I was trapped without knowing it. I was baptized as a baby and was brought up in a hardcore (borderline evangelical) Lutheran home. I was taught to be accepting of others and love them more for who they really are. I also was taught that it was okay to do the complete opposite and neglect and exclude those who aren’t a part of their cult.
Then one Wednesday night, everything changed. A couple of weeks prior to that night, my favorite youth pastor was fired from the church because he loves and accepts the LGBTQ+ community and believes that every word in the Bible is not to be taken literally, but intended metaphorically. This caused an uprising.
On that transformative evening, I was 14 and sitting in a warm church room with dim lighting. There were groups of chairs in circles and the room smelled like freshly brewed Folgers coffee. We were put into small groups with some adult volunteers who attended the church. The group leaders referred to people who didn’t believe in God as “them” and to believers as “us”. They were also asking us if we knew any non believers who were going to hell and those that we “had no hope for”. I was taken aback. I was astounded. I couldn’t believe that they’d refer to other people like that. Those were people that I grew up with, thought I knew, and was raised to love and respect. They were my family. I got up and left and never went back. I walked out of the room and ran straight to the parking lot where I sat and cried in anger and disbelief. I called my mom and asked her to come get me. In the car I told her what had happened and why I was so upset. She showed her sympathy by buying me ice cream on our way home. It was a nice gesture, but she didn’t fully understand how betrayed and ashamed I felt.
The next Wednesday night, my mom came down to my room to let me know that it was time to go to youth group. I sat on my bed, laughed a little and thought she was joking, but she wasn’t. I told her I never wanted to go to group again. One thing led to another and she was asking me how I would answer unanswered questions about life and I told her that some things are just best left unanswered. I was told that any question I had, whatever it may be, could be answered in the bible. Apparently the Bible was a wikipedia to my mom, but not to me. At the end of that night, I ended up at home, and never went back to church.
Shortly after all this had happened, I started my first year of high school. Not being associated with the church anymore expanded my pool of friends. I was also able to really reconnect with my friends that I had known since kindergarten through Spanish Immersion. I became more outgoing and instead of letting people come to me, I introduced myself to them. Sophomore year I took a class called “mindfulness” and it was all about meditation and yoga. I was hesitant at first, but it grew to be my favorite and most useful class I had taken. My dad and I also grew to be best friends. When he was around my age, he went through à similar series of event and neglected the church. He denied raising me religious like my mom had wished, but instead to be independent and strong. He gripped onto the hope that one day I’d be able to find my way out of my mom’s world and think for myself.
I was in the depths of the Christian community and I was suffocating. I eventually was able to claw my way out of it and gain true clarity to what I was forced to be in. It was sickening, yet eye opening. I was then free to explore the world and no longer belong to such a hateful and confining religion. Going through all of this, I saw how much childhood affects one’s life. Nonetheless, in the future, I’d love to have a career that leaves a positive impact on young children’s lives. I hope to get a degree in education and psychology to work with young kids. Leaving the church was one of the most freeing and fruitful decisions I’ve ever had to make so far in life. My belief system is a personal journey and not something someone should decide for me.