The purpose of this blog is to explore my own healing from religious trauma while addressing larger concerns about the evangelical subculture. In the meantime, I want to make a few points for clarification:
For the most part, expect four series to be found on this blog: My Story, in which I write about my own experience in the Evangelical Church; Exvangelical Musings, in which I deconstruct the history and culture of the Evangelical Church by putting it into its proper historical and social contexts; Deconstruction Heroes, in which I will take a look at public figures – artists, theologians, etc. – whose work was important to my deconstruction and eventual decision to identify as an exvangelical; Meditations, which will be usually brief interludes in which I give my readers smaller prompts or ideas to consider as they explore their own deconstruction path; Dispatches, in which I invite fellow travelers on their own deconstruction journeys to write guest posts about their experiences.
In all of these posts, I am targeting the structures of the evangelical community, and (for the most part) not the people within it. Some of the people I love the most are evangelicals, and I do not hold them responsible for abuse unless they willfully and intentionally participated in it. I will call out church leaders who have covered up and participated in abuse, but I see most of us (even most of our unwitting abusers like local Sunday school teachers, youth pastors, etc) as victims of a cycle that began long ago. I hold myself to the same standard: I was once a Southern Baptist preacher who actively engaged in the spiritual abuse of others, and a huge part of my own healing has been to recognize that I too am a survivor as I seek forgiveness and hold myself responsible for my actions.
If you are interested in exploring what I’m talking about, you can start with these important books: #churchtoo by Emily Joy Allison, PURE by Linda Joy Klein, and JESUS AND JOHN WAYNE by Kristen Kobes Du Mez. These are invaluable starting points that provide additional resources. For an overview of religious abuse and religious trauma syndrome (RTS), I recommend LEAVING THE FOLD by Marlene Winell. All of these authors also have Twitter accounts and podcasts worth checking out.
Though I no longer identify as Christian, it does not mean that I do not see immense value in the person and discipleship of Jesus. You can be an exvangelical and still identify as Christian — and many of us do. #exvangelical is intended as an inclusive term — an umbrella for those who have left the evangelical branch of Christianity and found a path that works better for us. All are welcome to this table — believers and non-believers alike.
Believe it or not, Exvangelicals do not care what you believe, nor are we particularly concerned with why you believe it — so long as it does not perpetuate hate speech. Rather, we want to address HOW you choose to believe. I believe that Christianity as a faith tradition and as an institution has some potentially wonderful paths forward that could do a lot of good in the world — just not within the parameters of the conservative evangelical community. If you would like more information about redefinitions of the Christian path outside of those parameters, I recommend UNBELIEVABLE by Rev. John Shelby Spong and UNIVERSAL CHRIST by Richard Rohr as starting points. Both books include additional resources and reading.
If you are evangelical and offended by what I’m saying, I’m not here to debate theology with you. If you are not at a point in your journey where you can see what is going on, you are probably not at a point where you can hear it. Please be respectful of my path, and I promise to be respectful of yours. I welcome your comments and questions, but not your cross-examinations that reinforce evangelical rhetoric suggesting that I was “never a true believer” (I was) or that I’ve “fallen astray” (I haven’t. I’ve had an awakening).
If you are an evangelical who has been struggling with questions yourself, the process in which you have currently found yourself has a name. You are “deconstructing.” Do not fear this process; in fact, summon the will to follow it and take a look at some of the resources I’ve listed above. Deconstruction does not mean the conclusions you reach will lead you from your faith; it simply means that you are acknowledging that questioning everything you’ve believed is an act of courage, not weakness as many of us were taught. Doubt is an important part of the faith journey; you don’t have to resist it. The truth, as they say, will set you free.
Peace and blessings to you on your journey. You are not alone.
Exvangelical Meditation: Happy Frankenstein Day, or: Finding Your Sacred Text
Today, August 30th, is the 225th birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Her mother invented feminism, her father founded anarchy; her step-mother translated fairy tales for the Grimm Brothers, and for her whole life, Mary was surrounded by the greatest philosphers, theologians, poets, and artists of her age. So how remarkable is it that, at the…
Dispatches: Deconstructing Santa Claus
This exvangelical deconstruction of Santa Claus comes courtesy of Baptist Accountabilty co-founder Megan South Benninger (read her story here). This fascinating exploration reminds me of the “deconstruction” essays I wrote for grad school in which I searched for the historical roots of Dracula and Frankenstein. Really fascinating stuff, to find the kernel of truth in…
Exvangelical Meditation: A Path Forward
I wanted to give my readers an update: Writing has slowed down here at Surviving the Spirit, but it isn’t because I’m taking a break. It’s because I’ve been busy writing an exvangelical memoir, in which I rework much of what I’ve written here while both expanding existing content and writing entirely new material. With…