My childhood has seemed as if it were broken into sections with many of those sections dictated by the guiding hand of organized religion. Christianity fed me spirituality dependent upon nationalism and provided friendships that were based on dedication for the church community and not for one another. It’s hard stepping away from a world you were basically born into. I was a child wanting routine, answers for the scary questions, explanations for the undiagnosed anxiety and ADHD (or a way to name them in the first place) and a goal in life to ease my worries. Instead, I received a lie and it hurts coming to terms with the fact that the same happened to my parents.
I’m lucky enough to have parents that have beliefs that have grown and progressed since being in the church. Communication and dialogue about it all has been vital, but it took hurt and betrayal from the community, specifically Trinity Communion Church (in Rochester,NY), for everything to click into place. I recognized in the midst of high school anxieties that my folks weren’t right for one another, not anymore at least. At one point they proved they needed each other for support in their lives, but I believe Christianity halted a lot of progress that could have been made earlier in life.
I was coming out of the haze of evangelical turned episcopal ideology in my sophomore year of high school at Our Lady of Mercy. I internally shamed myself for a sexuality I had yet to identify and had just stepped into an open world filled with the music, film and pop culture that had previously been deemed inappropriate or demonic. My high school friendships provided me with a joy I hadn’t seen in circles from youth group. I found myself branching out, but looking back it was carefully done on my part. I hadn’t realized till recently how lightly I was tip-toeing the line between dedication to faith and the potential to start the healing process of deconstruction.
It’s difficult coming to terms with the absence of true childhood freedom. It could have been a childhood without fear of not being good enough when the rapture would occur. I could have expanded my world earlier in life. I could have developed a life without shame of body, sex, mental illness. But in the end, deconstruction comes with the acceptance that the past is the past and the present is what matters the most for me now.
The fear of new friends not “knowing their savior” or “letting god into their hearts” was always present. Acceptance that you just may have to be willing to die or be killed for your beliefs was sinister and seeped into almost every pore of my life. Lies about queer people, my future community, were constant and filled with hypocrisy hidden behind the façade of Christian love. There’s truly no hate like that “love”.
The deep absence of community, or the feeling of it, covers you just as you leave that life. Thorns stick and take patience when retrieving them and healing the wounds left behind. I’m still reaching out to my inner child. She’s still terrified in many ways and shames certain joys and freedoms. I can’t be mad at her, it’s all she has known. But that isn’t always going to be attached to me in that way. Slowly I reach out with reassurance, reminding myself it’s ok to practice selfishness and put myself first. Buying the stuffed animal I’ve wanted or taking joy in the memories I briefly had from my Spider Man collection is some of the most important pieces of my deconstruction. There’s a hold on my inner child through denying worldly joys and progress not focused on converting the population.
I’d like to think my Scandinavian and Welsh ancestors look over me today with a higher sense of peace than before. Generational curses are being broken. I’m finding my inner joy and grounding myself in my surroundings and connections. What may have been stripped away from my family hundreds of years ago is finding its way back. And what’s even better is this iteration of beliefs is progressing and thriving better than my pre-deconstructed self ever could.