Unsafe Places

Churches are not safe. I can’t step into one without coming up with an escape plan and spending a majority of the time warding off a panic attack. The families (particularly if the church is made of up of mostly families, with multiple children under 10), the songs, communion, the language in the preaching – the whole experience is still so very riddled and damaged by my past and I can’t see through it.

It doesn’t help that, for a supposedly “spiritually dark” place, the majority of churches seem to be very conservative/evangelical rife with things that make my insides scream and want to run away and/or throw up in the church bathroom. When I do go to church, which is rare and only for special family events (because, panic attacks) I shut down and distance myself as much as possible.

Language in the church is so loaded I can’t even begin to describe it in concise terms, it just is. I hear my past in my head – I can’t read the bible, the KJV I avoid like the plague. Communion scares the crap out of me, and I exit as soon as I can when that’s announced because I can’t bring myself to do it. Because I can’t do it sincerely, and I was doomed to hell if I ever did it wrong. I can’t sing, and some of the songs bring back so many harsh memories, I freeze when Blessed Be Your Name plays because of the theology that went along with it – glorifying a god who takes things away because he can. It doesn’t set well anymore. This particular song brings me back to my stillborn siblings, because this was their song in many ways.

I feel very alone. Because I can not, cannot believe in the god I used to believe in, in the god that all my new church experiences still proclaim (intentionally, or no. I can’t tell, because again, language barriers) I don’t hold it against them, and I usually assume the best (if I know the pastor) – but needless to say conservative churches are not good places for me.

I feel a lot of hate stemming from the christianity (and people who practice it) I used to know, and I feel like that can’t be what it’s about. If it is, I have no qualms with abandoning it as the only reason I became a christian was due to fear (pascal’s gamble, much?). Why is it that realizing the motivation for christianity (and other religions) is based on love and maybe that’s what we should be focusing on instead of hate so…wrong?
You can’t even google liberal christianity without an over

whelming amount of results pointing out that its wrong or not real, if not made a mockery of – “hippie touchy feel-y love”. But what’s so wrong with that? What’s wrong with love and acceptance instead of fear and falsely justified hate? It’s hard because all of my life I’ve heard it made fun of – the one thing I hope to be true. That god is not evil like I was taught, because how could that god not be evil? To want people to love him because they are afraid of death and hell. I don’t want to waste my time on a tyrannical misogynist deity.

I can’t go to church because my faith in humanity and the pieces of my soul that have been restored start to die. I can’t go to church because I can’t get past the hate, misogyny, and cruel nature of a deity who’s supposed to be loving. I can’t go to church because the atmosphere is so riddled with fear and judgement that I feel stifled. I can’t go to church because I am not accepted there.

I find that I still accept the idea of a deity, but in a more hands off way – I feel like the message of religion is all centered around the same thing: loving our fellow human beings. And I’ve found that I can accept that, I can do that, I want to do that even. If there is no god and I love my fellow man I have lived a good life, if there is a god and its not the christian god then I have still lived a good life (and assuming the deity is loving, just, and kind, or karma, I won’t have anything to worry about) and if the christian god does exist in the way I hope, from the New Testament, then I expect I’ll be greeted with “well done”.

I just want to love people, and be loved – accept and be accepted. Is that so wrong?

I don’t think church will be safe for me for a very long time; if it ever is, it will be because I’ve found someplace that is accepting to all people, and loving to all people, without inducing guilt, employing fear tactics, or excommunicating people they believe to be “in sin” (actually if they talk about people being “in sin” I won’t be going there. period).

By the time this is posted I’m going to be at PAX East, I’d like to reply to comments by friendlies but won’t be able to until Monday, so please be patient.

For those about to leave freaked out, angry comments or determine the status of my salvation:
1) don’t waste your breath
2) shut the hell up
3) It’s my business alone and not yours
4) I’m at peace with where I’m at and I’m working through everything in my own time, the best thing you can do is leave me alone about it and just accept my journey as my journey


  1. Hännah Avatar

    Your list at the end cracked me up. <3

    1. Kierstyn King Avatar

      Haha I thought it was clever, and sufficiently ass-covering

  2. Sarah Avatar

    Love, not hate.
    Love, not cruelty.
    Love, not fear.
    Yep, sounds like a good place to start.
    P.S. I also adore dark chocolate. 😉

  3. Brad Avatar

    You tell em’ K! Bunch of jerks!

