A Recovering Evangelical

A few weeks ago, I was in a discussion, although I was mostly listening to a former Universalist turned Roman Catholic, and a gay Episocpalian. We were comparing religious notes and it was a wonderful conversation. I mentioned that I was raised in Pentecostal churches. He smiled and asked, “Are you still in recovery?” I thought about it for awhile and agreed, I am a recovering Evangelical.

Then neither do I condemn you

I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home, so I understand the religion very well. Many, many years ago, I walked away from being a Christian, because I was disgusted by the way Christians treated others, not to mention how they treated each other. I grew tired of going to church and feeling that my spirit was constantly being torn down. The bible was used as a weapon against me and others, not as a comfort. I walked away because I began to see how bankrupt it was when it came to love. For many years, I tried visiting different churches, sometimes I would walk out in the middle of the sermon because it did not emulate the love of God, but was about pointing fingers at this group or that. There was no comfort from the Bible; the church was not a place to find peace and refuge in God. For me the church was about turmoil. I finally understood that many were not following Jesus words, but cherry picking the bible to hide their brokenness.

I watched the trickery of offering help with lots of strings attached. I watched the preying on the weak. I watched scandal after scandal, even in my own family. Christians did the worst behavior that I witnessed personally in my lifetime. I prayed a lot and eventually I came to an understanding that I was looking for fellowship with followers of Christ in all the wrong places.

Now you may not go to a church like the ones from my past, but I spent over 30 years of my life trying to find one that truly followed Christ, that emulated his love. Oh yes, many had a lot of outward expression about God this, Jesus that, they could speak about God, pull verses out as fast as you could speak, but their actions spoke little about Christ’s love. Because I believe that when Christ is in your heart, the light of love shines. God does not live outside of us, he is a part of us, and we are part of him, and that makes us whole. We are not wretched children of God, we are his beloved. When we know that we are whole, we have no need to judge others, we have no need of a caste system with some group being the untouchables—gays being the latest in that group. The minute we have hoisted ourselves up on a pedestal above all others, we are thumbing our noses at Christ’s commandments.

Having said all that, I don’t believe it’s impossible for a Christian to change, to wake up and realize the dogma of hate they’ve been fed through their church or talk radio programs. In Christ all things are possible. I don’t think love is super hard to do either, if it’s in your heart and you give up the doctrine that tells you its hard. I know we don’t always act loving, but being loving is not hard when it is in your heart. I think perhaps the hardest thing to do is seeing and admitting that perhaps our beliefs aren’t all they are said to be. I had to let go of a lot of fear that had been programmed into me from my childhood. I guess the best way to say it is, I had to leave the fear and control of Christianity to find God and become a follower of Jesus.

I’ve seen a parade of Christians spill their dislike, hiding behind scriptures to justify their unloving and unkind actions towards gays (I am using the word gays for any LGBTs), all the while thinking they are doing God’s work. What they actually do is leave behind an ungodly wake of what would make anyone targeted feel hated. I am often left wondering how some Christians can be so disrespectful of a group of people and then cry that they are victims when anyone protests their words. For me, if a Christian truly has Christ’s love in their heart, they would not sit in disapproval of anyone being a homosexual, hiding behind slogans of hate the sin, love the sinner. That saying is not about love at all. If a Christian wants respect, then they need to stop being disrespectful. And when someone acts disrespectful, they shouldn’t be surprised when their target disagrees with them.

Christians have a lot of house cleaning to do, but so many are too busy doing the white glove treatment looking for the dirt in other houses to be bothered with cleaning their own. I am glad to see some working on their own toxic clean-up, and it gives me hope many will soon follow suit. However, I think many like me who do this, end up leaving the religion that teaches judgment of others, and look for churches who emulate what Jesus commanded us to do—love him and others, and not judge.

I am so grateful for my gay friends who have offered me friendship regardless that I am a Christian. Maybe their acceptance of me is because I have not put myself above them, because I am not above anyone. My friends have had their hearts broken enough by Christians that being wary is a very healthy thing for them to do. I believe many gays are much better persons than I am—more willing to readily forgive, forget, and move on. I believe all they want is to be treated equally and with respect and dignity. I don’t think that is too much to ask for; after all, isn’t that what we all want?

