“Are you Christian?” one of the protesters asks any person he’s met and can lure into a conversation. I was also asked this the first time meeting this particular protester.
When you have researched, observed, and conversed with a religious protesting group for months, I suppose it’s easy to end up looking at your own beliefs and wonder why yours differs from theirs. Least that is the case with me.
Somewhere along the way, those men outside my clinic reminded me why I’m not a Christian like they are.
My religion origin story starts when I was baptized. Supposedly, the Catholic Church my mother attended refused to baptize me. Mother claims it’s because she had previously been married and later got divorced. She had paid the church to obtain an annulment (meaning the church would consider the marriage void to begin with), but they refused to baptize me. Although, I don’t think the fact that my parents weren’t married when I was conceived or birthed or that Dad wasn’t religious didn’t help either. Despite my mother’s church refusing to baptize me, I ended up being baptized anyway when my grandmother was able to set one up for me on Easter Sunday at the Christian hospital she worked at.
Memories of going to church during my childhood are quire vague. I sort of remember going to church regularly early on, but eventually was reduced to holidays or whenever I stayed over at my best friend’s house on the weekend. I think Mother’s experiences with the church caused her to distance herself from the religion until she was more of an agnostic than a true Christian.
Still, I had been taught to believe the basic stories of the Bible like the plagues, the flood, and the birth and death of Jesus. I believed God and Jesus were real.
When I was in the fourth grade, I was relentlessly bullied for liking the wrong pop band. Everyone else liked Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys while I liked Hanson. It was around this time that a friend of mine invited me to go to her church on Wednesday evenings after school. A large blue van would come to our income based town house complex to pick all the kids up and drive to the tiny church on the outskirts of town. Afterwards, we’d go to McDonalds—I remember the chicken sandwich meal was five bucks.
Truthfully, I was probably initially in it for the McDonalds. But the more I went, the more I really believed that God could help. Every week the pastor would ask if anyone was in need of prayers and we would pray. After Grandpa had fallen off his semi-truck and broke his arm, I asked the pastor to put in a good word to the Lord to help heal him. I eventually began praying to God to make the bullies at my school leave me alone thinking that if I believed enough that my prayers would be answered. I believed what they told me about the Bible, but I admittedly didn’t understand everything being told to me. “But it came from the Bible so it must be true” I thought. I learned the songs being sung between sermons. Everyone singing hymns in unison seemed so strange to me, but still I thought singing would make God happy. I’ll never forget the chorus of that damned “Crayon Song” being led by the father of one of the Christian families that attended the church.
Red is the color of the blood that he shed
Brown is for the crown of thorns they laid upon his head
Blue is for royalty, within him did dwell
Yellow is for the Christian who’s afraid to tell
So don’t you be a Christian who’s afraid to tell…
I suppose I continued to go for another reason: the eldest daughter of the father who led the hymns. She was older than me and deaf, which I found fascinating. I knew a little bit of sign language because the doctors thought I was deaf and would never talk so I began to learn sign language. (It turns out I had mild autism and it just took me longer to speak properly.) I tried practicing what I could remember and learned more so I could “talk” to her. Most times I couldn’t sign more than a “Hi, Amber”. I’d get so flustered and feel all the blood rush to my face because I thought she was so pretty and amazing and I was a total dork. I liked her. I mean, I really liked her.
I can’t help but laugh when looking back on this: I began learning I was bisexual in church. At the time, I didn’t know what “homosexuality” was and no one had told me it was wrong. It didn’t feel wrong. I didn’t feel different. It felt natural. It’s a feeling that didn’t phase out with time.
I continued to learn about God’s glory. I was proud when I earned a leather bound Bible with its pretty gilded edges. I continued to pray to God to make my school tormentors stop bullying me. I really believed that God would protect me if I put all my faith in him. I thought God accepted me for who I was and that he didn’t see me as “different”. God loves everyone ….right?
I stopped going to church the day I got made fun of.
We had got done with church and I was sitting in the van waiting to head out to McDonalds. I had a biography on Hanson with me and was looking at the colorful pictures in the middle. The picture I was looking at had Zac wearing bright yellow vinyl pants that had a black stripe going down the sides. I thought they were cool.
The driver got in his seat and turned to see what I was reading. When he saw the picture with Zac in his vinyl pants, he commented on how ugly and stupid they looked.
“But….I like his vinyl pants. I think they’re cool.”
“That’s what they make car seats out of! I can’t believe you like pants made out of car seats!”
As he laughed about it, I felt the same humiliation I felt whenever I was bullied at school. Was there any reason not to? It was exactly like how the bullies at school laughed and made fun of me for enjoying something. The only difference was it happened at a place where I thought I was accepted and loved. I was so embarrassed that I stopped going altogether.
It was such a small moment yet rocked my beliefs to the core. Up until that moment, I had followed blindly without question. That day, I learned to question Christianity.
God hadn’t made the bullies stop despite my prayers and believing in Him. Why? Wasn’t I good enough? I followed the rules. I learned the songs and the stories. I was a kind person. What did I do wrong? That day, I had saw a bully in one of His followers. Why would God not stop a bully in his own church? If he won’t stop someone from making fun of me in a place of the Lord that teaches love and acceptance, how was I supposed to believe he would stop the bullies at my school? And isn’t this man a Christian? Do Christians make fun of others? Does God think this is okay? If not, why doesn’t he stop it? Is he powerless or does he not care?
Maybe the Dicktator would assume that God didn’t help me because I was somehow a “lukewarm” Christian following false leaders, that my parents hadn’t taught me well, I had feelings for someone of the same sex, or that being bullied was a part of God’s plan. Why would God hold a 10 year old accountable for unknowingly following false leaders or not knowing that being gay was “wrong” within the terms of the religion? Why would God’s plan include getting tormented?
Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at a plan involving verbal torture considering His plan to forgive people for their sins involved sending His only son die. People were horrified when Stannis sacrificed his daughter on Game of Thrones, but are perfectly okay with God letting his son be lead to death for the sake of humanity.
As I got older, I saw how Christianity is used to validate their hate or deny rights to others. Right now, I’m seeing Christians using God to justify harassing female patients every week. They are the sort of people that caused me to stop believing in the first place. As I watch them every week, their actions only convince me that not believing in all-powerful sky monsters was the right choice.