  4. Lizzy Avatar

    You said it all very well. I have to go into churches on a regular basis due to my job, and every. single. time. I end up feeling ill (nausea, headache) from fighting all the memories it brings up.

  5. geekgirltalkbella Avatar

    Such an amazingly written emotion filled post, As someone who’s only been in a church a few times in my life i found it very surprising how they really don’t feel like the welcoming/safe places they should be.
    “I just want to love people, and be loved – accept and be accepted. Is that so wrong?”
    That exactly describes how i feel like everyday and no its not wrong but some people really will make you think it is. I just feel that its about finding the people who will love and accept you no mater what because those are the people you really want/need in your life.

  6. Tereasa Avatar

    I am so, so sorry.
    I never wanted to go back, either. Our thoughts are slightly different, but our desire is the same; love. I did go back. It has been hard. Very hard. I am married to a man who loves God and wants to preach love, so we went back together. It is hard to preach love and grace in conservative Christianity, but it is happening. People feel the fresh air and are breathing deep. That does not mean it’s been easy.
    Again, I am sorry for what happened to you.

  7. Jerusha Lofland Avatar

    Agreed! Our last church service was a year ago at Easter. Since then I’ve been in a church twice: for a concert and a wedding. We recently attended a play with a church scene, and that was real enough to trigger anxiety for both my husband and me. Exposure therapy, I guess.

    1. Kierstyn King Avatar

      ugh, yes, I know what you mean! <3

  8. Maryw Avatar

    You can still live a good life without all the religious bullshit. Religion is evil…you aren’t missing anything by leaving it behind. I’m glad you’ve escaped. Don’t buy into the guilt your upbringing has attempted to heap upon you. Guilt is pointless, and it’s used as a way to control you. Don’t fall for that shit. Tell anyone who tries to fuck off and die.

  9. galacticexplorer Avatar

    I’m so sorry for your experiences, and I totally understand them. I feel uncomfortable in most churches as well. My experiences have been horrible at times, even if not always. I have a lot of hatred still for certain places that I’ve tried to diffuse over time, but the best way to diffuse it is to just not think about them. I can’t believe I put up with the bullshit for as long as I have.
    As for religion, I also am a bit confused on that one. I believe there might be a God because I believe I’ve met him. I call him Jesus, but that is mostly because that’s the name by which I’ve always approached him. I think other people might approach him by many other names. And, for others, they love and accept without believing in a god… I think that’s probably okay too. My idea of religion is often ridiculed as “the wisdom of men” being “foolishness to God” but I don’t give a damn. I refuse to serve a God of Death.

  10. Kawika Avatar

    I just found your blog, and reading your posts almost made me cry – I admit it, and I’m a 22 year old guy. I grew up in a very conservative homeschooling family, and though I never really experienced anything as bad as you talk about, in my second year of college, I decided that I didn’t believe in God or any of the stuff I grew up with. I just was faced with a lot of questions I couldn’t answer, plus the fact that I knew I was doing a lot of stuff “good Christians” shouldn’t be doing (porn, etc.). I got burned by other Christians, and that, plus the fact that I was really good at faking the whole Christian thing, got me thinking that everyone else must be faking it too. That’s when I stopped believing.
    I kept faking it though, just because I knew if my family found out, they might reject me. Eventually I moved away to college, and everything went to hell. I got really depressed, and I felt angry and completely isolated. I was still the model home school graduate – straight A’s, recommendation for honors, going to church with my grandparents – but I was thinking about suicide almost every day. Not really planning anything, but just thinking about how I would do it, how I could make it look like an accident.I was isolated and angry at the world in general. Sometimes I imagined what it would be like to bring a gun to school and let bullets tell the everyone how I felt.
    Then I went home for the summer. Coming back for the fall semester, I knew something needed to change or I’d self-destruct. I decided to give God a chance. It’s not like I really believed or anything, but I felt like I needed do something. I started reading my bible, started trying to pray. I felt nothing. I was involved with a christian group on campus, and part way into the semester, I went on this weekend retreat thing. The second night I was there, I felt like God spoke to me: he told me that he existed and that he loved me, that all my doubts didn’t compare to the joy of being in his presence. I don’t know how to describe the feeling. It was the most high I’ve ever felt. Since then, things have been different. Really different. I love life, and I feel like God speaks to me, and is with me.
    I’m sorry for such a long story from a total stranger, but I just want to say that I empathize with your experiences – and that God is still pursuing you. We’re all fucked up and broken, but God wants to be with us in all our mess and all the crap others have put us through. He wants to take the shattered pieces and give us beauty. I’m glad you were able to get out of the situation you were in. I don’t know if this will mean anything to you, but I will be reading your blog and praying for you.