About Ono Kono

I am an outspoken straight ally and feminist Christian. I also speak out against the abuses of churches and religions.
This entry was posted in Civil Rights, Gay Christians, Marriage equality, Prejudice, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to A Recovering Evangelical

  1. Dear Ono…thank you for saying many of the things that remind me of my early struggles growing up in a Roman Catholic society and school system. About half–way through my school years, our lovely and kind parish priest was replaced by a very severe and unpleasant man who bullied and condemned us all as incorrigible sinners fated to burn in hell. All the same I felt a love of Christ who I saw as a gentle, charitable and loving man…not as God but as a man with a message. Today, I still see him in the same light although I am a practicing Buddhist. I left the Church immediately upon leaving school and looked for spirituality in other Christian environments. In spite of my love of Christ, I quicklly became disenchanted with “Christianity” due to the cruelty and judgement that it portrays in the most prominent and vocal of its preachers. My search for understanding led me to other ideas and philosophies that eventually led me here. Today I see my religion as a non-judgemental, compassionate, charitable and loving tool to help others achieve happiness and avoid suffering. This has the effect of increasing my own happiness. Seems to me that this was, ironically, also the message of Christ. How did evangelicals miss this?

  2. Mary G says:

    How about the evil behavior outside Women’s Health Clinics (so-called “abortion clinics”) where women go for help and have to pass through a gauntlet of vile, hateful invectives before they can get birth control or a pap smear – or even… an abortion, if needed.

  3. Here is a healing poem for other recovering “Evangelicals”
    Be not deceived..God cannot be mocked…God is Spirit God is Truth..but he is not just your God nor just your truth because GOD IS In All our Spirits and all of our truths. Therefore do not mock his perfect love and his perfect spirit by hating your brother or your sister. Say not you sin or not you are impure..what is sin but separation from God and impurity but incompletion..say rather Brother Sister you are not alone and Brother, Sister God’s love has made you whole.

  4. Mark says:

    Thank you for this. I am a former Pentecostal minister who was stripped of his ministerial license and shunned by 300 people at the church where I was an associate pastor when i came out. One day they were my best friends and then the next day they were condemning me to hellfire. It was horrifying. My family disowned me too. All in the name of Jesus. Thank God I found a loving, accepting New Thought church that welcomed me with open arms.

  5. Roberta Horn says:

    Recovering Evangelical, boy did that get my attention! I so hear everyword and am glad to hear that I am not alone in my thoughts. I too felt every Sunday was about persecuting the sinner and about how this or that religion has it all wrong and they are the only ones who have it right.
    Finger pointing continuously..but yet not doing one single thing to help the needy or poor.
    I closed my eyes to a lot of things and it wasn’t until my son came out as being Gay did my eyes open up…it sickens me the anti gay hatred that is past on..I am still very angry, not only at myself for being closed minded to the bigotry hurled, but to all Evangelicals churches that preach being gay is a choice. My anger stirs in me and I can’t stop…I have family members that are Evangelicals and I want to scream at them…open your eyes!!!
    When a evangelical pastor tells you Satan is after your kid, how do you process that? When a member of your church says well maybe God does not want your son to be happy..you can’t come back from that!
    I sure do hope that anti gay activist, evangelical pastor Scott Lively, who helped get the Kill Gay bill passed in Uganda…goes to jail for a very very long time
    Sincerly, Roberta Horn

  6. Lila says:

    Thank you for this post. I consider myself a Catholic, even though I think I have been labelled as a “public sinner” after I divorced from the man who left me while I was pregnant and I remarried few years later. I have always be a bit of a “hothead” when it come to Catholic ideas about female submission, abortion, sex and respect of other people ideas, but the injustice of my situation grow my distance from the official “Church”. I have nothing to add, I only hope I can find my Church somewhere too. And no, I’m not trying to make the Bible fit me, but I don’t like the tailoring they have made of it.

    • Ono Kono says:

      Lila, My Episcopalian friend, that I spoke of in my post, jokes that they are much like Catholics, but without all the guilt.

      I always thought that Catholics could get their marriages annulled if there is good cause. Yours sounds like a good reason, through no fault of your own. For a church to hold you to your marriage vows when your husband abandoned you is absurd!

      When a church uses the Bible and their doctrine to hurt people, then it is time to move on. I hope you find a church where you can find peace and the love of God shining within. Guilt is only about control, and the gift that keeps on giving.

      • LC says:

        Ono – are you still going to pretend that I am not here? What are you afraid of anyway? All I asked was when you started your walk with Christ. How can such a question offend you and get you running for the hills? You should be happy that anyone even asks or cares.

        If you had asked me when I came to faith, I would have no problem, nor would I put up walls and become defensive like apparently you have.

        I came to Christ in 1985. Not a scary question for me to answer at all. It shouldn’t be a problem question for any follower to Jesus to answer. They should be thrilled that another person even has an interest.

