Why I Left Evangelicalism: "The Next Thing to Hate"

Why I Left Evangelicalism: "The Next Thing to Hate" April 1, 2014

“After the first night of legal Gay marriage ceremonies in England and Wales, Christians are today desperately leafing through the Bible to identify another basic human right to rail against.”

This quote came from a spoof site, but the spoof says too much about the long-held tendency of people who call themselves part of the kingdom of heaven to find something to hate.

A number of years ago, I began, but never finished, a book I tentatively called,  The Making and Unmaking of an Evangelical Woman. It was the story of my spiritual life, how I went 100% into fundamentalism/evangelicalism. But years of intense biblical study, including gaining fluency in both biblical Greek and Hebrew, finally convinced me that Evangelicals were living and telling lies. I felt as though I were drowning as my entire, carefully built, inerrancy-tested, male-dominated world simply fell apart.

The dikes of my tight theological categories broke, and I went under in despair.

I came within inches of suicide, and I now freely admit that. I knew that once I began speaking truth about myself, the state of my marriage, and what I had come to believe, that I would be expelled.

I thought I would lose my salvation.

And I was right. When I began speaking those truths, I was expelled.

I went into the darkness, and there discovered that where I was sure God was not, God was. And waiting patiently for me.

In time, I found The United Methodist Church and my spiritual home. I was eventually ordained as an Elder in the North Texas Annual Conference and served as a pastor with great joy and deep gratefulness for the privilege until my retirement, Dec. 31, 2013.

And what I see now is that some highly vocal members and clergy of the UMC are turning toward those same great Evangelical Lies.

What are those lies?  Here are two:

  • First, that the Bible was written with 21st century Americans in mind and anyone can understand it perfectly. The facts? The Bible is a collection of writings written over a several thousand year period, in cultures radically different from ours, in languages that are no longer extant, with errors in transmission and with multiple interpretations of just about every single Bible verse that can be supported by scholarship and/or opinion. We all carry interpretive grids around with us–but rarely do Evangelicals acknowledge them and how they color their theological decisions.
  • Second, that the purpose of the Bible is to exclude people from the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than to break wide the doors to that Holy Grace.

The battle now, of course, is over the celebration of marriages and the possibility of ordination for those who agree to follow the same sexual standards as the hetero population but who are gay/lesbian in orientation: celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage.

Yes, I am familiar with the words in the Book of Discipline that call homosexual practice incompatible with Christian teaching. I also believe that it was a mistake when those words were inserted–and I’m sure a mistake made with the best of intentions. But the Book of Discipline is neither inerrant nor infallible. It has so many modifications and is full of so much confusion that it takes a nine-member Judicial Council to make final pronouncements on what it really means–and they don’t always agree.

The Book of Discipline is modified every four years. It’s time for yet one more. Let us just affirm high sexual and moral standards for everyone–or let’s stop being hypocrites and start examining a lot more carefully the sexual lives and genital practices of our hetero members.

But some UMC Evangelicals are screaming, “Over my dead body will Gays and Lesbians be fully affirmed in the UMC and anyone who thinks this should be the case just needs to leave.”

Yep, they’ve learned to hate.

Years ago, as I was emerging from my Evangelical-induced nightmares, I came across some scholarly work on the nature of gender identity. I learned about people who are born “intersexed” or with ambiguous genitalia. In other words, there is no way to easily pronounce “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl” upon birth (or upon sonogram).

Here is a well-made documentary about such situations and worth the viewing.

Me, My Sex and I

Researchers know that there is not a rigid line between male and female, no matter how much we want to affirm that “Adam and Eve” are the scientific standard for male/femaleness.  There are many who live on both sides of the gender equation.

At this point many Evangelicals want to call those people either “mistakes” or “sinners who need to repent.”

I think such statements violate everything good about the Gospel and about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

When World Vision caved, first affirming gay and lesbian marriages and then, under intense pressure from Evangelicals who called loudly to stop taking care of the world’s most impoverished children in order to affirm their exclusivist stances, I wept.

Rachel Held Evans said it well in her excellent blog post : “There is a disproportionate focus on homosexuality that consistently dehumanizes, stigmatizes and marginalizes gay and lesbian people and, at least in this case, prioritizes the culture war against them over and against the important work of caring for the poor.”

It’s time for this to stop, both within and without the UMC. We can disagree on this (remember our interpretative grids?) and still stay in covenant and connection. But calls to “Just go ahead and leave” to the emergent/progressives gives the worst possible message to the world outside Christianity.

