*Editor’s Note: This is a contribution from Jon Turney, whose book, RJ the Astronaut, will be out on Quoir Publishing sometime in 2024
This on its face value seems a bit extreme. But there is nuance to my statement. As we see conservative after conservative bastardize the language of Jesus to perpetuate their endgame of hate, violence, and bigotry, it has become easier and easier to step away from the moniker of Christian. There is not a day that goes by that some conservative politician or religious leader stands on his or her soapbox to declare some group of people either misguided, lost, or just plain evil.
My past is not all sunshine and roses. I would like to say that I never spewed these hateful words at my fellow human beings, but I can’t. That would be untrue. In my youth I too was brainwashed by the conservative church. On the more comical side, I was convinced that rock-n-roll was the devil’s music. On one sunny afternoon, I took all my secular music out into our backyard and shot it all up with my BB-gun. Looking back, I was convinced that I was doing the lord’s work. Sitting here now, I just want all my tapes and records back (side note, can I sue the church for loss of property?). I would like to say that was the extent of my dalliance into conservatism. But, alas, that would also be a lie.
It was a sunny afternoon. I was sixteen and on fire for God. Or so I thought. I was on my way to my first protest. This was going to be amazing. We were going to save so many souls for Jesus. I threw my sign into the back of my car and headed to my destination. I got out of my car and walked boldly and proudly with my homemade sign. We were all instructed on how best to make our signs to make the best impact as cars drove by. As I reached the destination my friends were already marching back and forth in front of the entrance to this facility. Emboldened by my friends I joined the procession. I know you all aren’t stupid. I have not been so vague as to not give away where we were. We were in front of the local Planned Parenthood. We were protesting against people getting abortions. Everyone that knows me, knows that I am both an introvert, and very shy. For me to be out doing this was not even remotely the norm for me. I was the one hiding in the back at church. I was the one that never had the ability to speak in tongues because then I would have to be the center of attention. I was the one that never prayed in a prayer circle because no one wanted to hear anything I had to say. Then, why was I here? Why was I picketing this abortion clinic? Because at my core I wanted to be accepted by my peers. I was willing to go against the basic ideals of humanity to be accepted by my friends. I was willing to join this lie for acceptance. Sixteen year old me didn’t know it was a lie. Sixteen year old me had drank the Kool-aid and bought it all hook, line, and sinker. It was Kierkegaard that said “The crowd is untruth.” The sixteen-year-old me had no clue what that meant. The 53-year-old me can see it clear as day. I was sucked into the crowd mentality. I was willing to ignore the voices inside of me. The voices screaming that this was not right. The voices telling me that we were doing harm to our fellow human beings. I was willing to ignore all of the voices for a brief moment of being accepted by my peers.
I look back on that day with shame. I look back on that day with trembling. I look back on that day and wonder what permanent damage I did to another human being. I have blocked out the exact day this was. If I knew the exact day I would want to know who passed our picket line to enter that Planned Parenthood. I would need to make sure that they are still ok. Even though I do not know the exact day I was at the clinic, I know I have blood on my hands. I belittled my fellow human beings. I made them feel less than. I potentially sent them down a spiral that I do not want to think about. But I do. I think about it almost daily. This was the day that I chose acceptance over doing the right thing. This was the day that I put myself before all others. This was the day that I became the antichrist.
I would like to say that this was the turning point in which I left Christianity behind. It was not. But, it was one of the first chinks in the armor.
As this day ended, I do remember one thing. All the other people seemed overjoyed by what they had done that day. I, on the other hand, was confused. I wanted to join in their happiness, but at the same time I felt dirty. I felt sick. I felt like somewhere deep in me was the ability to be a monster, and I did not want to become that
It took me another three years to walk away from all this madness. In the end I did, and I have never looked back. That day haunts me. That day will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.
Because of things like this, I can no longer call myself a Christian. A Jesus follower? Yes. A Christian? Never again.