I hate driving past Christian billboards. I hate seeing churches. And I can't stand those little wooden crosses around town with the words "Only Jesus Saves" spelled out on them.
My old Christian self would love them. But now they are just painful reminders of bad times.
Long before I knew I was bisexual, I knew I was not a good enough Christian. And that I would never be, no matter what I did. No matter how hard I tried.
And by "good enough," I don't mean perfect. I just mean good enough.
I always knew, deep down, that I secretly wanted to rebel, to just be free of all these rules and fears about whether that book, song, or movie was bad or good, or the constant obsession over controlling my very thoughts.
People say that atheists and non-Christians just want to sin. And that's not true. I just want to relax and be happy. I just want to enjoy my life. I just want to worry only about whether my actions hurt others or not. (And people say, "Why have morality, when you don't have God?" And to that I say, "Why NOT have morality?!" Society and life in general is so much better with it, don't you think? And isn't that reason enough? It should be.)
I once heard a pastor ask, "Can you even take one breath without sinning?" And I felt like I couldn't. I was walking, breathing, living sin. And this was when I was trying so hard to be a good Christian, that I couldn't sleep at night because I was too afraid of the thoughts I would think if I let go and relaxed. I could be literally lying there and doing nothing, and still sinning. I could literally be drifting off to sleep, and have to rouse myself to beg for forgiveness.
The prayer and bible study were bad enough, but they were nothing compared to the constant mind-prayer and self-policing of my thoughts. Reading the bible was a chore I got tired of, and felt bad about. But the prayer never really stopped. Imaging an introvert trying to constantly maintain a one-sided conversation. It could drive one insane.
I begged God constantly to help me do better. And when I felt like I was finally doing good enough, I wondered why I couldn't maintain that all the time, and the thought of trying exhausted me. I hated my life.
I even felt guilty for feeling guilty. Supposedly God was enough, and I had to be easy on myself because I could never be perfect. But then Christian leaders would talk out both sides of their mouths, as they had a minimum standard you had to meet, if you really loved God. Prayer, bible study, and thought-policing--the basic, bare minimum Christian level--even that was enormously difficult for me to maintain! And that was without going to church. I knew I "should," but could never find a good one, or the thought of it would be exhausting and stressful.
I begged God to show me he was real, so that I could continue to believe in him. And in spite of that, I sensed my grip on my own Christianity slowly slipping away. It seemed so cruel, when I would supposedly go to hell for not believing, and God was not making it possible for me to believe. (I could no longer "make" myself believe, or make myself act like I did, go through the motions hoping that it would "catch" and come naturally to me once more.) God was sending me to hell on purpose, and I was livid.
Now I hardly think about these things. But my thirteen-year-old self is still a part of me, and so I find myself still constantly wondering if I'm doing something wrong. At my new job especially, my first professional job as a tax preparer, I've discovered that I'm still feeling like I'm constantly sinning, only now I'm replacing sinning with "messing up someone's taxes," and God with my boss. But somehow, the consequences still feel eternal!
The thing about being a Christian is, someone is always judging you. And I don't mean the ultimate Someone, although that is always used against you--I mean there's always someone here on earth that tells you you're doing something wrong. If you wear pants as a girl, someone will call your salvation into question just because you're not wearing an ankle-length skirt. And I never wore ankle-length skirts, or any skirts, because they were always associated in my mind with particularly cult-like elements. I was judging those elements, and I still do, because...well, they're cults. Their female members especially have to give up so much of what makes them their own unique persons, just to be good enough for God. And their husbands.
And this, what one wears, is just one example in a sea of debates that about things so small, but that are all made to be larger than life. Is this movie, that book, this song--is it worldly or demonic? How can one tel? It's either, "Don't be so worldly!" or "Don't be so legalistic!"
And I didn't know which one to tell myself.
I have trouble deciding what exactly to call myself with my own sexuality, and I also have trouble when it comes to religion. All I know is that I'm not straight, and I'm not evangelical. And I'm never going to try to be either one ever again. I want to be happy.
It's like I knew all along, deep down, that if I let up on myself even for one minute, I was going to mentally bolt for freedom, make a mad dash away from Christianity and choose happiness over God. And as much as I tried to deny it, I knew that that was my only choice. That I couldn't have both.
Now I do what I want, and then feel guilty about it. But it's better than it was, for a long time. And the more I'm aware of my guilt, the better I feel, and the easier I am on myself.
Someday, I hope it will be even better.
The thing about religion is, everything that feels good is wrong. Masturbation is wrong, because it feels good, and you can only feel that good with the church's authorization. Music that you can actually dance to is wrong, because again, it makes your body feel good, without God or religion. Even thinking rebellious thoughts, even dreaming of freedom, is wrong. And anything that feels too good and brings too much pleasure is an idol. Even if you would otherwise be allowed to do it. If it feels good, it's wrong.
I got free. And I hope everyone eventually gets free. But the work comes in dismantling or escaping the prison inside your own mind. And sometimes it's hard to even know it's there. But acknowledging and seeing the bars makes it easier to stop banging against them, and try to go around them.