Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Hope Someday I Can Go To Church Again


A church sign that says "Sundays 9:30 am. All are welcome." Image source.

I tried so hard to go to church. 

A few years ago, here in Shanghai, as I was in the process of leaving evangelicalism. I had gone to church my whole life (in the US) but suddenly everything was different. I didn't believe in hell any more. I didn't believe unmarried sex was a sin. I was 100% out of patience for any debate about "do you let women be pastors in your church?" I totally affirmed everything queer. I was dating a non-Christian (who is now my husband) and I was completely uninterested in convincing him to convert. I stopped praying, stopped daily devotions because I found it was bad for my mental health, and I had come to believe in a God who cared about my mental health. (A completely different God than I used to worship.)

But I was still a Christian. (And I still am now.) I had followed Jesus' teaching about loving your neighbor, which led me to reject all those anti-human beliefs, and no one is taking that from me; I am still a Christian.

So, I wanted to find a church. I tried lots- a Chinese church, an international church, a few bible study groups. I tried so hard. I talked to people, tried to tell them I am a Christian but I don't believe in this or that extremely common churchy belief, and it was like hitting a wall. Eventually I had to call off the search because I developed depression symptoms.

And I thought, someday, I hope I can try again, and go to church again.

It's been a few years since then, and I've decided on this policy: If I am searching for a church to be my "church home" where people take me seriously as a Christian, then I will not waste any time on a church that says anything other than "yes" when asked if they are LGBTQ-affirming. Not "let's go get coffee", not "all are welcome", not "we want God's best for you", not "God's design for the family"- no, those are all sneaky ways to say "you can attend the service and give us your money if you're queer, but as soon as you show interest in being a volunteer or getting baptized or getting married to a same-sex partner, you will find out all along we didn't see you as a good enough Christian."

I'm done with that, I'm not going to do any "change the system from the inside" stuff any more. I'm done.

It might seem odd, though- why would a clear statement of LGBTQ affirmation be my litmus test? I am queer, but I am not the kind of queer that Christians fight culture wars about. I am asexual. I am straight, I am married, I have a little son, and I am not interested in being "out"- I am only out to a small subset of people. Churchy discrimination against LGBT people will never affect me directly. So why do I choose this as the test for what churches I would consider?

Because it's an indicator of whether the church believes they have the right to police members' personal lives. Do they believe Christians are in charge of making the rules for everyone else? Do they believe it's their job to judge whether your identity is valid or not? Run from a church like that. 

It's about boundaries (ever since I learned about boundaries, I've discovered everything is about boundaries).

(Also, being asexual doesn't mean I don't run into problems with evangelical ideology about sex. HA. NOPE. There was lot of teaching about "temptation" and how sex will totally "just happen" if you are alone with a person you are attracted to- which made no sense to me at all, so all I could do was fear it. There was a lot of teaching about how sex is a duty that a wife must do for her husband, because men "need" it and women don't really like sex that much. There was a lot of "we are all sexually broken." And so on.)

I've visited a few UU churches (unitarian universalist) on trips to the US, and I think maybe I would start there, looking for a church. UU is not a Christian church; they accept all religions (or lack thereof). I'll look for a church when I move back to the US (the plan is next year). I'm not going to try again here in Shanghai.

I'm still a Christian, and I'm proud to be a Christian, but I can't go to church, and I wish I could. Some day I will try again.



So I've Discovered That (For Me) Church Culture Causes Depression 
The Church is a Safe Place for Awful Beliefs
Unaffirming Church Bingo 
Church is Supposed to Hurt
Miss me with your "we are all sexually broken" hot takes. I'm asexual.


This post is part of the September 2021 Carnival of Aces. This month's topic is "The 'We' of Me."

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