I write a lot on this blog about the Asian American Baptist church I grew up in. This is the long story of how I grew up in, and out of, the Christianity that was all I knew and loved. It’s the story of doubts, of loss, of the power of the word maybe.
If you’re a more poetic-vignettes kinda person, you can read an abridged version here.
GROWING UP EVANGELICAL
I was born and raised in an Asian American Baptist church, and I wholeheartedly believed all I was taught. My Christianity was my everything… which is just as well, because it demanded everything I had. It ruled my thoughts, personality, dreams for the future, social life, identity. It was my purpose, my confidence, my comfort and joy.
The problem? What I was taught was toxic. The Christianity I grew up in believed that humans are born depraved. To my church, a baby’s cry is selfish proof of original sin, and people do not own their bodies or their very lives because Jesus bought them with his blood. Yup. Not only that, we emphasized a personal relationship with Jesus, so every time I sinned I nailed Jesus on the cross. Guilt on blast. And the list goes on.
I refused to take credit for anything I did (all glory to God). I listened to 2 Christian radio stations growing up and avoided Harry Potter (witchcraft!!!) I did Passport2Purity (an audio program on the dangers of kissing and… sex-ing.) I can still sing half the VeggieTales songs. I memorized Bible verses every Friday night and… not to brag… but I medaled in my state for it. I learned to debunk evolution and proselytize to strangers. It’s been quite an adventure.
LEAVING THE FAITH
Then in freshman year? I started seeing cracks in the foundations. I started wondering… what if? What if the religion I’ve always believed to be the only logical explanation for the world… actually makes no sense? What if Jesus doesn’t exist? What if I love a lie?
Over the next few years I flipped back and forth… stay, leave, stay, leave. What if I was wrong? Besides, if I did leave, I didn’t trust my devout parents not to disown me or worse, and I’d be entering a world I knew nothing of. Pop culture was a whole new language, Beyonce a foreign custom – it was almost like immigrating. How could I abandon everything for a world I’d always been told was empty and wicked?
I don’t remember what the last straw was. I don’t even remember most of my ~4 years of deconversion – what I thought, what I did – but I remember the summer of senior year.
I remember I’d lost everything I believed in and loved, but had to pretend otherwise twice a week. I remember I was surrounded by people who would’ve said I was going to hell if they knew I was a queer nonbeliever. I remember that summer was not exactly a cake walk.
I remember losing my friends and best friend from birth. I remember being forced into counseling sessions, ironically, with the pastor. I remember when he told me he knew I was living a double life. I remember being alone and scared and going just a little bit crazy.
IN DOUBT, FREEDOM
But I made it to college, and things got a little easier. I started being open about my upbringing and made friends with other ex-religious people. I met a fellow ex-Christian and now, we run a help blog for people leaving religions together – The Art of Leaving. I got to know more ex-religious teenagers and young adults than I can count online.
Along the way, I fell in love with hearing out and helping young people who are questioning and transitioning out of their religions. I started this blog to be open about what I’ve been through, because that’s how I realized I wasn’t alone or making it all up, how I started healing.
There are way more people out there than you’d imagine, struggling with religions and struggling to get out of ’em. But there are so few ways to get help. That’s where I come in.
It’s my dream to create community and support for the ex-religious as a clinical / community social worker. I’m a Recovering from Religion Hotline agent, and I want to work for an organization that provides therapy, social support, educational/career guidance, housing, awareness, etc. for the ex-religious. Call me an apostate ally 🙂
You are more than welcome to read, laugh, cry, commiserate, reach out for help, share your story, and walk alongside with me. 🙂