On my best days, I’m grateful for my journey out of conservative evangelicalism.
On other days, these are the things I miss the most:
- Unwavering devotion
- Familiar rituals
- Songs that are easy to learn with your hands held overhead
- That “us against the world” feeling
- That “everything has an easy answer” feeling
- That “lean against the fence” feeling – a meadow within, a wilderness out there.
Faith reconstruction is sometimes lonely, never linear. After all, the nature of conservative evangelicalism is to offer community, comfort, and answers. So, when I left, these were the first things to go. Most of us queer Christians don’t happen upon a way out; instead, we are shown the door.
My former faith kept me in a sort of spiritual stasis. And now, I’m in charge of my own spiritual growth. For better and at times for worse, no one warns me anymore when I’ve backslidden. No one asks me anymore on once-dreaded coffee dates. No one says anymore that God tells them in dreams to save my soul.
And sometimes, my soul is well fed. Un-needy. And sometimes, my soul is feral.
Lately, I can see the weeds.
In the wilderness – in the larger Christian world outside of evangelicalism, I don’t know how to ask for prayer for myself in the midst of more serious concerns: life and death and systemic injustices. How do I confess that I need accountability for more than just my commitment to anti-racism or environmental activism?
I also need prayer to soothe my anger, heal my anxiety, and shatter my cynicism. I want to roll Scripture in my hands not only to study it but also for comfort. I want communion not only for the mystery but also because I’m hungry.
But I can’t go back. Once you know that the wilderness exists and that God calls you to find Her out there, to stay enclosed is a rejection of God’s wholeness and mystery. And because there is no place for queer Christians in the conservative evangelicalism to which I belonged, and because it is too toxic to be reformed, I don’t know that I’d even want a queer-affirming version of the tradition that I miss.
I don’t want queer-affirming churches that sing songs of total depravity and dangerous Calvinism. I don’t want queer-affirming churches that focus so deeply on personal sanctification that the Church becomes immobile and self-absorbed. I don’t want queer-affirming churches where queer people, people of color, or folks with disabilities serve as tokens of a community’s spiritual mettle. And I don’t want a cult of personality and celebrity in which queer people can also compete.
What I do want is harder to say.
But I can be both grateful for where I am today and mournful for what I’ve lost. And maybe – dear one – you can be, too.
Perhaps you’re in the wilderness. I’m out here, too. The wind whips through this place, and the rain does, too. And God is in these things, and in the things that She moves. And along the way, sometimes our paths will cross – yours and mine, and for a little while, it won’t feel so lonely.
Painting by Joanne Nam