and another led me toward Taoism. This path was more peaceful, personal, and connecting than I had encountered previously. I turned 40 last October, and while I don't know what will come in my future, I know I have overcome hardship, struggle, and persecution.
If you are struggling due to your beliefs or feeling like you don't belong, please feel free to message me on my Matrix or DM me on Mastodon. I may not know you yet, but I'm always willing to listen.
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