By Amanda Fraser
1. As a woman, I have value
From childhood I knew that my value did not equal that of my male counterparts in the church. Being born a woman I had been born into a subservient position. Finding out that Jesus elevated women, discovering that Paul had exalted female ministers, and realizing all the ways biblical women were framed to me as a child/youth (weak, sinful, downcast, shameful) did not exist in the Bible story, altered me at my core. Finding my value in my gender, and my value outside of gender has changed me in ways I never knew possible.
2. My sexual history does not define me
There was a time in my life when I would have told you my virginity was the most important thing about me. My True Love Waits ring defined who I was as a person. If there is any teaching from the church that I have had to rewrite for myself, or that caused trauma in my life, it was this. Being told I was shameful, that my sexuality was not my own but owned already by the man I would one day marry, this was all detrimental to my development. I was never taught to embrace my sexuality; I was taught to hide it. This left me ill equipped to deal with life in the real world. Evangelical purity culture has caused so much harm, that I am still confronting these false beliefs and working to get past them in my 30s.
3. Everyone is equal
The issue with assigning different levels of worth to different people, for any reason, is that it forces you to look at and even seek out people’s differences. This is highlighted in the evangelical church and the deep-seated racism that comes with it. When you teach people that they are above others by the way they act, what they believe or who they are – you are instilling racist ideals that will carry over into every other facet of their lives.
4. There is no one, true religion. (And even if there was, it wouldn’t have been mine)
I remember being told and believing that we were the only ones who had the direct line to heaven. Every other faith around us was wrong and we were right above all the others. We were chosen, set apart, the only ones who knew the truth. This belief is still at the core of so many other issues in the church – racism, sexism, hypocritical behaviour, abuse, pride, etc. This is a tenant of most evangelical churches today “I’m right, and you’re wrong which makes me better than you.” – it may not be said point blank from the pulpit, but it is the undercurrent of many teachings.
5. Everything does NOT happen for a reason
This is a big one. Dropping the platitudes and ‘christianese’ from my vocabulary is taking more time than anything else to move past. Letting go of needing the trials in my life to be sent from God to help me grow; and needing to justify illness, or traumatic events as having a purpose, these are hard beliefs to root out. It also leaves me at a loss for words when something bad happens to the people around me, because I can’t just rhyme off “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”, I simply don’t believe it anymore. I have embraced the chaos of the universe and sometimes that means bad and good things happen for no reason at all.
6. The Bible doesn’t have to be taken literally
I believe in Jesus; I believe in God the Mother/Father. To me the Bible is still the Word of God – however I now know enough about how it was compiled and edited that I no longer take any verse at face value. I no longer believe in having religious traditions for the sake of having traditions. I no longer subscribe to a faith built on rigid standards, but one filled with service of and love for others. If we take the Bible literally, we risk missing the point. We miss finding the life-giving message of love and acceptance for all.
7. It does not matter to God who you love
When I think back to the friends I had in my youth and how many have survived conversion therapy and being cast out by the church for being LGBTQ+ it makes me want to weep. We spent so much time being gate keepers, telling people whether they would be accepted for who they were or not. A gospel based in love doesn’t keep people out, it doesn’t have a list of rules to follow in order to gain acceptance. The real gospel is open to everyone.
8. Nature is my church
There were quite a few ways the church of my childhood failed me but narrowing the scope of where I could experience God is possibly the most important. After walking away from the restrictions of evangelicalism I have found that I can commune with a higher power everywhere I am. I feel most connected to God with my feet in the ocean, warm sand underneath my toes and waves lapping at my legs. I also feel complete contentment and connection in the mountains, surrounded by trees, inhaling fresh air with each breath.
9. My voice matters
This is one that is taking a bit longer to learn. I spent so long in the church and in my life making myself small that sometimes I still don’t trust my own voice. I am now learning how to express myself and allowing myself to believe that it is okay to be heard and have an opinion. Jesus elevated the women around him, he respected them and empowered them in a time when women had no voice whatsoever. Today the church still tries to minimize women. I believe that the time is coming where women must stand up and reclaim their voices.
10. I can still be a follower of Christ, and not an Evangelical Christian
And this is what it comes down to. So many people will define the label Christian by the evangelical Christian community. But a Christian is a follower of Christ. I can have issues with the authority and history of the Bible and still follow Jesus. I can still use Jesus’ life as an example for how I live my own and not profess to be evangelical. And I can still be assured of a life after this one without putting myself in a church congregation that makes me feel small, shamed, and voiceless. We are allowed and welcome to find faith, in our own way. We are permitted to define what we need from that faith and what we want to include or exclude. No one else should tell you what your faith needs to mean to you.
*Love this essay? Buy me a coffee. It’s like a tip jar for our writers.*
Amanda Fraser is a self-professed word nerd with a passion for reading, writing, female empowerment, and is also a complete coffee addict. Amanda became an ordained minister in her mid-30s and is currently working on her Bachelor of Divinity while raising her kids. She recently began an Instagram page, @thoughtsonfaith, to connect with others going through the journey of deconstruction, hoping to ‘light the way’ and offer her thoughts and support. You can also find her on Facebook. “When I am dust, sing these words over my bones; she was a voice.” – The Book of Longings (Sue Monk Kidd)