An Open Letter To Certain Christians I Have Known
A little background on why I left the flock.
“I just think that if you can walk away from God and just… quit believing in Him, I don’t think you were ever really a Christian, to begin with.”
I used to have a lot of conversations like these in my teenage years, back when I was on fire for Jesus. Back then I couldn’t even imagine a world where I didn’t believe that Christianity was the way, the truth, and the life.
Even though I knew my mother had raised me far too severely, I wasn’t about to "throw the baby out with the bath water." For years, the world seemed too amazing for me to imagine it without a benevolent Creator somehow bringing order to the chaos.
Plus, I create. I mean, I have always been an artsy girl who thrives on creative endeavors like painting and writing. I languish when I’m not creating anything. And all I ever really wanted out of life was a place to call home with good people, and an opportunity to serve the world through my art.
So for most of my life, the idea that I was made in the image of a God the creator really struck home for me.
But that was then. Back when I still had hope about Christianity and most of the people within it. Back when I believed it was really all about love.
Of course, it’s not like there weren’t signs that something was amiss in the kingdom of heaven.
Perhaps the biggest hint that everything was in fact not so hunky dory was how earnestly I prayed to God for help without actually receiving an answer to my prayers. And God got away with that, because he knew better. His silence wasn't wrong but divine wisdom beyond human understanding.
Growing up, I was often in enormous physical and emotional pain. I had PCOS and along with it--terribly painful, heavy periods. I spent many nights on the bathroom floor hunched over in pain. I missed school. I couldn’t function like a normal human being. I routinely fainted in the shower due to excessive blood loss.
It's embarrassing to think about now, But I would beg God to take away my pain for a night, for an hour, for even five minutes. I begged him for a sign that I wasn’t alone. But the silence was so deafening that I had to wonder what had gone wrong.
No, what I did wrong. I was taught that God could relieve any pain. That he wanted to perform miracles to those who believed … so why wouldn’t he relieve mine? I thought, there must be something wrong with me.
When my mother began to angrily accuse me of having sex as a teenager, she wouldn’t believe that I had zero knowledge about sex. I begged God to set her straight, but there was never any rescue for me. She tormented me through high school and beyond with accusations that I was a slut with sexual hangups.
Looking back on it now, I should have known better. My mom's love of God made our home life a horror show. I didn't even know how abnormal it all was--but it didn't matter.
God didn’t answer my cries back then either. So what was I thinking?
My mother has been a recluse through my entire, life so far, so she didn’t take me or my sister to church as kids. Instead, we woke up early on Sunday mornings and watched TV evangelists like Charles Stanley, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen.
We often went to the library to check out Christian books like Thirty Nights In Hell and all sorts of other books which were downright scary.
I'm still haunted by stories my mother told me in grade school about the Christian books she was reading — supposedly all true. In one of them, a maternity ward nurse stole blood from babies at her hospital for use in satanic rituals. A woman even married Satan in one of the books.
To think, I grew up afraid because women could supposedly marry the devil.
In my family, demons were entirely real and an everyday topic of conversation. Supposedly, the world was locked in a supernatural battle which most people couldn’t see.
And although a Christian couldn’t become possessed by a demon, we were taught that those demons could still "latch" onto us and torment us. They could still sit at the foot of our beds each night just waiting for an opening into our lives.
Which of course, was the reason my mom was so strict. She constantly feared that I was giving Satan an opening into my life.
All that to say, my faith in God withstood a great deal of strife and fear. Abuse. Anytime my prayers went unanswered, it wasn’t God’s fault. It was mine. I was never good enough.
Unconfessed sin? Doubt? There had to be something in my life separating me from God.
What could I do?
As a young person, I kept calling out to God, kept trying to live right, kept trying to keep going and keep hoping. Eventually, I would get this right.
Someday Christianity would just click. Or so I thought.
I went to church camps, annual youth conventions, and bible studies for teens. Mission trips. Gave a year of my life to ministry (ahem, cult) after high school. I recommitted and rededicated my life to Jesus at every altar call.
Sure, it felt like no matter how I tried, I couldn’t fit in. I was generally an outsider among my Christian friends. And I never knew how to have a healthy relationship — not romantically or platonically — so my connections always fizzled out.
This story is about what became the final straw.
My deconversion was pretty simple: over many, many years, I was deeply wounded by the church and those who professed to live in Christ’s love.
And that’s not to say that there haven’t been Christians who didn’t do good in my life. There’s one group, in particular, some Messianic Jews in Hudson, Wisconsin--they have done some of the best work of actually being there and showing love.
This story isn’t about them or anyone who was genuinely good to me. This story is about the last straw Christians, the mainstream ones whose words and actions spoke volumes of hatred when I was most in need. And I know I'm not the only person they've wounded.
My deconversion had already begun in 2013. I began to question God’s existence and found myself exhausted. Tired of trying to live up to expectations I could never reach. Tired of being told I was one thing (rebellious) when I was entirely another way (scared).
At that time, I fell in love with someone who was entirely the wrong person for me. If I had owned a more internal locus of control I would have run far, far away from the guy.
But I didn’t run and by September 2013, he was nearing the end of his divorce and I found out that I was pregnant.
He and I were engaged, and there was this very brief period of time when I was crazy happy but terrified about the pregnancy.
I was especially scared to tell my mom. My extremely religious mom.
And I also happen to battle plenty of mental illness. Because of that, I used to struggle to accurately judge the state of my relationships. So if I loved someone and they said they loved me, I believed it. If it felt like magic to me, I was open about my feelings, and if they responded positively — then I believed it was magic.
So when my fiance left me pregnant in mid-November and spent his nights hitting up exes or strangers on MeetMe… it was suddenly not magic and I was devastated.
I freaked out. I was unmarried and pregnant which was about the worst thing a person could be given my upbringing.
The weekend he ended our relationship, I had begun new anti-anxiety medications because I had such serious prenatal depression. I’d already been having suicidal thoughts, was crying in the shower, and Googling the least painful ways to die. I was already scared.
That weekend, we fought constantly and he went back and forth about leaving or staying. I wasn’t sleeping and couldn’t stop crying.
So I locked myself in the bathroom with a knife. I didn’t want to be alive. I didn’t think I could be a single mom. But I was still a wuss about pain and couldn’t do anything about my emotional anguish. I was stuck.
When he said I needed to come out of the bathroom if I ever even loved him, I felt guilty, so I did emerge. But he saw the knife and marched me straight to the ER.
At the hospital he proceeded to tell everybody he knew that I had tried to kill myself and he was now at the hospital with me.
He called my mother.
He told his mother.
He called his not quite ex-wife.
He told his friends.
He told our friends.
That night, the hospital released me into his care and gave him instructions not to leave me alone, and to get anything I could use to hurt myself out of my reach.
After the hospital discharged me, he merely dropped me off and drove away to go hang out with a Christian friend of ours so he could “talk about what happened.” To him.
That was the beginning of the last straw.
You didn’t speak up for me.
I spent that night crying in a dark and empty apartment, replaying the whole weekend in my head. I was embarrassed that EVERYBODY knew I wanted to die. But I still wanted to die.
And I felt like shit knowing our supposedly Christian friend couldn’t even say there’s something messed up about blabbing to Facebook that your pregnant ex just tried to kill herself in your shared home and poor you, look at the crazy you have to deal with… But it’s totally cool to leave her alone so you can talk about your feelings.
Time and time again, you had an opportunity to speak up for me and my baby, but you remained silent.
You made me feel even worse.
Once the news made our social circles online, some Christians had plenty to say to me:
- How can a grown woman wind up unexpectedly pregnant? How stupid could you be?
- You’re just getting what you deserve…
- Maybe now you’ll finally come back to Jesus, huh?
- Why would you want to kill yourself over a man? What’s wrong with you?
- It’s about time for some tough love, sweetie.
- Find a church, you’ll be fine
You expected everything of me and nothing of him.
My pregnancy was high-risk due to my depression and anxiety in addition to my PCOS and an incompetent cervix. I also developed hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) and had to quit my job in a T-Mobile call center.
As months went by, I would be in the ER frequently, repeatedly put on bed rest, and admitted into the hospital for severe preeclampsia. Every pregnancy is different, but this one was bad.
You Christians threw me under the bus. Some of you lectured me about how hard you worked during your own pregnancies. That you never once sat on your butt. When I explained I was high risk and the OBGYN told me to quit work, you told me to get a new doctor.
My ex wanted me out of our apt and I didn’t know where to go. I went to our church pastor for help and he told me he was disappointed to hear I wasn’t working. He told me my life was going to be hard and that I would have to work tough jobs, maybe 2 or 3 to keep up and support my child alone. He seemed especially concerned that I might be a lazy mom who refused to work. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t giving my baby’s father a similar lecture.
When I asked for prayer in the church Facebook group my posts would get deleted and I was told that it was unfair to the baby’s father because everyone knew who he was. I asked why the church was putting all responsibility for the pregnancy on me and expecting nothing from the father. Why were they protecting his delicate feelings when he was going out every night and only wanted me gone so he could bring new women home?
When I called out the pastor, he responded with lies about me claiming I refused to work a job offered to me and that I had been given a place to stay but refused that too. He went as far as to say that people in the church were supporting me financially.
It didn’t matter that none of that was true. Apparently, being knocked up made me less worthy of trust.
And you could have spoken up. You knew my situation. You knew I had no transportation or resources without my ex at that time. Yet you stayed silent while other Christians in your own church treated me like dirt.
You helped the way you wanted to help.
As ill-prepared as I was for motherhood, I was even less prepared for the sheer isolation of it all.
I guess if you haven’t been in a situation where you also wound up isolated for weeks… and then months… and then years… well, you just can’t comprehend what that does to a person.
Not to mention an already atypical brain prone to depression.
So when it comes to some of you… it’s not that you didn’t help at all. It’s the fact that you only helped the way you wanted to help and you didn’t care if it was what I needed.
And what was it that I needed?
I needed a friend. I needed companionship. Someone who would spend time with me. Someone who treated me like I was worth being around.
I could feel my mental health slipping. I knew I needed more human interaction.
So I got real and asked for connection.
I was vocal about my needs.
But I was asking for far too much.
Friendship? You had time for other friends, but not me. So ultimately I learned that God didn’t give a shit. Not about me. Not about my mental health. That's what you taught me.
You helped and thought that should be the end of it.
When I talked about being lonely, you got mad that I was saying I needed something else. Because you already invited me over a few times a year… So what more could I even want?
You made my situation about you. As if a single mom without transportation living in a town without adequate public transit only needs to get out of the once a month at best.
Maybe I needed more help than you personally could give. Was it so necessary to ridicule me for being honest that I felt alone?
You told me I wasn’t alone.
There’s really nothing better than being lectured by Christians who simply don’t understand.
You told me I wasn’t alone, said that everyone sees what I’m doing and knows it’s the hardest job in the world.
And then? You did nothing. Apparently having a person tell me I’m not alone and then ignore me for months on end is a very Christian thing to do.
It’s very easy for Christians with spouses and parents and a whole robust support system to say someone else isn’t alone when they don’t have any of that. Talk about being clueless.
You didn’t care that I needed a family.
When I talked about how I wished I had parents or family to lean on, you said the most absurd thing.
You told me that God had answered my prayers for a family by giving me my baby. I couldn't believe you were serious. What a terrible amount of undue pressure to place on any child!
I knew what it’s like to grow up in a toxic family. I knew I had no good parenting role models. You people, supposedly so pro-life, made yourselves feel so much better by saying my problems weren’t your problems.
You told me that God wanted me to go home to my mom.
Back when I was looking for a place to stay with my baby so I could get back on my feet, I reached out to several Christians I’d known throughout the years.
I asked if you could put your feelers out in your networks, and you refused. You told me that you really felt God was telling me to humble myself and go back to my mom. Because all women need their mothers during pregnancy.
Sure, I guess that answer sounds good to people with great moms but what about the rest of us?
You didn’t care. You wanted me to go back to an abusive situation with a severely mentally ill woman who refuses to take her meds and who legally couldn’t even take us in because she lived in 1 bedroom senior housing.
How nice of God to tell you what I should do.
You thought helping me gave you the right to tell me what to do.
This one’s a doozy.
You were kind enough to open up your home to me when I was pregnant. But you failed to warn me about how much my autonomy would offend you.
You yelled at me for buying two small boxes of gluten-free cookies because I was on food stamps. You accused me of cheating the system and called me ungrateful. This was of course, after you asked every night to eat one yourself and I said sure. When you yelled at me for my irresponsibility, I asked if you really needed to drink wine EVERY SINGLE NIGHT to sleep. You told me that you deserved it because unlike me, you weren’t getting food stamps from the government. Nice.
Then you invited me over to a friend’s home for dinner and they spent half the meal complaining that “people on food stamps eat better than anyone else.” Makes sense, right?
When I was on bed rest, you asked me if I needed you to go shopping for me, and then you spent my food stamps on things for your own house that you wanted.
Everything offended you. That I dare go to a different church than you one week. You sat me down and told me I embarrassed you in front of your friends. You told me my desire to write for a living was impractical and selfish.
You lectured me about every parenting choice I made before my baby was even born.
And then you didn’t even bother to visit me when I was hospitalized with preeclampsia. Once I had the baby and you finally deemed it time to visit you said hardly anything but made sure to send me a letter weeks later that you should have known I "wouldn’t let" you hold my baby.
Never mind that I wasn’t even holding my baby because she was in the NICU strapped up to machines and you never asked to hold her.
Wait, there’s more.
Apparently helping someone entitles you to dictate their life. Because you, as in the you who let me and my daughter live with you while I was still getting back on my feet in Minnesota, had plenty to say about what I should and shouldn’t do.
When my daughter was 8 months old, you asked me to consider GIVING her to you and your wife. I had never given any indication of wanting to give my child up for adoption. Yet you tried to tell me you could raise her better when you had no children of your own. Your wife would offer to babysit so I could shower and then she’d complain that she had no time to do it. You lectured me that I needed to be better about asking for help. And you told me to send my daughter away to live with strangers for a few weeks while I got a real job at a daycare. Because single moms must all be suited for caring for other people’s children, right?
The truth is that you and your wife said and did more than anyone else to turn me off of Christianity. It still doesn’t help that everyone thinks you are so amazing. So kind. You’re out there doing God’s work.
You just don’t care how you hurt anyone along the way. When you decided to sell your house, you got scared I wouldn’t leave because I couldn’t find a new place as quickly as you wanted. So you told me 6 weeks ahead of the day I was supposed to be out, that you didn’t want to call the sheriff to get me out but you would if you had to. What? There was no reason to go there — I never gave any indication that I would refuse to leave.
But that’s how you saw me. The whole time we lived with you, you expected the worst from me. Because I was an unmarried mom? Because I admitted I didn’t know if God was real or if he cared about me? Oh, the horror.
None of you seemed to understand how lonely life was and while I was glad to live with other people, there were times where I just wanted “Christ’s love” to be shown to me as friendship. After years of Christians refusing friendship and acting like I had some disease they could catch… of course, I gave up on it all.
Every day, Christians wonder why they aren’t taken seriously. This is why. How you treat people in need matters.
I’ve heard the lectures. That I’m just bitter. That my expectations were too high. Okay, then show me that spot in the bible where Jesus tells his followers to forget about those in need because they expected too much of you.
And yes, I did expect more from the people who supposedly care about injustice and protecting children from harm. I just didn’t realize how many Christians would be more or less pro-birth but anti-life.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what single moms need because I’ve felt those needs firsthand.
One of my biggest dreams now is to create a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping single parents cope in healthy and positive ways. I want to equip them with the tools they need to grow as people and parents. Make sure that their mental health needs are being met. Give them mentors and parenting role models who genuinely care and won’t check out when the child turns 12 or 18 months.
You might think that the various Christian “pregnancy crisis centers” around the US are help enough. But these organizations mainly serve as a means to convince women to choose birth or adoption over abortion.
And I wouldn’t call them entirely effective in that mission.