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  • Larry

    You really will have to read the violinist’s thumb (with google and a notepad handy, of course). In TVT you will find that mutations to the fucM gene will cause female mice to become lesbians and many are born with mutations to this gene. Born in sin? Also, the androphilic genes (manloving genes) can be turned on and turned off in both men and women, before birth, causing male-loving males and non-male loving females. Born in sin? Further, a mother’s womb chemistry can manipulate these genes with the same result. Male-loving males and non-male loving females. Surely the church would not think an innocent baby is born in sin? Would they? This is hard wired in genetic code and not “fixable.” Some people are born gay. Period. Some others choose, of course, and this is likely the debate. The two groups (born gay and choose gay) are indecipherable and, accordingly, should be treated the same as all humans, as humans, with feelings and livable lives. Amirite?

    • Why, yes, the church does believe that babies are born in sin. The Bible teaches about original sin, and Paul writes: “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;

      they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

      whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood…” (Romans 3:23-24) The tradition of the church teaches this. Most Christian churches baptize infants, not Just because of their sin, but to initiate them into the family of God. Our own experience and reason should help us to see that babies, yes, innocent babies, are self-centered. The whole world revolves around them. And I would say that is necessary for survival, but being self-centered is the essence of sin.

      • Larry

        Ahh..very silly, indeed. Babies are not born sinners. I do, however, believe you that the bible says otherwise. Unbelievable, really.

  • Larry

    You really will have to read the violinist’s thumb (with google and a notepad handy, of course). In TVT you will find that mutations to the fucM gene will cause female mice to become lesbians and many are born with mutations to this gene. Born in sin? Also, the androphilic genes (manloving genes) can be turned on and turned off in both men and women, before birth, causing male-loving males and non-male loving females. Born in sin? Further, a mother’s womb chemistry can manipulate these genes with the same result. Male-loving males and non-male loving females. Surely the church would not think an innocent baby is born in sin? Would they? This is hard wired in genetic code and not “fixable.” Some people are born gay. Period. Some others choose, of course, and this is likely the debate. The two groups (born gay and choose gay) are indecipherable and, accordingly, should be treated the same as all humans, as humans, with feelings and livable lives. Amirite?

    • Why, yes, the church does believe that babies are born in sin. The Bible teaches about original sin, and Paul writes: “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;

      they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

      whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood…” (Romans 3:23-24) The tradition of the church teaches this. Most Christian churches baptize infants, not Just because of their sin, but to initiate them into the family of God. Our own experience and reason should help us to see that babies, yes, innocent babies, are self-centered. The whole world revolves around them. And I would say that is necessary for survival, but being self-centered is the essence of sin.

      • Larry

        Ahh..very silly, indeed. Babies are not born sinners. I do, however, believe you that the bible says otherwise. Unbelievable, really.

  • connie

    Christy you are just reinforming what I have always believe about Methodism…they are so judgemental that they can’t see it…and you are right..so full hate when this gay stuff..like I tell my husband..are they bothering you…is it affecting you in your everyday life..and what business is it of yours or anyone eles in there private life….

  • connie

    Christy you are just reinforming what I have always believe about Methodism…they are so judgemental that they can’t see it…and you are right..so full hate when this gay stuff..like I tell my husband..are they bothering you…is it affecting you in your everyday life..and what business is it of yours or anyone eles in there private life….

  • Lee Yeager

    Regarding the evangelical aspect; there is a good article in this week’s edition of The Week magazine about the legal repression of homosexuals in many African nations. The point of the article makes clear that much of the current repression was initiated by Christian missionaries working in the past 20 years.

  • Lee Yeager

    Regarding the evangelical aspect; there is a good article in this week’s edition of The Week magazine about the legal repression of homosexuals in many African nations. The point of the article makes clear that much of the current repression was initiated by Christian missionaries working in the past 20 years.

  • musingsfromthejohn

    I agree it is wrong and hurtful to hate on gays and lesbians. I agree with some of the science which supports the notion that being gay is not a lifestyle choice any more than being born a man or woman is a lifestyle choice. But the problem for Christians is that their holy book clearly states God “hates fags” and that true God followers should kill them. This is hardly the stuff of interpretation. It is out there and it pretty damn explicit. So I assume when you, rightfully, support gay and lesbian equality you appeal to an authority other than the God revealed in your holy book. Why stop with what the Bible clearly teaches about homosexuality?

