At 15, I loved my church.
I spent my Sundays singing my heart out and talking about the meanings, historical contexts and repercussions of Bible verses. I went to my small group for Bible Study on Tuesdays and Youth Group Wednesday nights.
I was all in.
I was young and intellectually curious, and now it’s easy to see how that Evangelical church was always going to let me down. I had grown up moving from country to country, my family went to a different church with a different denomination every few years. That constant change had kept me safe from the harsh hypocrisies that define contemporary Evangelical churches.
When I arrived for a special Youth Group meeting to kick off the summer holidays, I had no idea I would leave with my faith in the church totally shattered. After drinking soda and eating cookies with my church friends, we were herded into a darkened room. We were going to watch a movie – awesome!
[bctt tweet=”I could not believe what I was seeing. It was so clearly propaganda, wrapped in faith.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Let me preface this by saying that my father was always religious, but he was also a career diplomat with a degree in Biology and a lifelong passion for ornithology and birdwatching. My mother has an abiding love for all living things. As a child, I had exposure to everything from paleontological digs to the Smithsonian’s vast collection of ornithological specimens.
Given that background, you can imagine how I felt when the film proceeded to tell us that the earth was 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs were a myth designed to bring down Christianity, by denying the fact of a literal 6-day creation of the universe by God.
I could not believe what I was seeing. It was so clearly propaganda, wrapped thinly within the guise of faith.
I didn’t understand why anyone would attempt to disprove everything that science had rigorously explored and proven for centuries. What did this even have to do with our faith? I knew very well that our faith was based on the belief that Jesus had saved humanity from sin and promised us life ever after if we would just promise to love our enemies as ourselves and accept the gift he’d given.
I struggled to understand how my youth pastors could truly believe that this was spiritually edifying in any way.
[bctt tweet=”I did eventually find my way back to Christian spirituality, but never back to church.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I stayed, though, for the discussion that was going to take place afterward. After all, I loved debating with my friends about the Bible and our faith. I had thought about creation and evolution, I knew I believed in theistic evolution and when it was time to share what we thought that is exactly what I told the group.
After all, I loved debating with my friends about the Bible and our faith. I had thought about creation and evolution, I knew I believed in theistic evolution and when it was time to share what we thought that is exactly what I told the group.
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
My youth pastor looked right at me and told me that I couldn’t choose what parts of the Bible I took literally and that my belief in evolution made me a “bad Christian.”
It was like being punched in the gut. I knew it was a lie and I knew she was trying to shame me.
I got mad. I got up, I walked out of their house and I took my ass home. My anger dissolved into agony when I got back, though. I went right to where my father was watching TV and I curled up next to him on the couch and cried my eyes out in his arms. He did his best to try to tell me they were wrong, that plenty of Christians understood that science and belief in God weren’t contradictory.
I believed him, but in my sorrow, my faith broke.
On the coffee table, there was a copy of National Geographic that was a couple months old. The cover is seared into my mind. The head of a monitor lizard in huge font: “Was Darwin Wrong?”
I paged through it with him, the article was filled with photos of the most breathtaking examples of co-evolution. My dad told me stories about species he’d seen in Madagascar that exemplified the dance of survival and gradual evolution. He opened up his mind to comfort me with the wonders of the natural world. All the reasons he knew God existed in the perfect beauty of the earth and all the ways science had helped him discover them.
[bctt tweet=”My youth pastor told me that I couldn’t choose what parts of the Bible I took literally.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I never really felt safe in the church after that, and, as I grew older, I was confronted by more and more of the lies that Evangelical churches spread in the name of my faith.
I did eventually find my way back to Christian spirituality, but I have never been able to get back to church. When I try to, in the back of my mind I still hear that woman say to me “You’re a bad Christian, Katie.”
I am stronger now and I know she was wrong, but the pain lingers.