This week’s guest is Carlene. She grew up in the Independent Church of Christ—a cappella music, wholly male leadership, baptism before heaven and Biblical inerrancy.
One church teaching that took up too much emotional energy was the constant push to be baptized. She was told, “You’ll feel so much better when you do it. You’ll feel so clean.” But it felt inauthentic to publicly say, “I’m a sinner,” when she didn’t feel like that was true.
Carlene’s home life was similar to church life—patriarchal, authoritarian, traditional and conservative. Carlene was an obedient child who did not question authority, so she remembers a healthy, happy childhood. Her two sisters, however, remember profoundly different childhoods.
In high school, Sunday school lessons were always about “staying pure.” Her boyfriend started going to church with her, and they followed the rules and were eventually baptized at the same time. It wasn’t long, however, before Carlene’s beliefs would become real to her.
Carlene’s boyfriend went into the military and was sent to Afghanistan. She prayed and prayed for his safety, and at the time it seemed like he had returned home safely. They got married and have learned over time that there are both visible wounds and invisible.
While in college, Carlene first learned about evolution. It was this plus friends coming out as gay, working as a police detective and eventually the election of Donald Trump that, over many years, made her question again and again what she had always been taught.
It was “the death of a thousand cuts,” and it took almost a decade, but Carlene is now atheist, finding a glorious sense of awe and wonder in nature without Christian beliefs “taking up space and living rent-free” in her mind.
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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats