By Krystal Lambert
While I know many of my Christian family and friends may be reading this and clutching their pearls, I assure you I am not writing this to offend. I am not writing this to convince you that your belief system is a lie. I have needed to write all this out for a long time, and I’m opening a very large wound by doing so. For me, it’s about speaking my truth and telling my story.
I was in a psychologically abusive relationship with the invisible sky god for the first 28 years of my life. For context, I’m 33 now. To be fair, the abuse portion of the relationship was more the fault of church culture than the actual Big Guy™️. At present I’m not entirely sure what “God” is but I’m open to whatever because, let’s be honest, none of us has a fucking clue what’s really real when it comes to religion. Religion is primarily based on faith which is essentially convincing your psyche that something is true because you want it to be true, or because you are afraid of what it would mean for it not to be true. Having been outside of the delusion for five years now, and seeing it all without the church goggles on, I can’t ever look at it the same.
My earliest memory as a human being is lying awake at night praying for God to forgive my sins for the day, racking my brain to think of what they might have been. If I forget to ask forgiveness for accidentally sinning will I wake up tomorrow? Will I just go straight to a burning fiery Hell if I fall asleep before I repent enough? Imagine a four year old child having this kind of existential panic and dread every single day. I would dread church all week because it made me feel guilty and ashamed, though I didn’t really understand why. If I told a white lie or snuck a donut out of the grown-up Sunday school room I would be petrified for weeks about what that sin might cost me. As a pre-schooler I already knew with certainty that I was a very bad person and it was only a matter of time before God exposed me for the wretch I was.
I have always been an intellectual and inquisitive person, even very early on in my childhood. It wasn’t long before I began examining this panic and dread, guilt and shame. If God is good and loving, why am I terrified of him? Why does church make me hate myself? If God is our all-loving father, why would he sentence his children to an eternity of torture simply for giving into their natural human urges? My own father is merely human, does not have “perfect love”, and he would never want me to experience even a moment of torture no matter what mistakes I have made. If Jesus’ death absolves of us responsibility for our sins, why the pressure to be pure and perfect and extra heterosexual? What is the point of grace if we still shame people for who they love or what kind of sex they have? Did all the Jews who died in the Holocaust go to Hell because they didn’t believe in Jesus? (This particular question about made my dad’s head spin around on his shoulders.) I’m sure I drove my family, teachers, ministers and anyone within earshot nuts asking these difficult questions, and for the most part, no one could provide a satisfactory answer. I was provided feel-good church rhetoric, or told not to question God’s divine wisdom.
When I was in High School I read a news story about a woman who was kept as a sex slave in a man’s basement for 20 years. She was raped, abused, and impregnated several times. She gave birth in that basement. When she was finally rescued after over 20 years of torture, she said that she had prayed every single day for God to rescue her. She thought if she had enough faith and prayed hard enough God would be merciful. She then stated that she no longer believes in God. I didn’t blame her. I wish I could find the exact source, but I grew up before the internet was a thing so I’m not sure where I read this particular story. It shook me to my core, and it was a major factor in me going to Bible College. I had to know if any of this was really real. I wasn’t getting the answers I needed from C.S. Lewis books and Christ In Youth conferences. I felt I was an imposter, pretending to be a Christian. I felt evil for having doubts, and like a giant poser for inviting all my friends to church and being Little Miss Youth Group.
Four years of studying scripture and $30k in student loans later, I had a degree I would never use in a subject I was 90% sure was some bullshit. By studying the Bible more in depth, I only became more confused and more angry at the church. The sexism, violence, and oppression towards women that is promoted in the Bible was reason enough to walk away. Jesus of Nazareth was anything but sexist, often defending and promoting women. He was the only feminist in the Bible. However, the church seems to have swept all that aside in favor of keeping women subservient to their husbands and men in general. Jesus’ teachings in contrast to the rest of the Bible are inconvenient truths. As we can see from the Conservative Christian Republicans of today, almost none of Jesus’ words seem to matter or be relevant to their politics or belief system. The Conservative Christians of today would have been The Pharisees that Jesus referred to as white-washed tombs. Clean on the outside, dead on the inside.
Purity culture was so ingrained in me that I waited until I was 24 and married to have sex. I did everything else though. Most of my Christian friends did as well. It’s actually insane that we thought penetrative sex was sacred, but giving head was somehow not sex enough to be sex. It’s all sex. The danger of telling young people they must wait for marriage to have sex is they end up married very young to people they barely know. It takes years to fully know someone enough to commit to a lifetime with them, which is why the divorce rate is so high among Christians. I signed up for marriage to a man I wasn’t in love with or compatible with because I was tired of waiting to have sex. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life, and it’s difficult not to be resentful at the church for the manipulative rhetoric that led me to that path. I try to take it as a live and learn thing, but I would love to have my formative years back to actually date around and experience sex as a normal healthy human. I’m doing that now, in my 30s, and I have learned so much about myself and what I need and deserve in a relationship. I have learned how to say no to someone who isn’t compatible with me, how to stand up for myself, how to enjoy sex without feeling guilty about it. The 13-year-old girl who felt like an evil monster every time she masturbated is out here living her best life, all because she let go of the chains of religious dogma.
There is a passage in the Bible that I’m going to paraphrase here because I get a little creeped out when I see Bible quotes now (I’m not even being dramatic, it really makes my skin crawl). Essentially the passage states that true peace, the peace that passes all understanding, can only be found through God. I can honestly say that I never, ever, felt true peace until I walked away from religion. The major epiphany for me was realizing that if I was only a Christian because I was afraid of Hell, I wasn’t a Christian anyway. I don’t want to serve an “all-loving, all-powerful God” who sits on his throne judging, condemning, and refusing to help his children even when they are faithful to him. I would be willing to ascribe to the teachings of Jesus alone, but what would that even look like in the context of religion and church today? If I reject the rest of the Bible, do I still count as a Christian? I also don’t know with certainty that Jesus even existed or said all of those beautiful things. I haven’t found a way to navigate a spiritual connection to the person of Christ without feeling pulled back into religion, and I can’t ever return to that world. So for now, I’m sticking with I don’t know. I’m not going to agonize over something I don’t and may never have proof of. I am going to live my life with as much love and compassion and joy as possible, and that feels like worship to me. I have found God in friendship, in love, in amazing food, in great sex, in laughter, in music and art, and in the beautiful words of wise human beings. I’m good with that.