Finding Myself After Leaving Evangelical Christianity

The process was brutal. The onset unexpected. The outcome, life changing. Finally, I am “home.”

Several years ago my husband and I sat down to a nondescript dinner. It was a typical weekday, and we weren’t talking about anything out of the ordinary. From what I recall, it was just another night sharing a meal together.

Out of the blue, something hit and it hit hard. My poor husband sat bewildered as tears poured and I found myself falling apart.

Nothing he said “triggered” me.

Nothing he did caused me to disintegrate.

I honestly don’t remember what caused the crucial block to be removed, which undid the tower of “me.” But the rest of the blocks did fall and I crumbled.

What followed was months upon months of hard work. I am sincerely thankful for the work of Marlene Winell on Religious Trauma Syndrome. It truly helped heal me.

Some wonder how anyone gets involved in any overbearing religious movement. I can’t answer that question for anyone but myself.

I was brought up in the South, in the Bible Belt, but it wasn’t there I was unwillingly shoved into fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. No, this happened “up North,” as Southerners say. Well meaning people who truly believe what they believe prodded and poked, guilt-tripped and shamed a young teen to erase herself completely so their institution could rebuild her into an “acceptable, truly saved Christian.” Still wonder how someone would allow this to happen to them? When you are a “old timey” foster kid (not all fosters go through the system), you work to please the people who, literally, hold your life in their hands.

So, why didn’t I leave the moment I was emancipated? You ask. Because I was abused and brain washed, as are others who endure cult-like experiences.

“Cult? You dare tell me evangelical Christianity is a cult?”

Reread what I wrote above. They worked to break me down to absolute nothing in order to rebuild me “into the image of Christ.”

Still not convinced? Substitute “Christ” in that sentence to anything else at all and the picture becomes clearer. To put it another way, by the time I was an adult able to support myself, the damage was done. It’s a miracle I was able to leave at all.

How did I find myself after I left? I flat out asked my husband to give me one year and a day to explore what I believe. And, no, this wasn’t asking him for permission; it’s not that kind of “ask.” What is was was a way to say, “please do not pressure me to go to church, bible studies and the like during this time. Allow me to explore without judgement.” And it was also a way to let him clearly know I needed spiritual space.

He gave it.

What followed was, in short – a lot. Far too much to talk about in one blog post. But that is where it all started – taking time to allow myself to question, research, think, pause, reflect and heal without judgement. In the process, I didn’t find something new to “cling on to.” What I found was the path back to myself.

It’s been several years and I cannot put into words how much happier and mentally healthier I am now. That has not changed.

Would you like to hear more? It’s hard to tell when you send thoughts out into the ether, isn’t it? Find me on Twitter or Instagram and tell me. Who knows, I may write a book about it someday, too.




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