  11. shaetiann Avatar

    Even liberal Christian churches, which emphasise love and civic duty and human equality, can freak me out, now. I went for the Christmas service at the church I grew up with — I was visiting my folks, it’s just the done thing — and knowing what I do now sbout Bronze Age culture meant I got VERY uncomfortable when the pastor (who is a hilariously funny and incredibly strong woman in her own right) extolled the virtues of Mary. It’s very difficult to reconcile fabricated faith (Council of Nicaea, anyone?) with an educated awareness.

  12. Leon Avatar

    Hey, I just found your blog and read a small number of articles, and I like it! I must say I was raised in liberal christianity. I have ended up in a similar place as you even though the path was completely different, and for reasons that differ although not entirely unlike yours.
    My current difficulty with christianity has nothing to do with my parents, in fact I very much appreciate the religious upbringing they and my grandparents provided. But of course it’s very difficult to experience that without exposure to conservative christianity and the significant amount of hatred they direct towards liberal christianity… and at one point I felt I had enough connection to conservative christianity to be a pretty good diplomat in those situations. But I just don’t care anymore.
    If you are interested in trying something different, it sounds like finding an unprogrammed friends meeting would be the right thing to try. You might want to read up on what it is a little, but they are almost always safe places. There won’t be any preachers, and the experience is probably unlike anything you’ve experienced before. And there are plenty of agnostics who do attend, and they won’t proselytize you.
    As for my reasons… well it’s somewhat complicated, but probably the two biggest blows to my perception of christianity was the treatment of Jeremiah Wright in 2008 and Glenn Beck’s 2009 worship of Martin Luther King while calling “social justice” codewords for communism and fascism in the same breath.
    And, just about everything is wrong with that. Namely, MLK spoke constantly about social justice and was himself was a liberal christian; he made use of office space at the Trinity United Church of Christ (where Jeremiah Wright was later pastor) while MLK was organizing in Chicago, and to be blunt Jeremiah Wright’s words were taken out of context and he was certainly no more crazy than most right-wing pastors. And I had visited the TUCC on a few occasions long before 2008, and had enjoyed listening to Rev Wright.
    Why these incidents would affect my views even of liberal christianity, I don’t understand myself. My feelings in this regard are complicated and I honestly haven’t worked through them, nor am I even sure I care enough anymore to work through them at all. I guess it really emphasized the usually subtle but nearly constant demonization of my family’s faith growing up in a small rural community. I felt betrayed in the efforts I had made to commune with conservative christians.
    Anyway, enough rambling on my part. You may not be interested, but again it does sound like an unprogrammed friends meeting would be something you could try, safely.

  13. Steph Avatar

    This is a old post, but if any one is still watching the comments, there is a wonderful liberal Christian blog you should know about. It’s called slacktivist, and there are a number of atheist commenters on it, some Jewish commenters, and at least one Satan worshipper (who was welcomed, not told he was going to hell). (Of course, there are also many Christian commenters.) My apologies if you already knew about this blog. (Fred Clark is very pro-LGBT rights as well.)

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