  • musingsfromthejohn

    I agree it is wrong and hurtful to hate on gays and lesbians. I agree with some of the science which supports the notion that being gay is not a lifestyle choice any more than being born a man or woman is a lifestyle choice. But the problem for Christians is that their holy book clearly states God “hates fags” and that true God followers should kill them. This is hardly the stuff of interpretation. It is out there and it pretty damn explicit. So I assume when you, rightfully, support gay and lesbian equality you appeal to an authority other than the God revealed in your holy book. Why stop with what the Bible clearly teaches about homosexuality?

  • steven

    But some UMC Evangelicals are screaming, “Over my dead body will Gays and Lesbians be fully affirmed in the UMC and anyone who thinks this should be the case just needs to leave.”

    Who said this? Specifically, not rhetorically.

    And is it just to say of those who prayerfully disagree with you that they “have learned to hate”?

    Seems there’s plenty of hate to go around.

    I would not condemn ‘gay’ sex, much less same sex unions. It depends on the motivations of the individuals. But…it a stumbling block for many, on both sides of the issue, which you make quite apparent.

  • steven

    But some UMC Evangelicals are screaming, “Over my dead body will Gays and Lesbians be fully affirmed in the UMC and anyone who thinks this should be the case just needs to leave.”

    Who said this? Specifically, not rhetorically.

    And is it just to say of those who prayerfully disagree with you that they “have learned to hate”?

    Seems there’s plenty of hate to go around.

    I would not condemn ‘gay’ sex, much less same sex unions. It depends on the motivations of the individuals. But…it a stumbling block for many, on both sides of the issue, which you make quite apparent.

  • James Mahoney

    Actually, Christians do say that ALL people are born in sin (Methodist Articles of Religion, Article VII, which follows the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion). It’s called “original sin,” and it was of this that St. Augustine said, “We are all born with disordered loves.”

  • James Mahoney

    Actually, Christians do say that ALL people are born in sin (Methodist Articles of Religion, Article VII, which follows the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion). It’s called “original sin,” and it was of this that St. Augustine said, “We are all born with disordered loves.”

  • Angie Hammond

    Bottom line Christy, I believe you’ve said it many times is WWJD. If we as Christians want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, then it follows that we must put love as the first commandment and then go from there. Simple yet so hard to follow for us with all of our rules etc. I respect you for your honesty in how you came to your present state of mind and beliefs. Jesus is truly in your heart and the driving force in your statements and your life. If only the rest of us could see what you’ve learned in your darkest hours. Thank you for sharing those hours and the wisdom that has come from them.

  • Angie Hammond

    Bottom line Christy, I believe you’ve said it many times is WWJD. If we as Christians want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, then it follows that we must put love as the first commandment and then go from there. Simple yet so hard to follow for us with all of our rules etc. I respect you for your honesty in how you came to your present state of mind and beliefs. Jesus is truly in your heart and the driving force in your statements and your life. If only the rest of us could see what you’ve learned in your darkest hours. Thank you for sharing those hours and the wisdom that has come from them.

  • Christy writes: “Researchers know that there is not a rigid line between male and female…”

    I have no idea where to begin with this line?

    Are you writing about the 0.033% to 0.05% of medical cases where persons are born as hermaphrodites? (True hermaphroditism is a medical term for an intersex condition in which an individual is born with ovarian and testicular tissue. There may be an ovary underneath one testicle or the other, but more commonly one or both gonads is an ovotestis containing both types of tissue.)

    Are you confusing masculinity and femininity with maleness and femaleness?

    Which researchers are you citing here?

    • Larry

      Interestingly, you will find fucM gene is the androphilic gene and when mutated, females will like females and males will like males. So, when mutated the offspring are born gay; that is, gay babies. Further, epigenetics occurs where normal blastula (Christians call babies) are developed in different womb chemistries in the same mother. That is, as a women has more babies, her womb chemistry changes. The more this occurs, the more the blastula environment can “turn on and off” genes without actually changing genetics. This is called epigenetics. That means babies can be born gay without a genetic mutation, too. So genetics, epigenetics, and behaviorally derived homosexuals. Christians should treat them all the same and, as the same as all other humans. No? Leadership positions should be fine. Right?

  • Christy writes: “Researchers know that there is not a rigid line between male and female…”

    I have no idea where to begin with this line?

    Are you writing about the 0.033% to 0.05% of medical cases where persons are born as hermaphrodites? (True hermaphroditism is a medical term for an intersex condition in which an individual is born with ovarian and testicular tissue. There may be an ovary underneath one testicle or the other, but more commonly one or both gonads is an ovotestis containing both types of tissue.)

