Note: In writing this, I recognize that there’s no way to not over generalize. I deeply love and respect many people who still identify with the church and am so grateful for the upbringing that I had. I acknowledge that there are many experiences, and I want to humbly share mine, to put a friendly face on this generation that is fleeing the church.
Almost two years ago, without any announcement or fanfare, I left the Evangelical Church. It sounds dramatic, but it really was a mundane decision—“Let’s not go to church today.” One Sunday turned into a few months and a realization that, hey, we don’t go to that church anymore.
We spent some time half-heartedly visiting other churches nearby, but I realized that every time I stepped into a church, I felt lonely and out of place. This was mind-blowing to me, as a child of the youth group heyday. Throughout most of my childhood I was at church three to four times a week.
How could I, the quintessential “church girl” feel left out in church culture? Why, when I looked around in the church, was I not seeing my tribe anymore? Why was it that even though we professed to believe the same things and love the same God, our lives, values and opinions seemed so different? Piece by piece it came to me over months of reflection.
My exodus from the church started in 2008. Obama was running for President, and I was a junior in college. I was young, excited and able to vote for the first time, and I was 100% sold on the hope that Barack Obama was proffering. I wore Obama campaign buttons on my messenger bag and attended campaign events featuring Donald Miller. The response that I got from my beloved church that I attended at the time was that it wasn’t acceptable to support Obama and be a Christian.
One Sunday, a woman in my church handed me copied pages of an article from the magazine Christianity Today about why abortion is wrong. She assumed that because of my support of Obama, I must support the right to choose. Another person I respect sent me a Facebook message quoting verses from the Old Testament about how God judged a political leader named Manasseh for massacring babies and that the United States would be judged in the same way if we didn’t overturn Roe v. Wade. As far as being pro-life, I actually agreed with both of them, but it seemed that neither of them wanted to ask me what I thought and instead sent me the implicit message that is often unwittingly sent by the church:
“If you think this, you don’t belong here.”
I desperately wanted to belong there. I had always belonged there; church had been a second home to me for my entire life. There was nothing in me that wanted to leave the church, yet I found myself in a situation where I felt like the people who I wanted didn’t want me. I felt like I had to choose between being true to myself or staying inside the Evangelical framework.