I grew up in an Evangelical household. My parents started going to church when I was 7 years old and all I can remember of my life since then is… church. My friends were made at church, my way of thinking was shaped by the church, my education was inspired by the church.
I’m not sure if you paid attention to what I wrote in the first paragraph, but I didn’t mention Jesus or God at any moment. It was all Evangelical and Church. That’s because I came to realize that Jesus and God are just excuses pastors and entities use to control people’s lives.
I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. It hurts. I know. I went through a crazy OCD+anxiety+depression crisis when I realized that. Thank God (yes, finally His name) for my psychologist. She was so patient to me.
Growing up in an Evangelical house in the 90s wasn’t an easy thing. It was when we saw this movement reach its greatest proportions. I don’t mean the amazing miracle times or the great crusades that made football fields crowded with people.
That was the time when Evangelical elements started to become pop culture. It was around that time that I came to know Hillsong, that huge Christian Australian band. I think I was the first teen in my church to have their CD. And I gotta thank my dad, it was REALLY good.
I knew all of their songs. I knew the name of each of the singers. I thought this would make me have real friends at church, but that’s when I was hit by another reality: church is like a club. I couldn’t be friends with the cool kids, because — apparently, I wasn’t cool. Even though I was the only kid who could actually sing and understand the lyrics in English (I grew up in Brazil, so thanks daddy again for putting me in English classes), I still wasn’t cool enough.
I had good grades at school. I was a geek. I was myself, and myself was smart. But that wasn’t cool. I shouldn’t be smart. Being smart and making smart comments wasn’t as important as being thin and liked by the cute guys.
You may think that it’s all normal, that’s how teens act anywhere in the world. Well, then I wasn’t a teen anymore. I was in my 20s. And I moved to another city. I went to college. OMG, that was SO wrong. How could myself, a G I R L, whose main purpose in life was to be a wife and a mom, suddenly decided to live by myself in the biggest city of Latin America?
Well, surprise surprise, even though I was the rebel, I was the wrong one, I was the one told I was going against the rule, by the end of college (and I was 23 years old) I was one of the few young adults in my church who hadn’t kissed or had sex with a guy — and hadn’t gotten married to be able to do that. The kids of the parents who told my parents I would “leave the ways of the Lord” had had children and we’re going through huge “scandals” in church. The most I had done was drinking some alcohol.
It took me a while. Like, 19 years of while, to realize that nothing that I made or didn’t make, made me Christian enough. Nothing I or my friends did was for Jesus. It was all for ourselves. And it was SO. WRONG.
By the age of 23 (that same last year of college) it had been around two years since I started going to another church in São Paulo. It was very different from the one I grew up at. Still, I felt like it drew much closer to God than I ever was. It twisted my mind in way that, like I mentioned before, I had a serious psychological crisis.
People from the church I grew up at treated me as if I had sins — or even demons. People from my new church treated me like… I was a person going through a transition moment and said I should go to a psychiatrist. That changed my life in a way I still can’t express.
During my therapy I came to realize that nothing — exactly NOTHING — I do can make Jesus love me less or more. There’s no such thing as God loving one of His children last because one said a bad word. However, people will think and say that you are less Christian.
You may be 40, single and virgin, or you may be 18, single and had sex with as many guys as you wanted, Jesus will still love you (but please, don’t forget to use protection, OK?); it doesn’t matter if you never drank any alcohol or if you drink a bottle of tequila every time that guy who says he loves you breaks your heart (but please, FORGET THIS GUY AND SHARE THE TEQUILA WITH ME); ir doesn’t matter if you never said one bad word or if you can’t stay one f* day without swearing… It just doesn’t matter.
Not only will people say the “wrong” things you do, people won’t let you forget and they will make you remind that everything single day (or three hours) until you have no self-steem. People will make you confess your sin in front of the whole church so that everyone can pretend they “forgive” while they will be whispering about you and leaving you out of church activities because you “broke a rule”.
What matters then? Well, to be honest, I honestly don’t know. According to the Bible, if I love God and my neighbor more than myself, that’s good enough.
Church made me sick. Jesus healed me. Today I’m not even close to what Evangelical churches consider one to be a Christian. Still, I feel closer to God than I’ve ever been. I feel like I don’t need changes in my life to feel close to or far from Him. More than feeling, I simply KNOW he will never leave me.