The reason I am now doing much better is that, after a decade and a half of struggling to remain in an authoritarian faith that entails fundamentally inhumane theology, I let go of it entirely. I stopped accepting that I needed to feel like an impossible person who shouldn’t exist, and I embarked—haltingly at first, and then with greater confidence—on a path of self-acceptance and truth-telling.
In truth, while hypocrisy in the church is a huge problem, it is far from the only reason we’re leaving. We’re leaving because of the theology itself, a theology that in so many cases we tried as hard as we could to hold on to even as it was destroying us. And by the way, the existence of those visible discussions and resources for exvangelicals you seem to fear are contributing to the church’s loss of a generation? They are literally saving the lives of young people like you and I once were, pondering suicide as they face a crisis of faith.
Evangelicals hold to an anti-pluralist, anti-democratic theology of inequality that has contributed to abuse and trauma in so many cases. Why is it so hard for you to see, Dr. Moore, that you simply cannot have a prevailing doctrine of “biblical patriarchy” without the pervasive abuse of women and children? Evangelicals also hold to a theology that simply makes no space for women who refuse to accept unequal status with men, for single women (except perhaps on the mission field), or for LGBTQ folks like myself who are told that our experience of ourselves is “rebellious” and that we shouldn’t exist. All the abuses inherent to authoritarian systems about which exvies have stories-and the scars to back them up-are logical consequences of evangelical theology and the culture it supports.
But is the preacher who beats his daughter for dancing really an aberration in evangelical subculture? Quite the opposite, for he accurately reflects the character of the authoritarian god of the evangelical cosmos, with his arbitrary and unjust social hierarchies and his insistence that eternal conscious torment for even the most minor of temporal infractions is moral. These beliefs are inherently abusive.
I cannot, and will not, believe in that god, and if I still believed in him, it is very possible that I would have killed myself by now.
“I cannot, and will not, believe in that god.”
I recall my days and nights of spiritual torment as a kid trying to align Southern Baptism with my own burgeoning moral autonomy and sense of self. I couldn’t. One night, around age 10 or 11, I “let go of it entirely”. In that moment of letting go, I grasped my moral autonomy. I held to it as I quietly rejected the religion of my upbringing and the people who perpetuated it. The moral, ethical, and intellectual dissonance ebbed, and I never invited it back.
I turned instead to the far more satisfying spirituality found in the skepticism and wonder of science and the local library.
But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.
The best thing my parents ever did for me was park me in the local library all those days. In its stacks, I found candles in the dark. I found a secular education. I found an antidote to dissonance and fear of eternal conscious torment.