I wrote this in early 2019 and have presented it in-person before the pandemic. Although I’ve healed in many ways since this was written, much of what it says still rings true to my heart.
It’s a uniquely isolating feeling — being internally so in love with God yet knowing, as a citizen of a country predominantly filled with Christians, that the majority of them you encounter in everyday life will never wholly consider you one of them.
It’s this really eerie, alone-in-a-crowded-room sort of feeling that slowly gnaws at you — a tension that you carry with you in every atmosphere, in every seemingly menial social interaction you have. It’s always there. Right under the surface… simmering. You cannot escape it.
“Oh no, is the cashier a Christian? They’re wearing a cross necklace. Would they, too, think I’m going to Hell if they knew me?” you start to wonder. “The car in front of me is plastered with Jesus-fish decals. Would that driver also deem me a heretical outcast of Christendom, simply by virtue of who I am and where Holy Spirit has led me?”
There is always a lingering undercurrent of exclusion that pervades the ambiance of these spaces. You feel it in your veins. Immutable components of yourself — pieces of what makes you, you — are not fully welcome nor accepted here.
Foolishly, I once used to think the Body of Christ was my safe haven; a refuge comfortable nestled away from the depraved world. I once naively deemed it a sanctuary free from all blemish and wickedness. I’d meet other Christians and ignorantly feel safe… not fearful.
But I’m older… and I’m wiser now, too. I have had jarring experiences and done deep internal excavation. I also spend my days reading detailed experiences of people like me all over the country. And much of what’s misleadingly called the “Family of God” is not safe. Not most of it, anyway. It’s a war zone. A lethal machine. It wreaks violence on human bodies, shocks their spirits, maligns their minds. It kills people.
The most powerful political and ecclesial agents of this faith ruthlessly attack people from every angle. Socially, emotionally, mentally, physically, financially. It’s one large factory built to instill and imprint pain — to steal, kill, and destroy — instead of fastened to bring life and life abundantly as Jesus said. So many “believers” are like bees, incessantly stinging us all in a million little ways that all lead back to much bigger, more deathly hives — capitalism and classism and racism and ableism and patriarchy and queerphobia. They are zealous robots, engineered and programmed under false spiritual pretenses to systematically wage war on all Imago Dei.
You know what’s most peculiar, though? Once they’ve done this to us — ALL OF THIS! — and we have the courage to truthfully say “I’m hurting!”, they act like we just shit in their breakfast cereal. You’re hurting? How dare you inconvenience them! Stop causing division! Take up your cross! Have joy in the Lord!
And it kills me. Who knows how many random people I come across everyday that perpetuate these same patterns, promote these same behaviors, promulgate these same ideas, propagate these same oppressive systems. O, Lord, how many is it?
The truth is, I fucking love Jesus. And I fucking hate this bullshit so much. I want to take that invisible barrier of tension, cut it with a knife and say “I’m here, whether you like it or not!” I want to shake these everyday, unknown people I come across and jolt them awake from their slumber. I want to yell, “You are being controlled by a spirit of religion. WAKE UP!” Because I see it in their eyes; I swear to God. They wear their beliefs on their skin. The people I’ve spent the greater portion of my life around — I can feel their aura from miles away.
I have frightening accuracy pinpointing them. I can sense when I’m talking to a stranger who believes like… that. Our eyes, they will lock and I know they’re exactly who I used to be. The tone of their voice, their mannerisms — I just know. I think many of us do. We instinctively perceive that they are under that same trance, that same hypnosis. And God, do I want them to know they’re being fooled en masse. I want to plead with them on my hands and knees, convince them that they have permission to live better than this. There is no freedom in their dusty, dreary corner.
Not for those they’re hurting. Not for them, either. Nobody wins.
And that alone-in-a-crowded-room feeling I get? It extends beyond me and their predictable, anticipated denial of my membership in Christianity. Oh; it goes far, far beyond me.
Because in their eyes: I see millions more people around the world they try to deny this same right to.
Millions more they exclude and excommunicate and deem expendable in their quest for power.
Millions more that their beliefs are oppressing in all these multifaceted ways — Christian or not.
In their eyes, I see fire. But not good fire. I don’t see fire used as a cleansing agent to bring about restoration and healing… I don’t see the fire of Holy Spirit. No. I see fire that is wielded as a weapon to burn and singe and incinerate fellow kin to ashes.
But somehow, I believe that beauty still comes from ashes — and not in the trite, hollow, sterilized way they taught me. We are proof of this beauty. Like phoenixes, we are rising in glorious clouds of smoke with feathers too colorful and bodies too airborne for their small, monochrome imaginations. Many of us — we are flying out of the boxes where they held us captive, soaring from the cages where they imprisoned us.
I do not consent to their gatekeeping. I don’t. And I never will. They’ll never have permission to remove me from the inheritance I chose. They’ll never own a monopoly on the Christ I hold so dear. Try to main the Body’s limb that I am a tendon on — go ahead. You will only be hurting yourself.
As for me and my house?
We will keep