    Are you confusing masculinity and femininity with maleness and femaleness?

    Which researchers are you citing here?

    • Larry

      Interestingly, you will find fucM gene is the androphilic gene and when mutated, females will like females and males will like males. So, when mutated the offspring are born gay; that is, gay babies. Further, epigenetics occurs where normal blastula (Christians call babies) are developed in different womb chemistries in the same mother. That is, as a women has more babies, her womb chemistry changes. The more this occurs, the more the blastula environment can “turn on and off” genes without actually changing genetics. This is called epigenetics. That means babies can be born gay without a genetic mutation, too. So genetics, epigenetics, and behaviorally derived homosexuals. Christians should treat them all the same and, as the same as all other humans. No? Leadership positions should be fine. Right?

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  • Before leaving ministry in 2012, I spent over a decade advocating for the full inclusion of the GLBTQ community in the church, in the pulpit, and at the altar for the eucharist and for marriage. Observers of our national conventions (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) would have been convinced that we were solely obsessed with sex while issues like child poverty, climate change, the growing disparity between rich and poor, etc. were irrelevant. It was all about Adam and Eve and Adam and Steve and such nonsense. The youth of our church (the 4 or 5 in attendance at these conventions) rolled their eyes and, when they found the courage to take the mic, told us, in so many words, to grow up!

    The ELCIC is coming around but this incessant fighting over sexuality has littered the faith with many casualties. Sad.

    BTW, love your story and resonate with parts of it. I too, spent many years in fundamentalist/evangelical circles before leaving for more progressive/liberal climes, before stepping out completely.

    • Thank you for letting me know about the situation in the ELCIC. It’s just crazy what we are doing. And I suspect there are quite a few of us who have left behind the fundamentalist/evangelical world and found greater spiritual health elsewhere. Appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  • Before leaving ministry in 2012, I spent over a decade advocating for the full inclusion of the GLBTQ community in the church, in the pulpit, and at the altar for the eucharist and for marriage. Observers of our national conventions (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) would have been convinced that we were solely obsessed with sex while issues like child poverty, climate change, the growing disparity between rich and poor, etc. were irrelevant. It was all about Adam and Eve and Adam and Steve and such nonsense. The youth of our church (the 4 or 5 in attendance at these conventions) rolled their eyes and, when they found the courage to take the mic, told us, in so many words, to grow up!

    The ELCIC is coming around but this incessant fighting over sexuality has littered the faith with many casualties. Sad.

    BTW, love your story and resonate with parts of it. I too, spent many years in fundamentalist/evangelical circles before leaving for more progressive/liberal climes, before stepping out completely.

    • Thank you for letting me know about the situation in the ELCIC. It’s just crazy what we are doing. And I suspect there are quite a few of us who have left behind the fundamentalist/evangelical world and found greater spiritual health elsewhere. Appreciate your taking the time to comment.

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  • Christy, thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been reading your blog the past few days and it is so encouraging. I too was raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical system, which I think prepared me well for an abusive marriage to a man raised in the same system. When I said no to the abuse, and divorced him, I found myself re-victimized by the church and fundamental community. My parents told me I was no longer welcome in their house; my church sent me a “disciplinary letter,” and I was left to fend for myself with a $10 and hour job and three children aged 5 and under. Of course, if I “repented” and “humbled myself,” I would be welcomed back with open arms, but if I was going to leave the authority of my husband and church, they let me know on no uncertain terms that I was on my own. My mother even said the abuse was my fault for being “rebellious.” It was layer upon layer of shame, that deep down I didn’t deserve.

    But God was good; I stood my ground, found a better job and a wonderful nanny for my little ones, and was eventually able to buy our first home. I later fell in love and married a wonderful man (for which I was called an adulteress by the a woman in the church I had left). I kept waiting for God’s judgment to fall on me but it never came. Instead, in my heart I received His constant, sweet assurances of His love, and His promise to be with me wherever I went. The God of love who revealed himself to me in this dark time looked nothing like the God the Christian community portrayed to me. I have removed myself from all organized religion, and am still distrustful of any church; but your story and blog has given me some hope that it’s ok for a woman like me to have legitimate faith, though I don’t subscribe to the inerrancy of the Bible or attend any church.

