~Disclaimah: This post is about my experience (obvi). You may have a way better experience with Christianity! Not all Christians are horrible! I’m just speaking for myself. Ya dig?~
It was recently Bi Visibility Week (shout out to my fellow bi/pansexual peeps <3), and thanks to my “comes out as bisexual” Google alert (highly recommend), I learned about Nikole Mitchell, a bisexual stripper who used to be a pastor:
Um, this is RIGHT UP MY ALLEY. A woman from a conservative evangelical background who breaks free and embraces her not-straightness and explores her sexy side without shame? Fuck yeah!
I fell down the internet rabbit hole of checking out her (sexy, of course) Instagram, reading her blog posts about leaving the church, and watching the YouTube video where she comes out as queer. It was awesome.
And then I made the mistake of reading some comments. And DANG do people get mad when they see an unapologetic, sex-positive woman!
It really hit home. And it got me thinking about why, exactly, some conservative Christians get so mad at those of us who aren’t religious anymore.
Here are my theories…
#1. They wish THEY had left Christianity, too.
Like the emperor’s new clothes, much of my experience as a conservative Christian was shutting up and just accepting all of the bullshit: hypocrisy, sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, judgment disguised as faux-concern (“Let’s pray for her because she’s REALLY struggling, the slut!”), and so on. There’s so much garbage in conservative evangelical Christianity that you have to force down like soggy Dickensian gruel while pretending everything is fine. (1950s gender roles? Mmm, delicious!)
Because if you DARE question authority, or say, “Hey wait, the Iraqi war DOESN’T actually seem very Christian, and I don’t think God chose George W. to be president, and shouldn’t women have control over their bodies???” people get REALLY defensive and accuse you of sinning. They say you’re doubting God, or you haven’t read enough Scripture, or you need to pray about it, or (THE WORST) they’ll be praying for you during your ~struggles with your faith~ 🤮
They don’t allow themselves to question God, so you can’t, either.
People who leave (conservative, right-wing) Christianity break the unspoken rule and dare think for themselves. And that’s something (conservative, right-wing) Christians WISH they could do…but they’re just too scared.
And I get it! I really truly empathize!
Leaving the church IS scary.
One of the hardest things for me was giving up the community: just going somewhere once a week, every week, and knowing somebody cares about you, because sometimes it’s worth it to get a big hug from a smushy-bosomed stranger even if she DOES shit-talk you behind your back.
If church is a huge part of your life, giving it up without a substitute of, like, Polyamorous Bingo Night can be detrimental to your emotional well-being. I don’t want to downplay that. But one’s circle shouldn’t be full of judgment and condemnation, right?
Now onto the second reason (some) Christians get so mad when you leave the faith…
#2. They hate to see you having fun.
You’re living your life free of shame, guilt, and self-flagellation? You’re actually fully expressing and owning your sexuality? You’re…wait for it…HAPPY?!
HOW DARE YOU!
Conservative evangelical Christianity (again, at least my 20-year experience of it) is all about the struggle, pain, putting yourself last, beating yourself up, denying yourself pleasure, smothering your intuition. You are fundamentally guilty and broken and WRONG, and only an old straight (or closeted) white cis man knows what’s best for you.
How dare you be free? How dare you trust yourself? That’s not allowed!
Our life on earth is supposed to be shitty, because our self-flagellation will be rewarded in Heaven with…lots of cool stuff. (I can’t recall the details, but that was always the carrot that authority figures dangled. Heaven! A Very Cool Place™!)
Fun is close to Sin, and Thinking For Yourself, and Loving Yourself Exactly the Way You Are, and Lust. And all of those things are VERY, VERY BAD. Fun: don’t do it.
(IF you must have fun, there are very narrow parameters: a Christian comedy show WITH NO SWEARING, a talent show in a basement…maybe making a friendship bracelet…singing along to a Christian pop song while polishing your purity ring??? That’s really all I can think of.)
Those first two reasons were related to envy and self-denial, but these next two might be even worse, because they’re about oppressing others.
