Wanted: Disenchanted Southern Christians.
- Are you an academic or other type of intellectual who is also Christian?
- Do you sometimes find that the Bible, The Church, and its dogma are not enough to quiet all those questions and concerns in the back of your head?
- Were you raised in the church and then ‘got woke’ and now you’re starting to question a lot of ethical and moral ideologies that were indoctrinated in you as a child?
- Does your eye twitch a little bit every time a pastor or otherwise revered spiritual leader says something extremely sexist, homophobic, or otherwise problematic in a sermon?
- Do you truly believe in God and are deeply connected to your spirituality and also believe that evolution is real, that trans persons deserve equality, and that women should have proper access to healthcare and family planning resources?
Well this post may be just for you.
Hi, I’m Bri and I’m pursuing a PhD. I grew up in a black, Baptist church and very much bought into much of its doctrine throughout my life. That period where all my political and personal actions were compared only to the standard of what the Bible says and what my fellow life group members and mentors would approve of was very meaningful and valuable for the time that it lasted.
I am no longer in that period of my life.
I started pursuing advanced degrees and finding more answers and comfort in my academic literature and discussion than in my ministry involvement and daily devotionals. I started advocating for the rights of black women and all the people fortunate enough to be loved by them. Whether those lovers were cis, gay, gender non-conforming, immigrant, or not formally educated, I began to care about their lives, their rights, and their oppressions because many of their oppressions were inherently tied to my own.
And I believe that my friends is where I messed up.
Or at least that’s what many of the old heads who were formative parts of my heavily church influenced upbringing believe. I left the South a Bible-thumping, socially conservative example of God’s favor and came back from my Master’s program a natural-haired, uncomfortably radical feminist who needed to get back in the Word. Sorry guys.
I really wish I could go back to being able to swallow my own voice so as to not offend a potential head of my household. I truly do sometimes wax poetic about the days where I was comfortable blindly following someone else’s perspective on what is and is not from God and what will and won’t send me to hell. But as the old adage says, there’s no use crying over spilled milk.
Once I got back to the South, the old ways didn’t fit anymore. Diving into ministry involvement and connecting with other women who had no desire to talk about the realities of life outside of church vernacular just wasn’t working out for me. So I stopped doing it. Just flat out decided if it was not serving me in a way that brings me to a better understanding of myself and my connection to God, I wouldn’t do it. I started pursuing things outside of the traditional paradigm of “spiritual fixes” and started delving into things that truly heightened my consciousness and my awareness of God. The primary alternatives?
Therapy and yoga.
Yep, talking to a mental health professional and breathing my way through seventy-five minutes of movement is where I found God. Though much of my spiritual practice has evolved and I’m content with that, it still may not be enough for those who believe seeking answers and fulfillment outside the church, its rules and guidelines, and its interpretations of God and her will are a sin in and of themselves. That’s fine. I know what I know and I know who I am and as the good book says, “The Lord is with me. I will not be afraid. What can mere humans do to me?” (Psalms 118:6)
I cannot say heartbreak did not occur when I realized that the safe space I was so invested in throughout most of my life was no longer safe for me. My thoughts, my values, and my politics were not welcome here and this was no longer the path to the God I once knew. These people mean well and they truly believe their ideology is what it’s best for the world. It’s just not what’s best for my world.
That’s not to say I’m no longer involved in church because I very much am, but my approach is different. My guidelines for worshipping at a church are different. If you don’t care about social justice, that’s a hard pass. You constantly relegate women to the background as secondary members of an institution that would without doubt crumble to shambles without their labor? That’s gonna be a no from me, my guy! You get the picture.
To the disenchanted Christian who finds themselves in constant tension between their religious practice and their personal convictions, I just want to let you know, you’re alright. You’re not any less of a Christian because you don’t feel spiritually fed in a practice or place that once was gratifying. Your relationship with God is not waning and you do not need to ‘get back in the word’ simply because you can’t pray your way out of an anxiety attack. You are not outside of the will of God or backsliding in the world because you believe everyone—regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or economic status—deserves equality. You’re fine.
Release what no longer serves you and meet God where you are.
B.Alexandra, a New Orleans native, is pursuing her Ph.D. in Sociology. Research interests include black feminism, race, gender, and religion. Personal interests include but are not limited to reading, writing, lifting weights, and resisting oppression. Your resident Christian Black Feminist here with a word. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr