Typically, my opening image is one of color. Given the subject of this essay, I deliberated on choosing the first image. While I am pleased with capturing white lilacs on a black background, the image has a portentous quality. That is one of many aspects of Nature: beautiful and threatening.
Sharing this confession was reflected upon for six or more months. You may believe the narrative or not. However, I did live a life for which I am no longer ashamed but regret that I may have caused unintentional harm to others.
I wrap my hands around a mug filled with freshly brewed Assam tea and look out upon a vibrant spring of thick greenery, young blooms appearing in new places, and perennials bursting forth where they’ve resided for years. It is quiet in this now, but the world and its people are not. I wrestle with telling this story, but I believe it is urgent. There is a dark shadow upon our land that is odious and cleverly cloaked as it slithers into the foundation of our Democracy, forging injustices, misogyny, racism, and inequality of wealth. Does my story have any significance to the political and governmental issues we face in our country? I can’t answer that, but I hope it does.
I was an evangelical for eight years. Three years ago, I was condemned, expelled, and branded a harlot at the evangelical church to which I worked tirelessly to show my loyalty, reverence for our Lord Jesus Christ, and acceptance that the Bible is the literal Word of God. I am not a harlot, nor do I believe in the God of the Bible. I am aligned with Eastern philosophies and, as such, before I became a born-again Christian. I was brainwashed and allowed it. There is no one to blame. Desperate and needy, I made a choice and stood by my decision until everything unraveled, not only for me but for our country. Consider this narrative a cautionary tale.
In 2013, after losing my home and pets, moving into subsidized housing with total strangers, and selling and gifting nearly everything I owned, an acquaintance saw my despair and offered to take me to her non-denominational church. The experience was surreal: live “worship” music and singers that were infectious, drug-like, and addictive, with no men in long robes but pastors dressed in jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirts. For forty minutes, the music whipped itself into a frenzy with hands clapping, people singing, dancing in the aisles—all to juice the audience for the Lord and the sermon. This exhilarating experience was nothing I experienced in institutionalized religions, especially coming from a Roman Catholic background with a few years as an Episcopalian. I believed I landed in the right place where people hugged one another openly and abundantly, laughed, and welcomed me with their joy.
I attended this church for several years until the women urged me to apply for a permit to buy a pistol, register as a Republican, and, eventually, lead a pro-life campaign for 40 Days for Life. Early on, two Christian women came into my home and “cleansed” it of items the Bible deemed pagan and non-Christian: books and art on Buddhism and any book hinting at non-Christian literature. They asked me to smash beautiful crystals I gathered over forty years, hammer Buddha statues into dust, and throw them in the dumpster. There was intended violence in destroying these items, so no remains of my wrongdoing would enable others to follow pagans and satanic worshipers. While the demolitions of books and art, even some of my art they believed to be satanic, should have raised a red flag, I was in a hermetically sealed alternate universe of evangelicalism: Jesus saved me, and there is nothing God will not do for me, but earthquakes, fires in California, tsunamis, et al. happens to pagans, other Christians, and anyone who does not honor Jesus as the son of God.
I allowed myself to be ‘used’ by my pastor to head up the pro-life campaign. My abortion experience is covered in my book Time to Mourn & a Time to Dance, but I was deeply hesitant to tell him that I was pro-choice. The pro-life episode ate away at me every day as I stood across from Planned Parenthood and read my Bible.
During the height of WWII, my parents decided to abort their baby. My mother was well into her second trimester. Abortion was illegal in 1943, so she went to a back-alley abortionist, not a doctor. He struggled with tools unsuccessfully, sending my mother home with a concoction to drink. A baby slipped through her womb in the middle of the night, and that baby was my twin sister, Lily. No one heard two hearts beat, and no one knew I remained in her womb until her seventh month when she felt me move. My sister’s death and my survival have consequences to this day.
Had my mother been in a hospital or a clinic with doctors and nurses, they would have heard two hearts. I don’t know if they would have aborted twins. I can stand on both sides of abortion, but only to a point. I lost my sister, and my skull was damaged from the torturous event, creating epilepsy in my early childhood years. I was torn to my core as I stood on the pro-life line. I would never have an abortion because of losing my sister. Nevertheless, I believed that I nor anyone else has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body.
Rubin is correct, for religious tyranny comes from fanaticism with the Bible as the only source of wisdom and teaching. However, pundits, professors, and some statistics say evangelicalism represents only one-third of our country. That may be true. But as we learn week by week, they are loud and speak through a giant megaphone. And they are poised in essential places in our government’s judicial and legislative branches. They are governors of states defying and erasing our hard-won freedoms of the last 50 years.
I challenge the one-third number of evangelicals in America because 10,000 attend many mega churches planted all over our country and the world several times a week. Add to that the millions who watch televangelists every day, all day, while writing checks to already wealthy ministries.
From historian Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American:
Millions worldwide, even charismatic Catholics, are part of the evangelical movement, which has become a radicalized cult. I hasten to say that not all, but too many align themselves with our former President and his acolytes. They inhale their news from Newsmax and conspiracy sources like a drug. This movement is more than one-third of our country.
We are a country divided by politics, religious beliefs, racism, injustices, and a vast chasm between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ The genesis of these confessions is that an extremist, pseudo-Jesus-loving group of people formed a deep belief about me as they do about anyone who is not like them. They acted on their self-righteousness and branded an invisible scarlet letter on my forehead for something I am not and for being who I am as a woman and an equal. White Christian evangelicals advanced themselves into the public square through the narrow lens of one book. They supported a sociopathic man for President and primed him to do their bidding to win.
You may wrap words around the evangelical influence in our governmental and judicial arenas to soften the reality or deny it altogether. However, our Democracy is at risk, and anger rages through our neighborhoods with guns to wound and kill those who are not like them.