Why did I leave the community of organized religion, specifically the evangelical Christian church?
I left church because I believe in the autonomous expression of my subjectivity. I have faith in my personal capacity for love, for mercy, as well as my own ability to discern justice and morality. Thus, leaving church, for me, was symbolic. The decision–the movement from collective ritual to individual growth–denotes my acceptance of the enigmatic state of human existence. Try as I might, I cannot govern my human impulses through compulsive discipline, study, or training, nor can I govern the ideology or the behavior of others.
Liberation and affirmation are the rewards gained by my manifest renunciation of organized religion. Once and for all, I embrace the role of church outlaw by overtly presenting rogue opposition to mainstream Christian ideology. Ironically, this movement has cultivated within me a vast capacity for love and empathy, mercy and tranquility. The effect has not been hedonism or moral relativity on my part; on the contrary, my internal moral compass has calibrated to an expanding universal consciousness. My enlightenment and my willingness to scrutinize my own inner demons has remediated my soul.
When I joined Twitter, just under two months ago, I found myself immersed in this online #Exvangelical community. At first, I felt relief because for once, I found people with whom I could identify. People who were wounded by the policing of church ideology, people who identified the hypocrisy of fundamentalist systems gathered online to expose the rampant injustice innate to popular western Christian practice. I immediately adopted the #Exvangelical and #exvie signifiers as appropriate forms of self-identification. Now, I question this choice.
In the brief time since I joined Twitter, three divisive events occurred among the #Exvangelical online community. First, an individual appropriated the hashtag in effort to proactively divert attention from his own active engagement in spiritual abuse, amassing an enormous following via viral tweets. The rising star plummeted when victims of the man’s offense came forward, revealing his impropriety. Next, a fall-out between leading #Exvangelical voices ensued, regarding some sort of feminist argument against the patriarchy of the church. It relates in some way to the ignored experience of POC, which I’ll agree, is systemic injustice. Nevertheless, as a fringe observer, I am lacking details, and I am still really confused about what the overall controversy entailed. I do know that the career of the target has incurred concrete damage as a result of the shit storm. Finally, within the past 24 hours, a respected member of the #Exvangelical community has been targeted through a public statement by a group of women identifying themselves as the #MagdaleneCollective which employed overt use of transphobic language. In all cases, I have observed the fallout from the periphery, but these unfurling dramas call into question my decision to identify as #Exvangelical. Ultimately, I wanted, with all my heart, to find a like-minded community, and I thought the Twitter #exvie tag had solved my personal conundrum.
Alas, I was mistaken, and I fear the path to enlightenment has again proven to be a lonely one. The problem with what occurred within the Twitter #Exvangelical community seems to reflect a larger cultural issue. Wounded people seek understanding. Wounded people seek recompense. Sometimes the quest of the wounded perpetuates abuse. Nothing will ever fix our problems. We are born into an unjust existence. No religion will rectify the injustice. No community will rectify the injustice. We are all flawed. We are all hurting. We all want compassion. The moment a community member attacks another, defensive discourse emerges. How can we rebuild our lives after deconstruction without damaging relationships–without leaving a trail of bodies in our wake? This is all too familiar. What happened within the Twitter community reminds me all too much of Danaerys Targaryen who, enraged with desire for retribution, enacted the very injustice against which she positioned herself. The Twitter #Exvangelical community is imploding–in the same manner as the injured psyche of the Mad Queen.
In reflection, I have decided to forgo my use of #Exvangelical as an identifying characteristic of my personhood. I will continue along my individual journey of enlightenment, but I will not align myself to destructive communities who replicate the very unjust closed-mindedness of the system I evacuated with intention.