#3. They’re trying to control women under the guise of religion.
Ahh yes, the Republican agenda: denying women the right to do what we please with our bodies (see: the very real threat of dipshits overturning Roe v. Wade). Conservative evangelical Christians want to limit women’s agency, because, again, only old straight white cis dudes are allowed to have any power, even though Jesus was Black–whoops!
So they use the Bible as an excuse.
It all comes down to the people with power and privilege denying that they have either (or if they have the former, it’s because god CHOSE THEM) so they can keep oppressing people who are marginalized.
But it takes a LOT of logical contortion to find the right Bible verses to oppress people while explaining away other pesky parts of Scripture.
Women should keep their heads covered in church, right (1 Corinthians 11:2-16)? Whoops, that’s not really feasible in 2020, so let’s say god gave Pastor Larry new guidance and now women don’t have to wear hats but should STILL submit to their husbands! Yes, that’s it! (The amount of mental gymnastics required is almost comical.)
Anyway, it all comes down to power, privilege, and control. And ol’ whiteys get PISSED when women (or queer people, or trans people, etc.) don’t submit.
#4. They’ve convinced themselves their hatred of the “other” is Biblically based.
Hey, are you racist? Did you want to slut-shame someone? Good news: you can stay intolerant and say it’s because God told you to.
It takes WORK, hard work, to confront your inner racism if you’re a white American. It’s uncomfortable, unpleasant, and a long-term commitment. It’s much easier to keep hating people who look (or act, or dress, or speak) differently than you. Especially once you convince yourself it’s God’s will.
Sex work should be legal. Sex workers should be protected. Who you fuck isn’t anyone’s business, as long as they enthusiastically consent (and are of age). And yet sex is one of the things conservative evangelical Christians LOVE to obsess over (probably because they’re repressing their own sexuality). The Bible talks about a shit-ton of things, like–WOWZA–taking care of the poor, and how it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a motherfucking needle than for a rich person to get into heaven (Mark 10:25). That’s some big stuff! The Bible basically says fuck you, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk! And yet it’s more comfortable for (some) Christians to look for reasons to discriminate against people than to, oh I dunno, think about Jesus’s radical anticapitalist message.
In my opinion, if you truly read the Bible and take Jesus’s message to heart, you would want to make the world a better place, overturn systems of oppression, question self-righteous authority figures, and defend the downtrodden. But nooooo, apparently it’s easier to be sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/xenophobic, etc.
Jesus didn’t have a message of hate. In fact, Jesus was friends with hookers. He probably would have loved Nikole Mitchell!
Yo evangelicals, chillax
These are just a few ideas why not only so-called “Christian” commenters attack Nikole Mitchell and her newfound sexual freedom, but why on a larger scale evangelicals get so pissy when people leave the flock. Why can’t Christians just say, “Oh cool, good for you! I’m glad you’ve found freedom and self-expression and are making yourself happy”?
Probably because fear, self-denial, closemindedness, and judgment are guiding forces in conservative evangelical life. And it’s painful to see someone really living to the fullest if you aren’t doing the same.
The best news is, we don’t need evangelicals’ approval. You only need YOUR permission to live a glorious, happy, fulfilled, free life! They can stay stuck in their unhappiness, waiting for death to get some gold coins in the sky, while we make the most of the limited time we have. If I sound butthurt, it’s only because Christianity stole two decades of my life, but I’m making up for it now. And that’s what matters.
I personally am overjoyed to be free of oppressive religion. And no matter where your spiritual journey has taken you, I wish you the same joy and freedom. Life’s too dang short to get your panties in a bunch that someone else isn’t wearing any.
In case I need to reiterate this, NOT ALL CHRISTIANS ARE HATEFUL. Some are rad! I know there are some churches that are radically inclusive, accepting, affirming of everyone, and truly live out Jesus’s mission. Those people are probably not the ones taking a giant dump on Nikole Mitchell and the rest of us happy ex-Christians.