        That being said, you really need to take a long look at yourself and how you have treated me on this post. Then you need to ask the LORD for forgiveness for being so rude, judgmental, and thoughtless to a person who has done you no harm and was only looking to communicate and maybe get some new perspectives.

        If that is how you think God would have us treat people, then I really don’t know what God you are following but it’s certainly not the One that I know. Peace.

      • Lila says:

        Catholic can get the marriage annulled if they can prove the marriage never actually existed… I was married for seven years and I refuse to believe my marriage was fake, despite the choices my former husband did after. Good reason are usually “one of the spouse not willing to have children at all when marrying”, changing their mind on the way does not count. My cousin husband got his first marriage annulled because his wife was schizophrenic and nobody told him, but it took them more than 10 years. Usually people that get their marriage annulled are less interested in what being Christian means and more in being able to marry inside a church aisle again, because it would look odd to marry elsewhere. For that, you just need lot of money, which make me trust the “Sacra Rota” even less.
        And yes, we are given guilt and milk before weaning…
        I am not guilty because I separated from my first husband, but because (five years later) I married again another man (and even had a baby), so I’m having sex with someone that is not the husband I took in front of God. (Just to make it clear, I am Italian, so what sounds absurd elsewhere is normal where the Pope opinion is stronger than the civil rights.

        • Ono Kono says:

          Thanks for enlightening me on how it works. Whether the church or the pope believe you did the right thing, I believe you did. Not that my opinion counts for that much, but you do sound like you have no regrets. You refusing to lie to appease the church seems very honorable to me!

          • Lila says:

            Thanks Ono, you nailed the point and the problem (for the Catholic church): I have no regrets about remarrying. This mean I’ve no way to repent from my “sin” of willing to have a full, happy life even after my husband left me and live with the man who consider my son as his own and loves us unconditionally. Same for homosexual people, who are supposed to stay celibate… you can confess your sins as a murder or a rapist and you’ll be forgiven (even as priest, you’ll be relocated but not fired), but divorced and homosexual can only stay “pure”… we are people, not saints and they preach us to be so as a basic condition to be “in”.

          • Ono Kono says:

            I think that’s what happened for me in my leaving the church. The hypocrisy was so blatant and appalling, and I just started noting the negative messages aimed at all of us. A light bulb went off in my head, that if God loved me he would want the best for me, for me to be happy. Only a narcissistic god would constantly barrage me with such negativeness about me. Being a woman too, I constantly heard how little I mattered.

            A friend once shared with me that she was kicked out of a church for having an affair with a married man. He was a deacon in the church that pursued her. Now I am not condoning the affair, but when the scandal was revealed to all the church, they kicked her out but forgave the man who remained a deacon. She was only 18 at the time, he was in his 40s. The double standard sickens me and I feel bad for the women who are caught up in it.

            Thank you for sharing your story. I think in order for us to heal, we have to get out of those churches that keep our spirits broken. We have a choice to discern which ones use the Bible as a weapon to control us, or the Bible used to uplift our spirits in love.

  7. Dr. Rex says:

    Ono …. forget about LC!! Doesn’t seem to want to really have a productive conversation. Seems to me …. only wants to carry on and judge …. Let it go, not worth it!! We are our own religion. It lives inside us. Don’t need organized religion. Live by the Golden Rule ….. Peace!!
    Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea … Joy to you and me!! ♫ ♪ ♫ ….. 🙂

    • Ono Kono says:

      Not to worry, I’ve seen the dance a gazillion times. Now about that ear worm you just gave me! Grrrr 🙂

    • LC says:

      Dr, Rex – Forget about me? What have I done wrong?

      • LC says:

        Dr. Rex – What do you mean by “LC!! Doesn’t seem to want to really have a productive conversation anyway.”

        What? That’s what I’m trying to get here.

        I’m looking for dialogue. But it seems like you folks have so JUDGED ME that you won’t even communicate with me.

        At this point you folks don’t see very loving or considerate at all. How Christ-like is that? Really.

        You get pissed at other folks for judging and not listening or underatanding, and then you do the same thing to me when I ask honest questions and look to build rapport. How does that work in your world?.

      • LC says:

        You silence speaks volumes.

  8. LC says:

    I’m and Evangelical and Pentecostal and I love it!

    Sorry you went through so much hell and encountered so many shabby so-called Christians. Hopefully one day you will get over your past pain and experiences and come back to Christ.

