Thursday, May 1, 2014

Coming Out : I'm no longer evangelical, and it's not your fault.

This post is part of a series on spirituality and coming out. You can read the rest here.

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A few months ago, I found myself in a phase where I was obsessed with watching LGBT coming out films. 

The interest didn't come as a complete surprise. I grew up a theatre nerd and, true to stereotype, was exposed to the diversity of human sexuality fairly early on. As a result, issues like gay marriage have always felt personal to me, less about right and wrong and more about people. So, when Bridegroom and Out Late both popped up on my Netflix account, I just followed the impulse, assuming it had something to do with that.


But when I found myself completely captivated by a third film, Wish Me Away, I began to think deeper about what might be bringing me back to these stories again and again. Eventually, it struck me that something inside me deeply identified with the struggle of deciding whether or not to reveal to others who you really are, and the fear of judgement when you do. 

Via
I don't pretend to understand the complexity and difficulty of coming out of the closet regarding your sexuality. But I do understand the compulsion to hide a part of yourself.

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I've recently come to the conclusion that, whatever I am, I am not an evangelical. It's been a freeing realization. I've spent the majority of my life trying to fit my spirituality into that box, with varying degrees of success. There are so many questions I still cannot answer for myself, but it feels good to have this one tiny piece of the puzzle: I am not an evangelical.

For me, this is no small step. Because along with my artist mother and journalist father, evangelicalism raised me. Evangelicalism gave me my first sense of community and introduced me to God. Evangelicalism brought groceries to my house when times where tight. Evangelicalism loved my broken teenage self unconditionally, when few others did. For my entire life, evangelicalism has supported and nurtured and challenged me. It provided me with my primary sense of identity for the first two-plus decades of my life. 

Overall, evangelicalism has been good to me. This is not everyone's story, but it is mine. This doesn't mean I haven't been burnt by evangelicalism a time or two, because I have. Or that I don't have huge problems with several aspects of it, because O do I ever. But every religious tradition has its faults, and that is not why I am leaving. I am leaving because the nature of evangelicalism at its core is in direct conflict with who I am and what I believe.

So my shedding of the term is less a matter of right and wrong, and more a matter of apples and oranges. I don't mind hanging out with apples, some of my best friends and closest family members are apples. I may even go back to church with apples some day. But at the end of the day, I am not an apple. 

The strictness of evangelical theology simply does not leave room for the mystery and paradox that has come to shape what remains of my faith. I no longer know how to function as a perpetual doubter and emerging mystic in a tradition that relies so heavily on certainty and confidence and, well, evangelism. So I am freeing myself from the label and all its trappings. I am allowing myself room to stretch and breathe and be who I am.


***

A couple months after my coming out movies phase, I came across this Ted talk:



That's when I realized that it wasn't just me, that this process of coming out of the closest, it isn't just a gay thing, or a lesbian thing, or a spiritual misfit thing. It's kind of a human thing. We all have our stuff, the pieces of our essences we  hide for fear of rejection, or conflict, or condemnation. 

I don't know what the inside of your closet looks like, but I know the inside of mine all too well. It's lined with pages upon pages of all the beliefs and convictions and aspects of my spirituality that I've kept hidden. I've spent years curled up in my closet telling myself, "Don't say that. Don't admit that. Don't share that. You're wrong. You're lost. You're a heathen." And I am just so done. I am just so tired of the shame. I am coming out of the closet to be myself now. 

I don't know much about my place in this precious mess of Christianity, but I do know that if I am to continue existing within it, it will be as me. So, throughout the month, I'll be taking a few baby steps out of my spirituality closet with more Coming Out posts. I'd be honored if you'd join me on this journey by leaving a comment or link about your own coming out process. Let's step out of the closet together. 

6 comments :

  1. Yes, yes, to coming out with who you are. I am a not a fundamental Christian. I support women in ministry, marriage is about working as a team, it is not a sin to leave an abusive situation, I am a free spirit, I don't follow arbitrary rules, I am different than others, I am me. But yet I have a deep faith in Jesus. I am becoming proud of who I am!!! If you can't accept me, then move right along please.

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    1. Yes. Thank you so much Monica. Your fire shines so brightly. SO encouraging for me to see.

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  2. I love Ash Beckman ... and yes, declaring yourself an "orange" is so powerful. Even if you worship with "apples"... knowing you are different somehow gives you something to rest in. It's hard to explain when you're in the middle of it (like me), but you did a great job here. Evangelicalism doesn't leave room, you are right on.

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    1. Thanks Carly, from one orange to another. ;)

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  3. I watched Wish Me Away a year or so ago and cried all through it. This is a wonderful series you're offering. Thank you for your bravery and boldness. xo

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    1. I know right? It's so painfully familiar somehow. Thanks for the encouragement, Hillary. <3

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