  • Christy, thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been reading your blog the past few days and it is so encouraging. I too was raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical system, which I think prepared me well for an abusive marriage to a man raised in the same system. When I said no to the abuse, and divorced him, I found myself re-victimized by the church and fundamental community. My parents told me I was no longer welcome in their house; my church sent me a “disciplinary letter,” and I was left to fend for myself with a $10 and hour job and three children aged 5 and under. Of course, if I “repented” and “humbled myself,” I would be welcomed back with open arms, but if I was going to leave the authority of my husband and church, they let me know on no uncertain terms that I was on my own. My mother even said the abuse was my fault for being “rebellious.” It was layer upon layer of shame, that deep down I didn’t deserve.

    But God was good; I stood my ground, found a better job and a wonderful nanny for my little ones, and was eventually able to buy our first home. I later fell in love and married a wonderful man (for which I was called an adulteress by the a woman in the church I had left). I kept waiting for God’s judgment to fall on me but it never came. Instead, in my heart I received His constant, sweet assurances of His love, and His promise to be with me wherever I went. The God of love who revealed himself to me in this dark time looked nothing like the God the Christian community portrayed to me. I have removed myself from all organized religion, and am still distrustful of any church; but your story and blog has given me some hope that it’s ok for a woman like me to have legitimate faith, though I don’t subscribe to the inerrancy of the Bible or attend any church.

  • EG

    It is encouraging to see posts like this one. I am glad people are waking up to the harm that fundamentalist/evangelicalism does.

    Thank you.

  • EG

    It is encouraging to see posts like this one. I am glad people are waking up to the harm that fundamentalist/evangelicalism does.

    Thank you.

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  • Emily

    Hello,

    I’ve struggled lately with my faith. I was raised in an evangelical/fundamental home and found my curiosity quelched all of the time. My marriage was abusive, and often I was told it was because I was ” rebellious”. One day after I asked my husband about an expense he stopped my ability to get money from the bank to pay for my insulin. I was confused and scared. I’ve got type 1 diabetes. My husband told me he was advised to deal with my rebellion in a way that would make me learn my lesson. When I went to the pastor he told me my “rebellion” comes with a price and I need to repent. I was devastated and scared. I went to the pharmacy and sat outside crying. I was abandoned that’s what it felt like anyway. As I sat there I said out loud this can’t be the way you meant all this to be. Please I need help with this mess. What am I going to do. Some time passed and I noticed an older man and his wife watching me. I must’ve looked awful. The woman came over and asked me if I was ok and it all flooded out of me. She said no its not meant to be that way. You’re loved by your creator and never doubt that. The man went into the pharmacy and paid for my insulin. It wasn’t long after that I made the decision to divorce my husband it was not easy. I thought I’d be done with religion and it was. That was not to be. God had other plans. I moved to a new town got my degree in child development opened a daycare center and got remarried to a wonderful man. I’ve never forgotten that couple and what she said to me. I realize that as a child of God I am loved and I can trust in my faith.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I am so glad you removed yourself from that terribly abusive and destructive marriage and then found real love. I ache for so many, particularly women, who are still in those positions of being de-humanized by the church. Such a deep tragedy and dishonoring of God’s creation.

  • Emily

    Hello,

    I’ve struggled lately with my faith. I was raised in an evangelical/fundamental home and found my curiosity quelched all of the time. My marriage was abusive, and often I was told it was because I was ” rebellious”. One day after I asked my husband about an expense he stopped my ability to get money from the bank to pay for my insulin. I was confused and scared. I’ve got type 1 diabetes. My husband told me he was advised to deal with my rebellion in a way that would make me learn my lesson. When I went to the pastor he told me my “rebellion” comes with a price and I need to repent. I was devastated and scared. I went to the pharmacy and sat outside crying. I was abandoned that’s what it felt like anyway. As I sat there I said out loud this can’t be the way you meant all this to be. Please I need help with this mess. What am I going to do. Some time passed and I noticed an older man and his wife watching me. I must’ve looked awful. The woman came over and asked me if I was ok and it all flooded out of me. She said no its not meant to be that way. You’re loved by your creator and never doubt that. The man went into the pharmacy and paid for my insulin. It wasn’t long after that I made the decision to divorce my husband it was not easy. I thought I’d be done with religion and it was. That was not to be. God had other plans. I moved to a new town got my degree in child development opened a daycare center and got remarried to a wonderful man. I’ve never forgotten that couple and what she said to me. I realize that as a child of God I am loved and I can trust in my faith.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I am so glad you removed yourself from that terribly abusive and destructive marriage and then found real love. I ache for so many, particularly women, who are still in those positions of being de-humanized by the church. Such a deep tragedy and dishonoring of God’s creation.

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