    • Ono Kono says:

      LC When you don’t read a post in its entirety, its like being a cherry picker of the Bible, like skipping over his commandments not to judge. You can only gain an understanding by being well versed in the content. Please read the ENTIRE post and if you still believe what you just wrote I welcome you to provide the reason you came to the conclusion that I am in pain and not a follower of Jesus.

      • LC says:

        You are right. I did miss some important points. My bad.

        The post does however speak to going through a lot of pain and disullionment. Anyone who went through what you did would have some residual pain. That’s only human.

        Also, brokeness and repentance of sin is a part of life in Christ. To deny the reality in our lives of either of those aspects of would call the validity of our faith into question. It is our brokeness over our own sin coupled with true repentance and faith in the redmption that He provides and we can never earn,that brings us to Christ for salvation in the first place.

        When did you finally decide to make Jesus your LORD? Was it at the beggining when you went to the Pentecostals Church, after you left, or somewhere else along the way.

        Will be sure not to skim going forward. Thanks for checking me on that.

      • Ono Kono says:

        Again LC how do you glean that I am not a follower of Christ? And how do you do this without following Jesus words about judging others?

        Are you looking for an exact date, and what is the importance of when, how or why? Isn’t the most important part is that I walk with him? Actually what I believe you are doing is questioning my faith, because I have left behind your religion.

        And what is the reason for your post? Are you not comfortable enough with your own faith, that you have to question the faith of others? It doesn’t look like you are here to uplift another’s walk with God, but to judge it, which in some ways, makes my point. I hope that is not what you are doing, but that is the way it appears.

      • LC says:

        I did not say you were not a follower of Christ. I simply asked you when you started.

        Is that a tough question to answer?

        I even apologized for skimming your post. It was first thing in the morning and I blew it. I said I’m sorry. Am I forgiven?

        Also, I am a Christian. You say that you are too. Okay. So now how have you “left behind MY religion.” You don’t even know where I am coming from and you are judging me. Kettle black?

        I hope we can get past this and actually communicate going forward.

      • Ono Kono says:

        LC, Thank you for your reply. I can see that you are not here to discuss but to disrupt.

    • LC says:

      What? All I’m asking for is honest communication.

      Why are you are attempting to shut me out? Real relationships take communication. I know that’s tough on a blog, but Im trying. I’m new here. I’m attempting to communicate. What are do you believe I am doing wrong? Seriously.

      If I’m truly off base, I’ll repent and try to fix it. If you are off, you need to recognize it, and need to do likewise. That’s fair, isn’t it?

      I’m being as honest and transparent as I can, but you are not giving me much to work with so far.

      I’m looking to build bridges not walls.

  9. bryskates says:

    I think we have done a poor job of building relationships with those who do not fit into “our mold” (whatever that is supposed to look like). It is sad that we can equate Christianity with going to church on Sundays and learning who to hate. I am trying to be the person that every type of people wants to be around. I have a long ways to go.

  10. kzottarelli says:

    Beautiful. I especially love the part about when Christ is in our hearts the love shines! I trust Christ in my heart above and beyond any church, book, pastor etc., he fills me up with his love and light. Thank you Ono, you said perfectly what I have felt.

  11. Dr. Rex says:

    Love it!!! How did you manage to get inside my head and my heart?? Raised Catholic, lived all my afraid of condemnation because of my lifestyle …. Totally free and open at this time!! 🙂 Re-blog ….

    • Ono Kono says:

      Dr. Rex, I think many of us, for a long time have felt this way! Problem is we are drowned out. It’s been my mission to speak about and stand on the side of love. I’ve been timid for a long time (it’s that fear thing), but I am finding that the more I speak out the more fear I overcome.

  12. Thank you for a beautiful post. I have felt as you do about the Christian Church. There was a time when I just had to let go of all the dogma and move to the Christ consciousness that spoke to the truth in my heart. I love God’s creation and I love the diversity of that creation. Your post gives all of us a chance to pause and think about the compassion of inclusion; of loving everyone. I am a straight woman who stands in solidarity with my gay brothers and sisters and I know that God’s love has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with the celebration of life, and most especially love. Your post demonstrates that abundantly.

    • Ono Kono says:

      Thank you Stephanie for weighing in on this. For years I felt alone in this, but now I know there are many who have gone through the same upheaval. Its our voices that help bring change, so we must keep talking! Thanks for your kind words.

  13. This is a truly beautiful post. I imagine a lot of people can relate to your story. Far too many people call themselves Christians when they appear to only follow the words of He Who Stands Before Us On Sunday Mornings.

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