bonar crump

bonar crump
husband - father - reader - runner - picker - grinner - lover - sinner

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Conversions: Fundamentalist Christian to Non-Religious Spirituality

Jason Boyett

Today's conversion story is from Christy, who due to the nature of her experience and family situation (keep reading) has requested that I not use her last name.

Christy transitioned from a fundamentalist Christian childhood to a socially active, progressive evangelical faith during the college years...and then to a current category she describes as "spiritual but not religious." In an email, she told me that, in terms of personal theology, she now "could fall quite nicely into the Unitarian Universalist or unprogrammed Quakers camp."

The overview version is that I was raised Christian, of the right-wing fundamentalist variety, in the Bible Belt in a family that went to church three times a week. I became a highly committed, move to the inner city, save-the-world evangelical in college and throughout my twenties. I was an intern for an urban ministry in college, was a youth pastor intern for about three years in a predominantly Mexican immigrant community, worked in a variety of non-profits (faith-based and not), and went to grad school and studied community organizations and urban poverty.

~ ~ ~

My conversion was more like coming out of the closet than changing my mind. I didn't "lose my faith" or "fall away" or any of those other terms -- it was very slow and intentional and a lot of hard work. I know it will seem like I'm burying the lead here, but I was sexually abused for nine years as a child and adolescent by my father and a youth pastor, and beginning to deal with that was the cataIyst for a new kind of spiritual journey for me.

It wasn't the sexual abuse itself that made me convert. Actually, the self-hatred that resulted from it was what kept me in the fold for so long. I always felt like I was morally defective and God hated me, and I didn't have the right to explore other options.

The truth is, evangelical Christianity never worked for me. Even though I'm a lifer, it always felt like there was some secret handshake to get in the club that I didn't know about. I had an absolutely tortured relationship with church even when I worked at one. I could never find myself in the "Sinner meets Jesus, Hallelujah!" narrative. In Bible studies, I was always the freak who disagreed. I felt awkward praying aloud, and felt guilty that I could never seem to generate the warm and fuzzy love for Jesus that so many worship songs talked about. Mostly, it felt like that path was the only way to connect with God, and I had to keep trying, so my primary spiritual experience was one of feeling alienated from God. (This is why I was always good with the angry kids in youth ministry.)

1 comment:

  1. Hugely important piece...

    I celebrate her newfound spirituality. I pity any that say she has lost value in the eyes of the Divine "She".